Archives For Evangelism and Youth Ministry


You can read the first three posts here, here and here. Where do we go from here? I am sure there is all of the statistical data to discuss and missional “stratgery” that merits our attention. But if we take a step back and ask, “What works?” I am not sure that we can come up with a cookie-cutter plan that works for everyone. But that’s what we want isn’t it? We want a P90x program that can be plugged into any church context that will automatically multiply our numbers. We tell ourselves thought it’s not about numbers it is about saving souls (souls are numbers right?) yet the pressure of our budgets and the depleting numbers in our Sunday night service is evident that something must budge. So we want an evangelism P90x to plug in and get results. I think we should move in a different direction…one that is simple. Consider The Skit Guys and their hilarious video that closes with a point I want to highlight….

Investment into one person. We are not called to save the world but we can invest in one person. Eddie and Tommy both talked about how investment made on their part or on the part of someone else made the difference in salvation and changed their lives. Last night one of my former youth group kids spoke to my current youth group and he talked about a relationship he had with a girl for 2 1/2 years and how he was able to baptize her. Investment. One person. Full focus. Prayers, efforts, service, study all focused on one. So often we worry about all the things around us when sometimes God reveals the fertile soil that is right in front of us.

What if we taught students to invest their lives into people for a year committed to discipling them and helping them grow over a period of time. Then watching that person do the exact same thing. Friends, discipleship and evangelism does not have to be mutually exclusive. They can be one in the same. So that is what I have learned. It takes investment, relationships and a whole lot of God in this process.

What would you add?

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Often we know what to do by what not to do. For example, Heather and I have told Samuel over and over not to touch the eye on the stove as it will burn him. Two year olds do not comprehend directions and the implications of danger. Sometimes they just have to learn it themselves. When we weren’t looking Samuel touched the eye of the stove and burned himself. Now he knows what to do based on what not to do. Evangelism is the same way it seems and there are some pitfalls in the way we are mission-minded. A bit of clarification in these studies: I am no missiologist and these are purely subjective based on experience. Some of these also might be contextual (i.e., what works for Eastern Christians might not work for Western Christians) both geographically and generationally. I am coming at these from the standpoint of youth ministry but some of them span the generation gap. For better research and methodology I suggest you peruse Ed Stetzer’s website for various “missional” topics. I am still a babe in the missional discussions but here are some evangelistic mistakes…

#1 Doing nothing at all

This is a pitfall many of us get into as the ruts of life tend to deter our focus. Whether it is based on fear, apathy, rejection, lethargy, apostasy or whatever one of the worst things we can do when it comes to evangelism is to simply do nothing. But…

#2 Doing instead of being

Us westerners are good at doing things as we are used to tasks, accomplishments, projects and goals. We are always at the cusps or precipice of the waves of doing. The church is no different as we have this program, that trip, this initiative, this goal or that yearly theme (“Saving Souls in 2013”) all border on idolatry. Mission-minded people do a lot of things but not to the neglect of being a lot of things. Jesus said the harvest is ready and that we needed more workers but he also told us to pray about this harvest. In other words we need people who are ready not who simply do things. Which reminds me…

#3 Making evangelism program-oriented or staff-oriented

Evangelism is the work of every member as we are a part of the priesthood of all believers. Comments like, “That’s why we hired you” or “that’s what we pay you for” are statements coming from people who are too lazy and selfish to do the work God requires them to do. Evangelism should flow effortlessly from the leadership and from every member in the church. It’s not a “class” or a “day” or even a “Service-project.” Evangelism seems to be a part of the spiritual disciplines much like prayer, fasting and giving.

#4 Evangelism as systematic theology class

I once thought evangelism was about knowing things in Scripture and when they figured these things out they would eventually become Christians which I equated to evangelism. It never occurred to me that sitting with someone in the hospital was evangelism. It never dawned on me that praying with someone over the phone was evangelism. I never grasped that maybe going to a football game to watch a kid play was evangelism. Knowledge is important but it also puffs-up. Transformation, submission and obedience seem to be key components of evangelism.

#5 Thinking it is up to you to save people

We have many people out there who have Messiah-complexes and that if they don’t save someone then the world, as they know it, is over. News flash-you are not Jesus and the redemption of this world is not up to you. If Jesus wanted all of this world to be saved he would have died on the cross for our sins. Wait a minute…

What would you add?

 

 


© firwoodchurch.com

You can read the previous post here.

I am concerned now about what motivates us to do evangelism. In other words, if I were to sit down with a teenager and ask them, “Why should you evangelize?” I wonder what responses I would get:

  • What is evangelism?
  • (With shrugged shoulders) I don’t know.
  • Because I heard I should do it in the lesson or something.
  • Because it says I should in the bible.
  • Because a whole lot of people are going to hell if I don’t and it would be my fault because I never said anything.
  • Because the gospel is an invitation for something beautiful.

Ok, that last one was mine but I am sure you have heard multiple reasons why you should evangelize and some of them are good and some of them are less than helpful. I would like to at least entertain that our desire to evangelize is related to two factors: 1) our understanding of the Scriptures (and our response to that understanding) and 2) our perception or view of the world.

