Ryan Kim has a mission and a purpose to encourage Gen Z. Erica Parkerson (special guest this week for Sarah Taylor) conducted this interview and we wanted to make sure you got to hear this incredible conversation. You’ll hear some important truths about identity, what Ryan wants you to know about finding your calling and the scripture God has been putting on his heart.
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Ryan Kim: We get to hold a crown over their head and let them grow into it. And that really is what we get to do with the next generation.
Erica Parkerson: Isn’t that powerful? Hi, I’m Erica Parkerson filling in for Sarah Taylor this week. Sarah and I are both passionate about encouraging you. And we didn’t want you to miss this opportunity to hear from someone who has such a big heart, and so much hope for this generation. And he’s got quite a story to share as well. Ryan Kim, pastor of youth and young adults at Northwest Church. Welcome to the Passion Meets Purpose podcast.
Ryan Kim: Ah, so good to be here.
Erica Parkerson: It’s so good having you here, you spend a lot of time with Generation Z. People who were born right after the millennials.
What are they wrestling with right now?
Ryan Kim: I would say it’s not that the core struggles aren’t the same from generation to generation. It’s just that the voices have been turned up by like 100. You know, and that’s really unique. They can just hop on social media and figure out exactly who they are and how much they’re worth. And so, identity is huge.
The second thing is complexity. I once heard someone say that something that’s complicated and complex are two different things. And so, they’re living in a really complex world. Like one thing I’ve noticed with them is that, you know, in my day when I was growing up in youth group, like sort of a response time to the Lord looked like alter calls and people coming forward to the altar and things like that.
But one thing I’ve noticed with this generation is they need time to like process God’s word, and they need time to like, sit with God’s word. What it means to them and how it relates to their world, and it’s such a complex world, it takes time for them to do that. But when they process those things, like it’s amazing, the fruit that comes out of that.
So, identity, complexity, and then the third thing is opposition. So, just as an example, some of our youth leaders recently asked our students this question, what is the one thing you wish we knew about you and your life and all of those things. And they looked at our youth leaders and said, I wish you knew that when we go to school and make our faith public, people are literally against us.
And they looked at our youth leaders and they said, why do they hate us? And so, they’re living in a world where people are not just indifferent to their faith, they’re against their faith. And for me, there’s been a new appreciation for Gen Z of the cost of following Jesus, you know, and that’s been huge.
Erica Parkerson: How can we best love this generation? What do they need from us?
Ryan Kim: Well, I think the main thing is that we get to call out their identity in Christ. And really, if I could sum up what they’re struggling with and one word, it really is identity. They just have so many voices and so many people and things and media telling them who they are. What their worth is, but we get to say, know your worth is in Jesus. And I always tell my youth and young adults that worth isn’t determined by what you can accomplish, but worth is determined by what someone is willing to pay. God sent his son for you for them. And so, you know, redefining worth and helping them realize that they can find their worth in Jesus and calling out their identity in Jesus is just, it’s crucial. It’s the main thing that they’re wrestling with. There’s a book called Alongside, by Drew Hill, about reaching teenagers with the gospel and he says that we get to hold a crown over their head and let them grow into it. And that really is what we get to do with the next generation, because we get to hold the crown over their heads and say, this is who you are, you know, your son, your daughter of God and that’s who you belong to. And that is the best way we can love this next generation is calling out their identity in Jesus and helping them to see all these other voices. There are false voices, but that they belong to God.
Erica Parkerson: What a picture you just painted. God is calling this generation to be brave and they’re stepping up. Ryan, can we talk about social media for a moment? Because you mentioned that. I cannot even imagine what it would have been like to have social media in my life growing up. What do you tell your kids about it?
Ryan Kim: Well, you can’t avoid social media. I tell them that social media is a tool to share the gospel with the world. That really is what that is. Changing the mindset from social media is something that gives me my worth to something where I can share the gospel with others on a bigger platform.
And actually, when you look on social media, like when you hop on Instagram or Tik TOK or these kinds of other social media, you see, a lot of Gen Z are sharing their faith on social media right now. In fact, I’ve never seen more of it in my entire life. And so, they are finding a way to use social media. And one of the differences about Gen Z and millennials, I’m a millennial and other generation, if they really believe that their voice matters.
And so, like when they get on fire for Jesus, they will hop on Instagram and share their faith with the public sphere. They have no problem doing that when they’re passionate about God. And so, really shifting that mindset between going, okay, this is something where you just get likes and comments and see just how much you’re worth, to so this is a mission field, and it’s really, really powerful.
Erica Parkerson: This generation could be the last one before Jesus comes back. Who knows? We don’t know. Ryan, how much hope do you have for Gen Z?
Ryan Kim: I actually have a lot of hope for Gen Z and a few reasons. I think the first thing is that there’s faith in. Like when they have founded the cost and made the decision to follow Jesus, like it is real.
And I think part of that is because they’re not growing up in an environment that has any resemblance of Christianity, you know? It’s secular post-Christian sometimes it can feel really anti-Christian. So, it has to be real. So, when they’re on fire for Jesus and they’re passionate for Jesus, it is so genuine and they’re really all in.
