Are your teens’ schedules packed to overflowing with sports, school, clubs and/or work? Some teens sign on for everything from soccer to bowling to Key Club to drama. Maybe they do it to enhance their popularity or expand their year-end yearbook photo exposure. Or maybe their parents are pressuring them to accumulate an impressive list of activities for their college apps.
Whatever the mix of motivations, many teenagers live hectic lives that pull them in a gazillion directions. Who has time for one more thing…like evangelism? You can’t even get them to consistently show up for youth group, much less participate in a service project or weekend retreat. So how can these over-committed teens possibly carve out time in their lives to “go do evangelism?”
Go and make disciples
Well, there’s a secret to finding time for evangelism. And the secret is found in Matthew 28:19: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations…” While Hudson Taylor, William Carey and the missionary giants of yore put the emphasis on the word “GO” to recruit for foreign missions, the actual, literal meaning in the original Greek, is not “GO.” It’s “as you are going,” make disciples. It doesn’t carry the mission field connotation of drop-everything-and-go-to-a-far-away-land-and-make-disciples.
Instead, the Greek “GO” carries the connotation of starting where you’re at, in the midst of your day-to-day life and making disciples: in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and then to the ends of the earth. The modern equivalent for your teens might look something like this: make disciples within your circle of friends, on your sports team, at your school, on your Facebook page, at your workplace, and then to the ends of the earth.
“As you’re going” vs. “stop what you’re doing” evangelism
Finding time for evangelism is not about “stopping what you’re doing” or even “interrupting what you’re doing” to take part in a big outreach campaign or specially planned activity. It’s about training your teens to look for day-to-day opportunities as they are going about their everyday lives. It’s about training them to turn their conversations with their friends who need Jesus toward spiritual things, so that as they are going through their daily life – to drama practice or track practice, over lunch or on Facebook – they are bringing God up. Your job is to motivate and equip them to talk about spiritual things and to explain the gospel so that it becomes a part of who they are day in and day out. Making disciples isn’t just some occasional special assignment for students; it’s THE ongoing assignment – THE Cause – God has given to every single one of His followers. The whole book of Acts is a recounting of how the early church lived out this process of making disciples in the context of its culture.
“But did you make disciples?”
Jesus words in Matthew 28:19 are clear, “Therefore go and make disciples…” In your youth ministry, are you focused on training your teens to obey this command? Let me give you a real-life illustration that might help the importance of this assignment sink in. Say I tell my son, “Make your bed. And remember, I’ll be coming back to see if you did what I told you to.” Later, when I come back, I’m going to ask him, “Did you make your bed?” He might say, “Well, no, Daddy, but I painted you a picture.” A picture is nice, but I’d still be asking him, “But did you make your bed?” “Well, no, but I cleaned up my toys.” And again, I’d say, “That’s great, but did you make your bed?”
Jesus’ last words were “Make disciples…” And He told us He’d be coming back. I believe He’ll be asking us – you, me and the teens under our spiritual care, “Did you make disciples?”
So let’s be sure we’ve trained and equipped our teens for “as you are going” evangelism, so they can answer that question with a resounding, “YES!”