As a youth leader it’s not news to you that many teens (and adults) come to church with a “here I am” mentality. It’s all about them. They come looking for connection, fun, friends, and a few how-to-do-life-better tips. Don’t get me wrong, those are all good things. But I believe Jesus is calling his followers to a cause far bigger and a purpose far grander than fun and the fulfillment of their own individual felt needs: making disciples who make disciples.
And here’s why.
When you look at Jesus’ ministry, the first thing He says when He calls His disciples is, “Come follow me and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19). Then soon after He appoints them, He sends them out in groups of two—long before they are well-trained or highly polished ambassadors for His message. And the last thing He says to them is “You will be my witnesses…” (Acts 1:8). You get the definite picture here that Jesus didn’t see evangelism as a “phase two” part of the Christian life. From the beginning, it was at the very center of His call to his followers.
What might happen if we begin to make our youth ministries evangelism-centric? A seismic shift from “what’s in it for me” to “what’s Jesus calling me to.” Perhaps you think your teens are too broken, immature or unprepared to step out and share their faith. Well, in my years as a pastor, I found that the hurting often find healing themselves as they help others get to the hospital. And hurting teens are often the ones with connections to others in desperate need of the healing Jesus provides.
You will actually jumpstart your teens’ spiritual growth when you challenge them to share their faith. When they are sharing their faith, they’re dependent on God because they’re scared to death, they’re praying because they’re scared to death, they’re studying scripture because they want to know what to say—all circumstances highly conducive to spiritual growth.
If you believe evangelism should wait until teens get enough training, prayer and truth downloaded into their brains, let me ask you this: “How’s that worked out for the adults in our churches?” The typical adult has never shared their faith, yet they’ve had years of training, Bible study and prayer. They frequently stagnate like the Dead Sea, because they have no outlet for their knowledge of the things of God. They run the risk of ending up like the Pharisees who knew the truth, but missed the point.
Remember, evangelism was a driving force behind what unfolded in the book of Acts. The disciples didn’t sit back in their comfortable, insular church world looking for fun and games and 5 keys to a better life. They rocked their world because they wouldn’t shut up about the gospel. Your teens can rock their world for Jesus too and grow deeper in their walk with Him when you put evangelism at the center of your ministry.