Every year, dating app Tinder publishes a trends report detailing the habits, interests and motivations of their users. It makes a fascinating read, but one thing in this year’s report especially caught my attention: the openness and spiritual curiosity of the younger generations.

Take the TikTok phenomenon of manifesting’, defined by Tinder as the power of manufacturing your own joy.” Tinder’s research says: 

While star signs may be the top descriptor added to Tinder profiles by 18 – 25 year olds, there’s a new spiritual sheriff in town. 41% of young singles believe manifesting (ie mentally visualizing your wishes/​dreams to help them come true) is the new Astrology and has an undeniably larger influence on compatibility and connection … It’s no coincidence that the hashtag #Manifestation has +34B views on TikTok…”

I’m in my twenties, and I can attest to this phenomenon. Even though my friends may declare they’re atheists, they believe in the power of the universe, and they manifest’ as a way of trying to make the life they want a reality. I see it all over social media – as people share what they’re getting up to that day, many will include a line about manifesting their goals. It isn’t just positive thinking, it’s a belief that their thoughts could change the course of their lives.

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A new spiritual search?

Today’s young adults are on a search for something more, and in a world of crisis, war, political upheaval, and constant change, they’re turning to manifesting for a sense of control.

Back in the 2000s, New Atheism was gaining traction – a worldview that actively challenges and dismantles religious ideas and beliefs. But Christian author and broadcaster Justin Brierley argues that New Atheism is no longer as popular as it once was – people’s appetites for meaningful answers to life’s biggest questions weren’t being fulfilled by a world without spirituality.

Many found New Atheism to be dogmatic and empty, so zooming forward to 2023, this generation has launched into a spiritual search of their own. But the spirituality that younger generations are experimenting with isn’t necessarily Christianity, rather it is spirituality in line with the philosophy they’re immersed in. Manifesting is an ideal spiritual practice for expressive individualism, the cultural story that says: you are the master and maker of your life, you are in control, you are the one to create your destiny, to change your reality.

In manifesting, the universe is waiting to give you everything you want, you just need go and get it. You and your thoughts are the only thing in the way of getting everything you’ve ever dreamed of. 

This generation feels they have no option other than to create their own future, to find their own identity, to forge their own way.

"Manifesting is an ideal spiritual practice for expressive individualism, the cultural story that says: you are the master and maker of your life..."

Looking to the God story

In Luke 15, Jesus told the parable of the lost sheep. There were 99 safe sheep hanging out in the pen, whilst one lone sheep went off exploring. Self-sufficiency, self-creation, and deconstruction are encouraged in our culture, so we’re seeing a generation of young adults become like that lost sheep. They wander away from community, from the flock, dismantle any boundaries, tear down the fences, and search for their identity alone, leaving them lost in the wilderness of their own hearts. They look to manifesting for hope for the future – speaking into an impersonal universe.

And this is a devastating picture if that’s where the story ends. But it’s not the end. Jesus is the good shepherd, and He finds the sheep.

It’s evident that this generation is spiritually open, but is the church ready to meet this openness with the hope of Jesus? Are we burdened by how many are turning to manifesting’ in their search for something more? It’s understandable that the narrative of manifesting’ seems compelling in a world where there is so much change and chaos, but it will never fulfil our deepest wants and longings, or even our trivial desires. The story that God invites us all into is deeper and richer than any cultural story, and it’s true.

Let’s invite this generation to know God as the one who is in control of their destiny, who offers life, and life in all its fullness.

For a generation overwhelmed by the weight of creating their own identity and the pressure to forge their own destiny, will we introduce them to the God who is the only one who can provide hope for the future?

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