Generation Z, our present young generation, has been born into one of the greatest days of turmoil the world has ever known. Most people are concerned about the storms ahead. Yet, consider the apostle Paul who was born into a generational storm. Because he embraced God’s plan in the storm, he emerged as an influential leader. Our young people can become prepared to do the same.
Take an example of Paul’s leadership during a physical storm. Paul was just one of the many prisoners on a prison ship headed for Rome. He was not known as a leader — at least, not until the ship almost sank in a harrowing storm.
Paul’s journey teaches several lessons for this, a generation that is “born for the storm.” As we mentor and educate them, many Gen Z leaders will also emerge from the unknown to lead in the storm.
Perception and insight
Before setting sail, Paul told the crew, “Men, I can see that our voyage is going to be disastrous and bring great loss to ship and cargo, and to our own lives also” (Acts 27:10). He spoke with clear foresight. Leaders learn how to face realities head-on while anticipating the future.
As Paul predicted, the mild, warm breeze soon transformed into a feared northeaster. The situation seemed hopeless. Yet Paul continued to demonstrate how to lead in a storm.
Courage and confidence
Paul addressed the terrified passengers. “I urge you to keep up your courage, because not one of you will be lost; only the ship will be destroyed. Last night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve stood beside me and said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul… God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you’” (Acts 27:22–24).
Paul’s confidence in the chaos came not because he was without fear but because a word from God infused him with courage and confidence. Chaos can rob us of confidence. Yet, when the wind threatens, our young people can receive a word from God and lead through the storm.
At Oral Roberts University, our staff and faculty intentionally ask students, “Have you heard God’s voice?” When a young person has a word from God, what the winds are doing does not matter.
Clarity and decisiveness
After being blown completely off course, the crew of the prison ship finally neared land. Some planned to save their own lives and leave the prisoners to die. But Paul discerned this and said, “Unless these men stay with the ship, you cannot be saved” (Acts 27:31).
Paul acted with Spirit-inspired clarity and decisiveness. As he stepped forward with a voice demanding respect, even the captain and jailers who were supposed to be his authority listened to and obeyed his authority.
Future chaos will demand that the next generation learn to speak with clarity and decisiveness as they are led by the Holy Spirit.
With the boat finally anchored, the passengers anxiously feared their fate. But Paul said, “I urge you to take some food. You need it to survive. Not one of you will lose a single hair from his head” (Acts 27:34). Unintimidated, he prayed over his bread, broke it, and ate.
Throughout the gospels, we see Jesus reflect a similar, focused peace. He was never intimidated by the storm.
Many years ago, English minister John Wesley encountered a group of Christians who exhibited this trait. A ship Wesley was on was tossed up and down.[i] Initially, he was terrified. But then he watched in awe as a group of Moravian Christians on the deck sang hymns. They had a worship service in the middle of the storm.
Upon returning to England, Wesley attended a gathering of Moravians and his heart became “strangely warmed.” He found the peace he had sought, and both his life and ministry were changed forever.[ii]
It is possible for Gen Z to know the same focused peace. As Isaiah wrote, “You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you” (Is 26:3–4).
As Paul’s ship made a final push toward the shore, it ran aground on a sandbar. But, just as Paul had prophesied, no lives were lost.
After the passengers gathered onshore, they built a fire. As Paul tossed a branch onto the growing flame, a snake that had been hibernating in the timber attached itself to his hand. But Paul shook the snake into the fire and suffered no ill effects (Acts 28:4–5).
In times when nothing seems to be going right — you can follow Paul’s example. On days when the enemy attacks, the serpent bites at the worst time, and you feel you have been pushed beyond the brink, you can adopt this leadership quality of resilience.
The islanders sitting around the fire saw that Paul had not been harmed by the snakebite. Word spread. Islanders began asking him to pray for their sick loved ones, and doors opened for him to spread the Gospel.
In a barbaric place and unable to speak the language, Paul kept moving up in leadership.
It will be the same for our Gen Z young people. When God’s hand is on them, He will keep elevating them to strategic leadership levels despite the circumstances.
From storm to platform
Like Paul, the next generation can demonstrate perception and insight, speak with courage and confidence, and act with decisiveness and clarity. They can demonstrate focused peace, resilience, and power while others collapse under pressure.
Yes, Generation Z has been born into turmoil and upheaval. And yet, God is calling them to rise above the chaos and lead in the midst of the storm.
[i] “Christian History: John Wesley,” Christianity Today, accessed November 26, 2020
[ii] Joe Iovino, “Holy Spirit Moments: Learning from Wesley at Aldersgate,” UMC, May 18, 2017.
Adapted from Generation Z: Born for the Storm. Copyright © 2021 by Dr. Billy Wilson. Published by Empowered Books (an imprint of ORU Press) and Forefront Books. All rights reserved.
Dr. Billy Wilson is president of the historic, globally recognized Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He is devoted to developing Holy Spirit-empowered leaders through whole person education to impact the world. With three decades of executive leadership experience, Wilson is recognized as a global influencer and dynamic speaker with unwavering ethics and an undeniable passion for equipping new generations.