I’m referring here to morons of the “oxymoron” variety.
Seriously, have you ever thought about the logical contradiction that comes when we string together these two words: apathetic evangelical. Consider the definitions.
ap·a·thet·ic [ap-uh-thet-ik] adj., not interested or concerned; indifferent or unresponsive
e·van·gel·i·cal [ee-van-jel-i-kuh l] adj., marked by ardent or zealous enthusiasm for a cause
Yet it’s all too easy to let these two contradictory words live side-by-side in our ministries. So how can we move those under our spiritual care from apathy to passion when it comes to the most important message on the planet? Or to put it in more practical youth ministry terms for our “Top Ten Questions” series–
Question #6: How do I motivate my teenagers to share their faith?
I believe that one of the key ways to motivate teens to share their faith is to help them understand why it’s vital they communicate Jesus’ message of hope. Since different people are wired to be moved by different things, let’s look at a few of the motivations that can challenge your teenagers to share the good news of Jesus with their friends.
When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd (Matthew 9:36). The word compassion literally means “to hurt with someone.” Jesus hurt for those who were seeking to live their lives apart from the hope, forgiveness and power that He provides. And our teenagers should too.
Most everyone likes the idea of a heaven. And assurance that our friends will be there with us can be a powerful motivator for sharing the gospel. But as brutal, raw and visceral as it is, we must also come to grips with the reality of hell that Jesus referred to so often.
Of the twelve times that hell is mentioned in the New Testament, eleven are mentioned by Jesus Himself. “Don’t be afraid of those who want to kill your body; they cannot touch your soul. Fear only God, who can destroy both soul and body in hell,” He said in Matthew 10:28. Was Jesus using “scare tactics” to motivate people to believe? Yes! But these scare tactics were inspired by love. Just like parents who scream at the top of their lungs to scare their small child from running out in the street in front of a speeding car, Jesus sternly warns us out of love to avoid the ultimate head on collision. Hell should motivate Christians to rescue the perishing before it’s too late.
The command to “go into all the world and make disciples” (Matthew 28:19) is in effect for all Christians at all times. Teenagers have been given a mandate by the King of kings Himself to advance His kingdom through disciple making. Because the first step in making disciples is evangelism, the command to share the gospel is imbedded in the Great Commission. To not witness is to break the last and lasting command of Jesus Christ Himself.
“For we must all stand before Christ to be judged. We will each receive whatever we deserve for the good or evil we have done in this earthly body. Because we understand our fearful responsibility to the Lord, we work hard to persuade others” (2 Corinthians 5:10-11). This verse pretty much says it all. This day of accounting is for all believers and it should fill us with excitement and fear and motivate us to persuade all men and women to know Jesus. Postmodern teenagers who tend to be focused on the here and now are often catapulted out of their evangelistic stupor when they hear about the reality of the day of accounting before the holy and awesome Savior whom they love so much.
So here are a few questions to consider as you seek to apply these truths to your youth group setting:
- Why do you think people hesitate to share their faith despite the clear commands in Scripture to do so? Do you hesitate? If so, why?
- Which of these motivations is the strongest for you personally? For the adult helpers in your youth ministry? For the students on your student leadership team? If you don’t know, ask them.
- How does knowing and understanding your motivations for evangelism help you be more consistent and effective in your outreach efforts?
- What’s one specific thing you can do this week to help motivate your teens to share the gospel message? (For help with this consider bringing your students out to Dare 2 Share’s student conferences or check out the Group/D2S video curriculum Evangephobia.)
Strive to ignite a passion for Jesus’ message and mission in your students! Don’t let them be a “moron” of the apathetic evangelical variety.