I’ll never forget being asked by a certain lady at a certain university to come and speak at a certain campus ministry. My response? “Certainly!”
When I got there she asked me what I was going to speak on that night. I told her that I would speak on the need for these college students to share their faith. She seemed to agree that this would be a good topic. “Of course,” I continued, “I will give the gospel at the end just in case somebody who comes doesn’t know Christ as their Savior.” For some reason her attitude suddenly changed. If I remember right the conversation went something like this….
“Well, you can do your talk on evangelism but you don’t need to give the gospel.”
“You don’t understand when I come to an event like this I always give the gospel just in case somebody is not a Christian.”
“I can assure you that everybody who attends tonight will be a Christian. It is a Christian campus ministry meeting after all.”
“You could be surprised.”
“Regardless, I don’t want you giving the gospel tonight.”
“Too bad. I am giving the gospel at the end of my talk so you can ask me to leave or let me share. But if I share not only will I be sharing the gospel but also an invitation for these college students to respond to the message.”
She was infuriated. But she would either give in to my “demands” or be without a speaker for that night. She made it clear to me that she would let me speak and share the gospel but that it would be “under protest”, whatever that means.
The talk went fine and the students seemed to be into it. As I transitioned into a short gospel presentation her eyebrows furrowed and she literally was folding her arms as she sat in the crowd between two college-aged girls.
I kept sharing and she kept glaring.
At the end of my talk I had everybody bow their heads and close their eyes. She didn’t budge. She kept her eyes wide open and looked around the room to make sure that nobody would respond. When I asked those who were trusting in Christ to raise their hands the girl on her left and her right both shot their hands into the air. In shock she looked up at me and I mouthed the words “told ya” (I couldn’t resist!)
This lady had committed the sin of assumption. She assumed that just because these students came to a Christian meeting that they would of course be Christians. Not necessarily. As a matter of fact Barna in Third Millennium Teens makes it clear that 50% of the teens currently going to church are not believers by the classic orthodox definition of what it means to be a Christian.
Not only that but when you begin to share your faith weekly in youth group you create psychological agreement with your teens. They know that anytime they bring an “unbeliever” to the group that they will have an opportunity to hear the gospel.
Here are a few of the common objections that I get when I challenge youth pastors to give the gospel every week:
#1 “It will take too much time.”
Wrong. It takes two minutes or less to share a clear presentation of the gospel and maybe a minute or so for some kind of invitation to respond (whether raising hands or filling out some kind of response form.)
#2 “My students will get sick of it.”
Tough. Since when is youth ministry a democracy? You are called to lead the way oh leader of youth. Sometimes that means doing unpopular things. But believe me it is only unpopular to the students who never bring their unchurched friends out to youth group.
#3 “My teens start putting their stuff away when I start giving the gospel.”
Unacceptable. Train them to pray (with their eyes wide open) for the lost who are among them during the gospel and invitation. While you are inviting the unbelievers to believe invite the believers to enter into spiritual warfare prayer on behalf of those who need to come to Jesus.
#4 “I’ve been doing it and nobody is coming to Christ.”
Persevere. Jim Collins in his book “From Good to Great” studies businesses that went from average to amazing. One of the truths that he discovered was that persistence was a huge part of it. One illustration that he gives is of a huge flywheel (imagine a 5,000 pound sandlot merry-go-round). Imagine trying to push this around just once. Maybe at first it takes you a full hour to make it a full inch. But you don’t give up. You keep up. Five hours later you are drenched in sweat and you have only made it around once. But you don’t give up. It gradually goes around faster and faster until BAMM it hits that magic momentum moment where it starts to spin on its own. You keep pushing until it finally spins so fast that you can’t keep up running beside it if you tried. You just stand in one spot and every once in awhile give it a tiny and quick shove with your hand.
That’s just like giving the gospel every week. Keep persistent and one day somebody trusts in Christ. It moves an inch. Then maybe a month later somebody else trusts in Christ and the next month maybe another and the next week an other another. Eventually this evangelistic merry-go-round hits momentum and it gathers a fast spinning life of its own.
But you have got to be willing to pay the price. Three minutes a week is all I’m asking you to consider. Don’t be like the cross-armed, cynical college ministry leader in my opening illustration.
Give the gospel.
Start this week.
Don’t give up.