Using THE Cause Circle as a simple, concrete guide to outreach can help your students grasp the effectiveness of a balanced approach to sharing the gospel with others – one that is both lovingly relational and doggedly relentless.
Most teenagers (and adults, for that matter) naturally tend toward one end or the other of what I’ve dubbed the “Relational and Relentless” spectrum. Perhaps you’ve noticed that you have some students who are comfortable and skilled at relating to others with the love of Jesus, but hesitate to bring up the gospel for fear of offending. While you have other students who are more adept at logic, reasoning and spiritual debate, but frequently fall short when it comes to expressing loving concern.
This is entirely natural, since most of us go with our strengths and shy away from our weaknesses. Still, the most impactful faith-sharing generally combines both – loving, relational caring and purposeful, focused, persuasive conversation that communicates the truth of the gospel. Both play a pivotal part in effective outreach.
THE Cause Circle helps to bring these two distinct aspects of faith-sharing into a more focused balance. As we move past the first step in The Circle of “Praying with Passion,” we see that the second step – “Pursuing with Love” is highly relational, while the third step – “Persuading with Truth” focuses on patiently, unswervingly communicating a clear, compelling gospel message.
Pursuing with Love
Maybe you’ve heard the old saying: “I don’t care how much you know, until I know how much you care.” Wise words for anyone seeking to introduce others to Jesus.
But I have it on even higher authority than this old adage. Consider the oft-read, highly familiar passage on love in 1 Corinthians 13. Only this time, let’s take a fresh look at it by reading it from The Message paraphrase. As you read it below, consider the implications these words have for how we should go about lovingly sharing the gospel:
So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.
Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end…
… But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love (1 Corinthians 13:3-7; 13, The Message).
Bankrupt without Love
What does the “extravagant love” referred to in this passage look like when it comes to sharing our faith? Here are just few adjectives that should apply when our evangelism efforts are drenched in agape love: determined, selfless, humble, considerate, patient, forgiving, truthful, trusting, positive, all-encompassing, tireless, unswerving, hope-filled.
I encourage you to take a look at this Scripture passage in your youth group and together unpack the following questions. I believe you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the creative, practical ideas your teenagers come up with for pursuing others in love for the sake of the gospel.
- “So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love” (1Corinthians 13:3, The Message). Bankrupt is a strong word. What are the implications for sharing our faith if our efforts aren’t wrapped in the love of Jesus?
- List at least 10 characteristics of love we see described in this passage from The Message.
- What does it look like to lead with love, when it comes to sharing our faith?
- What are a few practical, specific ways we can communicate our love and care for others? (i.e., write a note, buy lunch, take time to listen, sit with someone who needs a friend, help others with homework, encourage someone on Facebook, etc.)
- Love “takes pleasure in the flowering of truth.” Is it an act of love to introduce others to Jesus’ message of grace and truth? Why do you think that?
- Acts of kindness and caring are important, but “pursuing someone with love” also includes helping them get to know Jesus and His gospel message. This means we must look for ways to move our conversations with others in a spiritual direction. What are some examples of how we might transition from loving others with our deeds to loving them with our words by sharing Jesus’ message of grace?
Close out your discussion by giving your teenagers a call to action of pursuing at least one unreached friend with the love of Jesus during the coming week.
Don’t let your teens go bankrupt when it comes to loving those who need Jesus! Coach them on how to ground all their faith-sharing efforts in the love Christ so that they become living, breathing messengers of God’s gospel of grace as they live out 1 Corinthians 13:13 before the watching world: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly.