Trial by storm,  trained for service
Trial by storm, trained for service
Mason Beasler
Mason Beasler
AFA Journal staff writer

November 2021Storms. If a single word were chosen to describe life on this planet, storms might be the most appropriate.

They come in many forms and sizes, from tornadoes in Oklahoma to hurricanes in Louisiana. Wildfires, tsunamis, droughts, floods, and many other natural disasters have wreaked havoc on people worldwide.

Additionally, the storms and hardships experienced by humanity exceed weather-related disasters. Ebola outbreaks and COVID-19 have spread panic and sickness. Suicide rates and waves of drug abuse have robbed many families of loved ones and caused much grief and sorrow.

However, according to Dr. William Wilson, president of Oral Roberts University (ORU), the dire state of this world has actually forged the next generation into a force to carry the baton of Christ into their uncertain future. 

That generation is Gen Z.

To highlight this new generation and educate others of their potential, Wilson has published a new book, Generation Z: Born for the Storm. (See below.)

“As I’ve talked and walked with the students of ORU,” Wilson told AFA Journal, “many of them have learned to thrive in the midst of the storm, which is an amazing gift.”

Defining Gen Z 
In Born for the Storm, Wilson agrees with sociologists who define Gen Z as anyone born between 1995 and 2012. The oldest members of this generation are now in college and entering the workforce. According to a Pew Research Center projection for the recent election, “One in ten eligible voters in the 2020 electorate will be part of a new generation of Americans – Generation Z.”

“This is the largest people group generationally on planet earth today,” said Wilson. “They make up almost 30% of the world’s population.”

Through his research, Wilson has noticed that this generation tends to be impacted most by three distinct groups.

“Number one is Generation X,” Wilson explained. “Parents are still the number one influence in Generation Z’s life.” 

In today’s world, parents on the brink of sending their children to college are facing a daunting task: preparing their children for the world.

Wilson reflected on this challenge, stating that some parents mistakenly act as “snowplow parents.” 

“They try to go before their student and pave the way,” Wilson explained, “making sure everything’s smooth for them [and that] they have no problems.”

Instead, Wilson implores parents to help their Gen Z children while also allowing them to live, learn, and grow.

“Second is our teachers,” said Wilson. “Where your Generation Z persons go to school or to college is really important. Whoever stands up in front of them is going to have a lot of influence.”

The third highest influence the president noted was the friend group kept by each Gen Z person. The technology in this world has provided infinite ways to stay connected and abreast concerning the lives of others, and through this connection, friends in Gen Z have great impact on each other.

Weathering the storms
Wilson spoke very pointedly about the unprecedented storms Gen Z has faced in recent years. “Physical, sociological, emotional, and spiritual storms have been a way of life for [Gen Z],” Wilson wrote.

The surge of fatherless homes, for example, has been felt deeply by Gen Z. The U.S. Census Bureau recorded in 2020 that 18.3 million children live without their father in the home. Many Gen Z young adults grew up this way, and minors are still there.

Furthermore, the suicide epidemic has ravaged this generation. The National Institute of Mental Health reported in 2019 that suicide was the second leading cause of death for ages 10-34 in America.

“I believe [Gen Z] is the most blessed generation the world has ever known and the most talented and gifted,” Wilson explained, “but may also be the most broken generation.”

This age group has also experienced an onslaught of differing worldviews clamoring for their acceptance. Atheism. Transgenderism. Communism. The list of anti-biblical views pushed on young people in today’s America seems never-ending.

Riding the waves
Jesus was comfortable in the middle of storms. Such an attribute is necessary if one is to remain focused on the Lord, with so much societal chaos unfolding.

“I have a lot of hope,” Wilson reflected. “Our students are making a difference while they’re in college … starting businesses [and] creating ministries. Then upon graduation, I’m finding our graduates all over the world.”

Wilson emphasized one important attribute of Gen Z that will prove pivotal in days to come: leadership. He recounted the story of John Chau, an ORU graduate whose sacrifice for others illustrates the university’s initiative to instill leadership qualities and produce world changers.

“A couple of years ago, John Chau went to the North Sentinelese Indians. The Sentinel Islands are one of the most isolated places in the world. The Indian government forbids anyone from visiting there. But John felt called to reach isolated, unreached people groups.

“[He] felt the North Sentinelese Indians were probably the most unreached people group in the world. No one speaks their language, [and] there is no written language. John prepared himself to go, went to the Sentinelese Islands, and lost his life trying to tell these people that Jesus loved them.”

The gripping and sacrificial story of John Chau is not an outlier, Wilson explained, and is illustrative of a pattern within the generation.

“In many ways,” Wilson said, “I think John represents what is happening in Gen Z. I’m finding among our students a huge commitment to do whatever it takes to make a difference for the world, especially for Jesus Christ. I think John Chau is one of the poster children for this new generation, which says, ‘Whatever it takes. I’ll give my life if necessary to bring hope and love to someone else.’” 

Surveying the horizon
If the current state of American culture is any indicator, the future for Gen Z will be as hazardous as their youth. The worldviews promulgated by most universities and the media continue to radically diverge from the Word of God, challenging all who follow Christ.

However, Wilson held that while there may be dark clouds on the horizon, God is still powerful enough to turn unprecedented trials into powerful revival.

“God is using the storms of our age to develop a generation of leaders [who] will make the greatest impact the world has ever known,” Wilson proclaimed. “I believe that we’re going to see a global revival in this new generation and a surge of evangelism, unlike anything we’ve known before.”  

Learn more about Gen Z
In Generation Z: Born for the Storm, Dr. William Wilson conveys his insights and understanding of Gen Z, earned by experience as president of Oral Roberts University.

“Throughout this book,” Wilson writes, “we are focusing on people in Scripture whose names begin with ‘Z’ to help us identify what God is doing and wants to do in Generation Z.” Each chapter discusses another Z-named Bible figure, along with what lessons can be learned from the individual’s story. Wilson stresses the specific characteristics, such as integrity or hope, that he sees in Generation Z, characteristics that will be critical when facing the coming storms. Available from online booksellers October 19.