The other thing too, one of the big hopes that I have for Gen Z is I think they’re recapturing sort of the pioneering spirit of the church. They are all creative. They are all entrepreneurial. They all have this pioneer spirit. They believe their voice matters. They want to do something for Jesus. I really believe that they’re living models of mission and ministry that we don’t know yet, and they’re going to take that into the world, and they’re going to find sort of these new ways to share the gospel with the world that we haven’t seen. And they’re going to recapture that. And so, I think overall, I have a lot of hope for Gen Z. It kind of reminds me of that quote when things seem the darkest light shine shines the brightest, you know? And so, there’s a lot of hope there.
Erica Parkerson: Ryan, your purpose is pretty clear on this planet; to encourage this generation. How did God call you to become a pastor?
Ryan Kim: Well, a little bit of backstory. So, in high school, I was really, really far from the Lord. Was, you know, into drugs and all, all sorts of stuff, and finally gave my life to Jesus through an organization called YWAM in Mexico, and my mom basically put me on a bus and said, you’re going to Mexico.
So, I got, I got there and, you know, I had an encounter with the Lord. And I, you know, I’m sure my mom was like, praise God. So, I came back and that was my junior year going into senior year, and I graduated high school and I had no idea what was going to do with my life. I remember in the kitchen arguing with my mom because I wanted to go into something creative.
You know, I wanted to design clothes, you know, something like that. And we, we get in this argument and my mom goes, God’s called you to be a pastor. And I was like, what? That’s, that’s the last thing that I want to do. And, but, but here’s the thing, my mom was a prayer warrior, and so there was a trust, you know, there was like, if my mom said something, I better take it seriously. So, over the next few weeks, I decided to really think and pray about it. And the Lord started to grow a desire in my heart. He started to change my heart and it started to become something that was really exciting to me. And I was like, well, maybe I can give the rest of my life to tell people about Jesus and that way.
And basically, I, I fasted for a few days and the Lord confirmed it through his Word. He gave me Jeremiah 1:12. Now, I know this was God because at that time I had never read the old Testament. I stayed away from the Old Testament, you know. Like I can’t understand that. So, I was like, this must be you because I’ve never read Jeremiah.
And I turn to Jeremiah 1:12 and it says, you have seen correctly from watching it, see that my word is fulfilled. And I was like, okay, God. Then a few, a few days later, I went to this missionary meeting, and I was filled with the Holy Spirit. And from there, I, I started in youth ministry when I was 19 years old, and from there, I went from youth ministry to college ministry to young adult ministry, back to youth ministry, back to young adult ministry. And now I’m in youth and young adult ministry. I’ve been in this role for the past two years at Northwest church. So, it feels like a culmination of all of those things.
Erica Parkerson: I mean, how proud is your mom of you, Ryan?
Ryan Kim: You know, I think she’s incredibly proud. My mom is in heaven. She went to be with, she actually, she watched my first sermon from an iPad on her hospice bed. And so, and that was the only sermon she ever watched. Oh man. Well, you know, she was a prayer warrior. I mean, I really think I’m only here because I’m standing on the shoulders of my mom’s prayers, and so she’s an incredible woman and I’m sure she’s just cheering.
Erica Parkerson: I am convinced of that with you. Ryan, you have such a passion for pointing this generation to their identity in Christ, which is the foundation for everything else. How does somebody find their God-given purpose in this life? Because clearly you have.
Ryan Kim: Yeah. Well, I think the first thing that I think the most important thing is, you know, our primary purpose is to love God, and love our neighbor. And I share that because I, my personal belief is that if we’re not loving God and loving our neighbor as their primary purpose, it’s going to be really hard to hear what God has for you vocationally.
Erica Parkerson: Wow.
Ryan Kim: Because my belief is that when you care about what God cares about, he’ll take care of what you care about. And so, you know, I see a lot of young people, I think that want to go and be ambitious and do things for the Lord, but in the personal lives, they’re not loving God and loving their neighbor, or they don’t have their hearts right before God, or, you know, their inner life is, it is it’s smaller than their outer life.
And so I think I just mentioned that because I think it’s important to say most important things that we’re loving God personally and loving our neighbor, and then we can hear what God has to say, you know? And then I think vocationally when we talk about purpose, purpose is sort of a funny word because in the English dictionary purpose means a goal or a direction. You know, this is my goal, or this is my path. But this is something I’ve actually been thinking a lot about recently. In the original Latin, the word purpose means to declare or to proclaim, or to put forth, and so I think purpose, it’s not a roadmap or it’s not like a GPS or there’s not this singular goal. I think purpose comes from within you, and I think when you are born again into a believer, God puts something within you, where your desire is to declare that into the world. It’s like this roar, you know? This is what I want to share into the world.
Narrator: The Passion Meets Purpose podcast is made possible, thanks to our friends at Northwest University, ensuring a welcoming spirit for you at Northwest University. Your tuition remains lower than all other Christian schools in Washington. And NU is all in on tech. They’ve got a brand-new state-of-the-art technology studio and majors include UX design, data science, video production, audio production, and computer science.
