How the contemporary age of efficiency is impacting a generation’s belief in God.
Since 2015, surveys have exposed the decline in religious affiliation among Millennials (Americans born between 1981 and 1996) and Gen Z (Americans born between 1997 and 2015). And while they maintain a belief in God or a higher power, Gen Z in particular is more inclined to “identify as atheist or agnostic (21 percent vs. 15 percent), and most think church attendance is unimportant, according to research by the Barna Group.”
What is of significant note is that Gen Z is also considered the demographic most native to technology. While I as a Millennial remember when computers were not in classrooms, some Gen Z grew up having their own laptops, even iPads, provided by their elementary and middle school. And a reality rarely engaged, is that technology influences and impacts not only our ability to connect with God, but it can even warp our desire for such. Kosuke Koyama, a Japanese theologian, in his book Water Buffalo Theology talks about the impact of technology on Asian Christian churches. He writes,
Many believe that not the ‘spiritual’ Jesus of Nazareth but today’s dazzling technology should be our Messiah. It is sophisticated and mighty machines that can help us, and not a sermon on the love of God, they say. Even sharper criticism is directed against the love of God. The message ‘God is love’ is empty. It is intangible, while technology’s salvation is tangible!
Koyama asks in his book, how do we minister to and evangelize a demographic of people who have been socially conditioned to believe that the answer to every problem they have is found in technology?
God is Inefficient
Koyama’s findings take it a step even further. For it is not simply that people are conditioned to embrace technology as their “Messiah” or “salvation,” but it is the very efficiency of technology that has highlighted the inefficiency of God and religion. He argues that “today’s generation is being educated and brought up on the creative surrounding of efficiency.” And the fact of the matter is, while God is clearly a proponent of productivity within Scripture, from Genesis to Revelation, God is not always consumed by the burden or responsibility of being “efficient.” We see in the Old Testament God’s willingness to allow the children of Israel to wander in the desert for forty years when it should have taken them forty days. Why? All because God was concerned about removing Egypt out of them just as much as He was concerned about removing them out of Egypt. In other words, by human standards God’s ways are oftentimes inefficient.
How then does one make an inefficient God attractive to an efficiency-minded generation?
Koyama suggests that presenting the “inefficient” nature of God could have a powerful impact. For while technology is efficiency-minded, it is not inherently bad for such. It merely becomes the job of the Christian to put technology, us as consumers, and the nature of God all in the proper context.
In fact, Koyama declares that “the love of God means God’s resolution to love people, though it may call for supreme sacrifice.” But he continues, declaring the even more powerful truth about God that, “He refused to free Himself from the cross, and by doing so he refused to disengage himself from sinful human history…[In other words] God refuses to give up, no matter how “inefficient” the divine work becomes.” Here we see, there’s nothing wrong with being efficient. In fact, it makes perfect sense to want to be efficient. What’s powerful and inspiring is that the God of Creation is capable of empowering you to create an efficient world, and is so committed to your salvation that He will do whatever is necessary, even if what is needed is “inefficient” for Him.
Wow! I don’t about you, but that made me want to shout when I read it.
God doesn’t stop His work of saving us even if it becomes cumbersome or inefficient. God is committed to us and is willing to whatever, even the inefficient process of crucifixion, if it means your eternal life with Him.
In other words, God is inefficient. But i’m so grateful that His inefficiency is always first and foremost concerned about my salvation. May we think critically to find ways to re-present an inefficient God to today’s efficiency-minded generation.