Whenever one of our students decides to follow a call into the ministry we cheer a little inside (and for some of us, like me, we freak out and talk about it ALL the time!!!) One of my students, Cassie Haney*, just graduated from high school and will be entering her first year of college this fall, studying Youth Ministry. I laugh a little when I think about how much Cassie will learn from her professors in comparison to how much Cassie will actually be teaching her professors about following Christ!
I spent a few hours with Cassie recently and asked her to tell me what the future of the church would be and what role she would play in its development. Our conversation quickly turned to Cassie’s passion- evangelism. Cassie has attended The Dare to Share Conference for years now and gets to meet Greg Stier this fall (she’s super stoked!!!) I asked Cassie to explain why evangelism was so important for teenagers now and in the near future. This was her response:
It is important to learn the Gospel and be able to explain it to your friends in a way they’ll understand. It’s important to have the conversation. But I think where the church fails most when it comes to evangelism is the FOLLOW UP. I personally didn’t have too much trouble getting my friends to give church a try. It was the constant struggle of trying to get them connected. When the church seemed to lack passion for embracing new followers of Christ, my friends’ passion to learn more about God was lost.
We have to ask ourselves, “What are we, as a church, doing for new believers?” Have we fallen so deeply into the motions that we’ve forgotten to be there for others, like Jesus is ever present for us? We make a great effort to get people in the doors of our churches and have them take their first leap into faith, but when it comes to the journey, we often get lost. It’s really easy to think of evangelism as one act… to think of it as a moment. If we think of spreading the gospel as just one conversation, we might miss the whole point.
The goal of evangelism isn’t just to take a moment to save someone’s soul… evangelism is spending your life saving other’s lives. Evangelism is too important to be just a conversation, it’s a lifestyle. There are so many suffering people here on earth that still haven’t gotten to experience the true love of Jesus. Not only are these peoples’ souls going to Hell, but they’re walking through a living Hell right now. Are you willing to not only show someone the way out, but walk beside them through the journey?
Powerful words from a powerful woman of God. Cassie has identified one of the greatest downfalls in the way we have done evangelism…the FOLLOW UP. When we get stuck on the details of getting our friends to “make the decision” to follow Christ, we forget that the real work, the real questions, the real challenges begin after the decision is made! Cassie is right when she says evangelism is a lifestyle. We must be intentional around continuing to develop our own faith and skills of sharing God’s love story. We must also be intentional around growing deeper in God by growing wider in our healthy relationships with others on the journey of faith. Our faith journey together is the effect of the cross. Our relationship with Christ draws the vertical line and our welcoming into the Christian family through the sharing of the Gospel creates the horizontal, reaching arms of the Cross. By connecting with others who have made the decision one believers sharpens another.” It is in the journey together that we are able to live the life that Christ has intended for us. It is in the journey together that we are able to humbly welcome more and more people into our ever-growing circle of believers. It is in the journey together that we learn what it means to follow-up on the evangelistic work we do; that students like Cassie hear their call to ministry and answer it. And it is in the journey together that we walk forward sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ for all people.
*Cassie Haney is a graduate of Hilliard Darby High School and will be attending Ohio Northern University, majoring in Youth Ministry, beginning this fall, 2012. Cassie has a passion for evangelism and outreach to those on the margins. She looks forward to serving God through her studies, her career and her relationships.
Do you have an intentional follow-up plan in place for your ministry? If so, is it effective? If not, what will be your follow-up plan and how will you invite the students, parents, and adults leaders into this intentional vision?