This is an addition to an already diverse offering of business, nursing, education, sciences, communication, psychology, music, and humanities. Northwest University is a faith-based community, Christ centered in all they do. At Northwest University, your future isn’t canceled. It’s just beginning.
Erica Parkerson: Ryan, I have an email tagline that I have been using for years. And that is, if you have a pulse, you have a purpose. If you’re still here, God is not done with you. So, what do you say to somebody who right now is going, I hear that. I hear what you’re saying, but I don’t believe it for myself. I believe it for my kid, for my neighbor, but how can God do a work in me?
Ryan Kim: Well, I would, the first thing I would say is reminding yourself of your identity in Jesus, just realizing that you’re a son and you’re a daughter of the king and he does have a plan and a purpose for you, and it’s not just this cliche thing that’s for everybody else, you know? It’s for, for you. And then I would say, get in the prayer closet. You know I was talking to a friend recently; we’re talking about this idea.
Sometimes purpose can get really confusing in our lives, because it seems like sometimes there’s not just one option, but it seems like God puts multiple options in front of us and we kind of go, what do we do or where do we go? And it seems a little bit vague and so we could just kind of close our eyes and just choose something and just go with that, but my friend told me that he was in similar situation where he felt like there were multiple options, that it was a little bit confusing. And then he says to me, but you know, Ryan, I’m so glad I prayed about it. Like, I’m so glad that I did go to the Lord about it. Maybe I didn’t have to, but I’m so glad that I did. I think that really resonated with me.
Like, we could live life a little bit blindly and just say, maybe I’ll just do this and try it if it works out. But the times in my life where I feel like there was so much fruit were the times where I was really glad that I did intentionally take time to go to the Lord and pray about it. And then trust that he is going to answer.
He is a good father and he’s going to speak to us and he’s not playing some kind of divided game of hide and seek with us, you know, he will answer his children.
Erica Parkerson: That’s so good. Anything that’s ever been made has been made on purpose, whether it’s a watch or a pot or an iPhone. And to think that God made us. You used the word intentionally. He made us on purpose for a purpose. And that just, every day it kind of blows my mind. We’re all handmade. You know? So, Ryan, we’re living in the midst of some really difficult times. If you dare to scroll through your newsfeed on social media, you’re going to see things that break your heart.
You’re a husband, a dad, a pastor. What scripture are you leaning into right now?
Ryan Kim: Well, the scripture that’s really been burning in my heart for the last, I would say five years is, is actually a phrase that Paul says to Timothy, you know, as Timothy is kind of leading and pastoring this church in Ephesus and it’s like full of idols and there’s all this erroneous doctrine. And, you know, people are just living for their own pleasure, and you know, all those types of things, and he’s just encouraging Timothy’s heart. But Paul says to Timothy, he says, keep faith, keep the faith. And that has been the thing that is burning in my heart these last five years, is keep the faith because one thing I’m realizing in the days ahead, what’s just as important as sharing the gospel is preserving the gospel.
Like, I’m just realizing that preserving faith is becoming so much just as important as sharing our faith. And so, for me, it’s just been that resounding, like, keep the faith, keep the faith. And then in terms of that for my children, you know, there’s this command in the old Testament that God tells his people to tell this to your children and their children’s children.
And just the idea that we’re keeping the faith for the generations to come and realize that there is, maybe some of us feel like we’re just surviving in our faith in our time and in our day, but I just think that we should put some, we should put value in that and say, no, this is important. It’s important that today I wake up and I’m still following Jesus.
You know, in the space of culture and the face of all of these things that are happening around the world, it’s important that we still wake up and follow Jesus and keep the faith every day of our lives.
Erica Parkerson: You know, those three words are so special to me because when my mom was battling COVID she almost died and she’s a miracle today, my dad would text my sister and I, those three words, keep the faith all the time. And what makes that so special is my dad is only a real recent Christian, only within the last five years or so has he even come to Christ and believed and lived out his faith. And here he is, is telling us to keep the faith.
Those of us who have been praying for him for 20 years. To come to know the Lord. So, thanks for the reminder today. Well, we gave each other chills today. That’s awesome. Ryan Kim, thank you so much for walking out your God-given purpose. You are very special.
Ryan Kim: Thank you so much for having me, and I hope to talk to you soon.
Erica Parkerson: Thank you so much for listening to the Passion Meets Purpose podcast. It was an honor to fill in for my friend, Sarah Taylor. This podcast is part of Purposely, a podcast network designed with practical podcasts to help you find and live in God’s purpose for your life. I’m so excited about our newest podcast, it’s called the Bible For Busy People, and I feel so privileged to be hosting it. I can’t wait to read a half a chapter of God’s word with you on the daily. The podcast will never be longer than seven minutes. It’s a promise because we are indeed busy people. It’s just going to be us taking Jesus up on his invitation to come to him for rest.
The Bible For Busy People launches July 11th. You can find more podcasts that will recharge you right now at onpurposely.com.