I cringe when someone tells me that I need to evangelize because at judgment day I don’t want to be standing next to my friend and them asking me why I never mentioned Jesus to them as they go down the vortex to hell. First of all, who said we are going to talk to other people at judgment day? Secondly, God chooses different people to plant seeds, to water but only God increases. Thirdly, what about that person I met on the airplane? Am I going to answer for that for not offering them the invitation because I wanted to sleep instead?

The call to evangelize in Scripture:

18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)

We are told to Go, while making disciples, while baptizing and while teaching. That is the call to the disciples Jesus worked with but it seems implied that this is not only a contextual command but an overarching command to all disciples bearing the name of Jesus. We simply “Go.” That is the call. Whenever, wherever, whoever, however we simply “Go.” What I have noticed though is that students don’t follow leaders from information they follow them by imitation (heard this quoted somewhere but have seen it true in my ministry). Show me a youth group kid and I will be able to tell you the personality of their youth minister. Hence, Main Street kids tend to be weird, cynical, prophetic, fun (we have been accused of being “rowdy”) and hopeful. Which describes yours truly! So here is the deal:

EVANGELISM STARTS IN YOUR LEADERSHIP!!! ELDERS, MINISTERS AND MENTORS. YOU CANNOT LEAD A PERSON TO A PLACE YOU HAVE NEVER BEEN.

Remember that. So the call to “Go” rings forth from your leadership. You can have all of the resources imaginable (I recommend Dare 2 Share) and all of the events under the sun but if the culture of your ministry is not evangelistic then no amount of teaching will ever accomplish your task.

Secondly, We must perceive the world and look at it differently. We should feel broken at the people who are not participating in the kingdom of God. Our hearts should break when we see marriages fail, companies plunder, people turn to gods and not God, and all of the injustices we see. We must look at things differently. In the first Lord of the Rings movie: The Fellowship of the Ring it is apparent that everything has changed for the hobbits and for the world and the longing to go back has been trumped by a new task, one that is forged in fire and fraught with despair. The royal elf and Lady of Light Galadriel, played by Cate Blanchett, says these words about what has happened:

The world is changed. I feel it in the water. I feel it in the earth. I smell it in the air. Much that once was is lost, for none now live who remember it.

Leaders, students and all of us need to get to this point where we say, “The world has changed and is forever different and everything we see is now filtered through the lens of the gospel and we will forever try to live out the call to reach out as laborers in the kingdom of God.”


© Graceway Media

Our students just got back from attending a conference about evangelism and the discussion that came from that from our students was extremely helpful and has shifted my thoughts on what it means to be evangelistic or to do evangelism. Our discussions seem to center around the difficult conversations we have when talking to people about God, Scripture and multiple issues. It seems that the student’s perception of evangelism is that it cannot be based on one simple, “throw-it-all-out-there” conversation but it takes multiple conversations built on a relationship.

That’s not to say the gospel cannot be offered to someone whom we have only just met but it is to say that most of the time evangelism takes time, initiative and a whole lot of prayer. This leads me to how we teach students what it means to be evangelistic. For a long period of time I taught students at Main Street that evangelism is sitting down and studying systematic doctrines so that when people assent to a knowledge of who God is and what the bible teaches then they could make a decision to follow Christ and put Christ on in baptism.

That’s sounds good except the issue I have with it is that the first century Christians did not do evangelism this way. I know you are quick to go to all of the conversion stories in the book of Acts but I want you to think about something for a minute:

When Peter, Paul and others are involved in the conversion of people what exactly is said? What is discussed? Do they use Scriptures and if so what Scriptures do they use?

I think what happened in the beginning stages of the church was that the Spirit played a role in the preaching and teaching and what happened was that a lot of people bore witness (Greek – martureo) to the works, words and life of Jesus and part of that testimony was how Jesus completely changed their own life.

 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard,which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life—the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. (1 John 1:1-3)

There was testimony from what they saw in Jesus himself but they, in turn, bore witness to that testimony with the joy (1 John 1:4) of fellowship in Christ. In other words, Christ changed their life and they shared that news everywhere (Dare we talk about the apostle Paul here?). The original disciples were not quick at sharing dogma (i.e., teaching) but at sharing life. They were vulnerable and they invested themselves in the work and ministry of local churches all around the Roman Empire. That does not mean a system of beliefs is not necessary for Christians as part of sanctification includes knowing what to believe and what to do with those beliefs.

Yet it is entirely different to approach Scripture saying, “What do I need to know?” versus having the attitude, “What does God delight in or what brings God joy?” One seeks information and the other seeks transformation. I think where we fail in evangelism is that we are more interested in making converts instead of disciples. We seek to concentrate on their eternity (which is absolutely important) but we fail to tell them what to do here in the meantime.

So I want to blog a little about evangelism and how it relates to youth ministry. I admit that I am not good at evangelism because I am not good at sharing my life with people. I recently was asked to speak at the aforementioned conference about evangelism and my response was as blunt and confessional as I could be:

 I feel like I have not been evangelistic enough and teaching about evangelism when I am not practicing it like I should sounds a bit troubling to me.

Yet, I am learning. So join me as we journey together.