Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Gray Exile

Written by: on November 8, 2019

Reading books like The Four, leave me exhausted. Not only is it frustrating to consider the rate of change we experience every day, but I am also fatigued by the expectation this places on me as the consumer. I am left feeling like a refugee in my own homeland, an exile in what David Kinnaman terms “digital Babylon.”[1]

I’ve been working through Barna’s new study on Generation Z, Faith for Exiles, with a team at work. Today, we were discussing the results of this study that demonstrate a desire of Gen Z to be contributors, not just consumers in the world.[2] According to Barna, 80% of Gen Z Christians say they have a desire to honor God with their gifts and talents.[3] They long to make a positive difference in the world. As we consider leadership development among Generation Z, we realize it will be important for us to allow for opportunities for meaningful contributions in our University, churches, and organizations. This means, as current leaders, we risk students making us look great as well as making us look bad. The point is…they want to be more than consumers and it’s up to us to help them get there.

After reading Galloway’s The Four, however, I wonder how we will get out from under the weight of consumerism. It seems that these four corporations have taken us hostage by learning more about our inner desires than we would like to admit.[4] They have become masters at mirroring our behavior to drive us to consume more. It seems that no matter how many Newport “digital detox” cycles I go through, I am still subject to the sophisticated algorithms of Amazon, Google, Apple, and Facebook.[5] Books like this challenge me to pause and shake myself from the gray fog of current culture. Even though I am fascinated by the ingenuity of the leaders of these companies, I desire something, well…real. Life is more than robots in warehouses, and the church should be as well.

I find great hope in a generation that desires to be more than zombie-like creatures who point and click. Faith for Exiles introduced me to an answer for the plight of The Four. I pray with the psalmist:

Bring me back from gray exile, put a fresh wind in my sails! Give me a job teaching rebels your ways so the lost can find their way home.[6]



[1] David Kinnaman, FAITH FOR EXILES: 5 Proven Ways to Help a New Generation Follow Jesus and Thrive in Digital … Babylon. (Place of publication not identified: BAKER Books, A DIVISION O, 2018).

[2] Ibid.

[3] Scott Galloway, The Four: The Hidden DNA of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google (New York: Portfolio/Penguin, 2017).

[4] Ibid.

[5] Cal Newport, Digital Minimalism: On Living Better with Less Technology, 2019.

[6] Psalm 51:7-15 MSG

About the Author

Rhonda Davis

Rhonda is passionate about loving her Creator, her wonderful husband, and her three amazing sons. She serves as VP of Enrollment Management & Student Development at The King's University in Southlake, TX.

10 responses to “Gray Exile”

  1. Harry Fritzenschaft says:

    Thanks for sharing your inspiring reminder to shake ourselves from the “gray fog of current culture.” Your desire to impact Gen Z leaders draws our attention back to what is crucial and needful, always impacting the next generation! Many blessings on you as you continue to exercise your gifts and influence the next generation of leaders.

  2. Mario Hood says:

    You almost made me run around the house with this line, “Life is more than robots in warehouses, and the church should be as well.”

    It would seem that the church has become an algorithm machine as well leaving no room for the surprise of God. A production or being presence driven.

    • Rhonda Davis says:

      Thanks, Mario. I see similar patterns. Gen Z gives me hope as they engage dialog about what the church can be and should be. I am proud of the ideas they are bringing to the table. Are you seeing the same trends among the young people you work with? Are they looking for ways to be more than consumers?

  3. Karen Rouggly says:

    This was good, friend! I am totally interested in reading the study on Faith in Gen Z. Thanks for the openness of how it’s a consistent struggle to keep going! I appreciate your vulnerability.

  4. Mary Mims says:

    Rhonda, I love that quote at the end; “Bring me back from the gray exile, put a fresh wind in my sails”. I do agree that we need to take a step back and have a digital detox, even if it is for just a short while.

  5. Jenn Burnett says:

    Thanks for your post Rhonda! I love the questions you are looking at about Gen Z. It is so hopeful that they are looking for deeper meaning and engagement and may even mean that so many of us who have dreamed for years of highly engaged churches may actually see them realized. But there will also be considerable things that need to be let go to take hold of this. What do you think some of the things we will need to let go of in how we do church, to empower this next generation of leaders?

  6. Thank You Rhonda for your refreshing post that is full oh hope for the future presented by desire of Gen z to be more than just consumers. Its a refreshing and optimistic view of the future and a reminder of our leadership mandate to mid-wife the next generation by mentoring them.

  7. Digby Wilkinson says:

    Hi Rhonda. One of my frustrations with the book is that I couldn’t quite work out what the DNA of the Four was. It didn’t dig deep enough. I think your reading Faith for Exiles is a good start to the antidote required. I wonder I’d there is a sense that all this talk of generational differences is really helpful? Every human in history has lived at some point in time and had to adapt to that time while being raised by those who adapted before them. There is no isolated group of people genetically or historically. Gen Z is merely a group adapting to a new age. Yes, things move quickly, but they will probably never experience the social, global and technological transitions and adaptations of someone who is 100 years old. When we read documentaries on those people they say the same thing the people have said for centuries – adapt. And for many God is at the centre of that adaption. Having a map for life in any age is better than no map at all. Great reflection.

  8. Rev Jacob Bolton says:

    Great post Rhonda and lovely connection to exile. The Babylonian-esque disconnect a person can feel when communicating primarily through an electronic device is real and powerful. Thank you!

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