In the recent Singapore census, it was estimated that about 18.9 percent of Singaporeans are Christians. Did you know that in 1970 that number was only 2 percent? Imagine living in a time when almost none of your friends or family members were Christians and there were only a small number of churches around. That was the world that our Silent Generation and Baby Boomer elders lived in during their younger days.

The sense of mission and urgency was extremely strong, and they answered the call of God to bring the good news to the lost. A big issue then was the lack of knowledge of the gospel and so the impetus was to relay the crucial information to as many people in as short a time as possible. This usually took the form of using popular tools like The Four Spiritual Laws to evangelise and tell people about the gospel, in the hope that they could be led to say the sinner’s prayer during street evangelism or coordinated events in church.

The dramatic increase in the number of Christians in Singapore in the last 50 years is testament to the great work of our older generations. However, this has changed dramatically for today’s younger generations where technology has taken away the need for pure knowledge transference. What are some big issues that younger generations face with regards to evangelism today?
The Need to “Prove” the Gospel
Younger Christians today tell us that their non-Christian friends already know the crux of the gospel message and information alone will not make much of a difference on whether they choose to believe or not. There is a perceived lop-sided emphasis of most churches on the verbal transmission of the gospel without noticeable efforts in other areas such as mercy ministries, creation care, etc. This is often perceived by non-Christians as hypocrisy and the gospel is seen as impotent because it doesn’t acknowledge the needs of our society or offer any solutions. So, Christians are sometimes seen as escapists whose sole purpose is to get to heaven, and we have no positive contribution or impact on earth in the present. For younger Christians, one challenge they face is to show tangible evidence that this faith of theirs really does make a difference in practical terms.
Christianity is Perceived as Counter-progressive and Bigoted
Another big issue is that the public image of the Church has declined tremendously in the last two decades, and this has made it a lot harder to convince others that Christianity is worth believing in. Most younger Christians feel that they must overcome a mountain of negativity before reaching a neutral ground where they can start to explore the issue of God and faith with their friends.

During an interview with a Gen Z, she recounted how she tried to speak to her friends about Jesus, but not long after the conversation started, she was interrupted by her friends: “Before you talk about Jesus, can you first explain to me why the church oppresses women?”. She was only 13 years old when she had this conversation, and I was shocked that non-Christians of that age would have this impression of the church. When asked about why her friends felt this way, she thought that it was likely due to what they had read on social media that had gone viral online. This means that non-believers of this generation are likely forming their conclusions about the church and faith based on what can be found online and not from personal experience. Without a good answer and knowing that her friends had the impression that the faith was counter-progressive and bigoted, she decided not to continue the conversation to avoid offending them.
Living in a Post-modern, Pluralistic World
Beyond the public image of the Church, the context and culture that young people find themselves in today also has profound implications. Much has been said about the impact of post-modernism and pluralism on a conceptual level, but I think stories are more sobering. Another interviewee told me that she had attended a 10-week evangelism course in her church and the “final assignment” was to reach out to one of their non-believing friends. The first lesson taught them to speak about eternal life and its reality as the first step to set the foundation, so that they can then have deeper conversations about human sin and the forgiveness offered by Christ. However, when she went into the topic of eternity with her friend, what was supposed to be an “evangelistic conversation” ended prematurely when he nonchalantly said: “Why would anyone want to live forever? I just want to enjoy my life now … YOLO, man!” So, she couldn’t even get through what she had learnt in week 1 of a 10-week course!
In a “You do you, I’ll do me” environment, having the right answers, at least from a Christian’s point of view, may not always be sufficient. Perhaps, in this new age, before we even think about what to say, we may need to learn to listen first….