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Are Influencers the New Church for Gen-Z Christians Today?

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Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. -Colossians 3:16

Recently there has been a rise of Generation Z Christians who are full of zeal and hunger for the word of God and desire to learn and grow in their faith. However, it appears that the source of their biblical knowledge (in some, but not all cases) tends to be strictly from private devotion and Christian influencers on social media. With the help of the Holy Spirit, we can receive fresh revelation from the Word of God and we are free to share it. Yet whilst doing this, it is still important as Christians that we gather to fellowship with others in the church and/or bible study for regular teaching, discipleship, and accountability. If we cut the church out of our faith journey, this generation of Christians is at risk of idolising influencers and their ministries whilst becoming blinded to the relevance of the church. The question is how did we get here, and can it be changed?

Why do influencers have so much influence?

When young and zealous Christians are seen sharing their spiritual walk and their revelations about the Gospel, whilst encouraging listeners- it is very easy to gravitate towards them. As Romans 10:15 says, it is great to share the good news of the Gospel, and influencers can use their platforms to draw Christians from far and wide.

Naturally, when people see crowds, they draw closer to see what is happening or in other words, the more followers/likes an influencer has, the more “legit” they may seem. Not only this, but these Christian influencers also appear relatable and approachable, which is a great appeal to Gen Z Christians. Yet, just like Wikipedia is a useful but not 100% accurate source of information so are influencers; they are great vessels to discuss the Word, but they cannot be the main well of wisdom.  Not only this, in some more sinister cases the Gospel could be mishandled and used to mislead Christian followers; for example the use of the Word of God to spiritually abuse and manipulate Christians for control over their lives and/or finances. Although this too can occur within the church, it is important the Word of God is not used for personal gain (2 Corinthians 2:17).

Is the church still relevant?

The Church, the body and the bride of Christ, is not just the physical building but the collection of Christians worldwide, individuals who have been called out for a specific mission on this earth for His glory. We gather in church to meet with our heavenly Father and worship Him together- a reflection of what we can anticipate in eternity. Yet over time, due to the sin deep within us, the church has become a place of control, manipulation, and abuse; where religion prevails as opposed to a personal relationship and Holy spirit transformation. Many Gen Z Christians struggle to find church leaders relatable or may not find the church experience representative of their 21st-century experiences and challenges. It is important that we acknowledge what they face and emphasise that Christ is still real and relevant, and the church is a place of refuge and solace. The church offers covering for your soul (Hebrews 13:17, Acts 20:28), guidance (1 Timothy 5:17-18), pastoral care (Acts 20:28), and correction when needed (Acts 18:26, Galatians 1:8-12)- vital things influencers are unable to provide.

Ultimately the zeal Gen Z Christians have must be combined with the knowledge and accountability that comes from being planted in a local church; corporate fellowship adds a layer of wisdom that cannot be achieved alone.

Can this divide be united?

So, what is the answer, unfollow all influencers? Certainly not, Christian influencers have a place in the faith journey of Christians, but they alone cannot be the pastors of Gen Z Christians. The church has and will always be relevant but as time progresses the delivery of messages may need to adapt:

  • Create spaces for young people to speak/discuss openly and freely in groups with elders to offer wisdom
  • Promote opportunities for mentorship/discipleship
  • Organise retreats for spiritual encounters with their age mates

Whilst the Word of God is absolute and cannot be diluted, it can certainly be delivered in a more dynamic way to be accessible to all, so we do not lose some Christians through the net because they felt isolated.

In conclusion, whilst we may live in a time of social media and influencers, the Bible remains our source of truth and knowledge. As a church, let us learn to deliver God’s word in a creative and radical way without losing the essence of the truth. Let us become everything to everyone for the sake of the Gospel (1 Cor 9:22).

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Chinedu Agwu
Chinedu is from London, and currently works as a teaching-focused university lecturer and freelance medical writer. She is passionate about social justice and community impact projects, empowering young people and reading books in the book club she co-founded with her friend. She likes to use her gifting in written and oral communication to share the gospel and build faith in others.