13 ways NOT to share your faith this Halloween
1. Dress up like Hanz and Franz and yell at the children who come to your door to “If your spiritual diet is like your physical diet no wonder you are headed for hell” (in your best Austrian accent!)
2. Pass out Tootsie rolls and fake $20 bills (the ones that are really gospel tracts in disguise.) The Tootsie rolls are fine but when kids realize that the $20 bill is fake they will teepee your house with real toilet paper.
3. Throw pocket New Testaments at kids from behind the bushes trying to make it into the top of their candy bags.
4. Give kids the choice between Angel food cake and Deviled eggs to see where they are at spiritually.
5. Put a “Happy Halloween, now REPENT!” sign in your front window.
6. Insert Testamints into marshmallows covered in chocolate and blessed by a priest.
7. Tell the kids who come to your door that Halloween is the Devil’s birthday party (Like my son used to believe.)
8. Give away apples with John 3:16 carved into them. John 3:16 is great but apples? Seriously? Don’t be that house.
9. Go as a zombie with a sign around your neck that reads, “Dead in my sins”
10. Dress up like a mime and wordlessly act out the gospel before you give the scared and confused little kids at your door a measly gum ball.
11. Bobbing for Bibles.
12. Answer your door as a TV Preacher and tell the kids if they give you all their candy God will pay them back a hundred fold.
13. Toothpaste, dental floss and Life in 6 Words books (again, don’t be that house!)
Okay, all joking aside. Remember that Halloween is like door-to-door evangelism in reverse! They come to YOUR door!!!
Here’s what we’re doing at our house to reach out: LOTS of GOOD CANDY + Life in 6 Words cards + seeking to get to engage parents and teenagers in conversation!
What are you doing to reach out this Halloween?
*Reposted (and adjusted a bit) from a blog I wrote last year!
5 things you can do make your youth talk better
Have you ever given a youth group talk that just stunk? I have and it’s not a pleasant experience. Unlike adults, teenagers won’t pretend to be interested or attentive. They will literally roll their eyes, start talking to the person next to them or just text away about the lameness of your talk (or something else), while you flail for their attention five feet in front of them.
As one who has been preaching to teenagers for more than a quarter of a century I have come to learn some key elements of what it takes to prepare a killer youth talk. Here are they are…
1. Soak the whole process in prayer.
Ask God for the passage, the points and the practical applications. Wrestle with him over the illustrations, transitions and conclusion. God will give you just the right verses and just the right way to deliver the points if you approach him with just the right amount of persistence, humility and faith (James 5:16.)
As someone once said, “We must learn to speak to God about people before we speak to people about God.” As DL Moody once said, “Jesus never taught his disciples how to preach but only how to pray.” Effective preaching starts with effective praying.
Before I preach I tie my shoes. It forces me to my knees one last time. While on my knees I not only tie my shoes but pray once again that God fills me with the Holy Spirit and uses this sermon to change the lives of the teenagers I’m about to preach to in the next few minutes. From beginning to end prayer fuels the process.
2. Find an opening illustration that seizes their attention.
There are openers that tap teens on the shoulder and there are ones that pin them to the wall. I choose the latter. Ask any speech teacher and he/she will tell you that you either win or lose the audience in the first few minutes (and maybe seconds) of your talk. This is especially true of teenagers. That’s why you must craft and re-craft your opening illustration until you are confident it will grab their attention and set your first few minutes with them on a trajectory of transformation.
Jesus was a master at this. He used stories and sayings that riveted his audience in a way that no rabbi ever had. As Matthew 7:28,29 tells us, “When Jesus had finished these words, the crowds were amazed at His teaching; for He was teaching them as one having authority, and not as their scribe.” From his opening to his conclusion Jesus seized the attention of his audiences. If we want to be like Jesus then we must learn to do the same.
3. Use one primary passage and drive it home.
Expository preaching is like a rifle shot. Topical preaching is like a shotgun blast. Both will get the job done, but one’s a little messier. That’s why I love the type of youth talks that lean in on one passage (instead of ten) to communicate God’s Word to teenagers. Too often the topical, multi-passage approach gets sloppy when it comes to exegesis and is less impacting as a result.
It takes a skilled expositor to effectively navigate multiple passages, exegete them accurately and communicate them effectively without playing some kind of games with the text. It can be done but it takes a lot more work and is fraught with danger if the youth communicator is not well trained.
That’s why I usually encourage youth leaders to dive into one primary passage in their youth talks. Of course they can and should refer to other verses along the way. But the most impacting youth talks I’ve heard have had one primary passage that was driven home from beginning to end (2 Timothy 2:15.)
As Spurgeon said, “I always find that I can preach best when I can manage to lie a-soak in my text. I like to get a text and know its meaning and bearings, and so on; and then, after I have bathed in it, I delight to lie down in it and let it soak into me.” Let’s soak in a text of Scripture, let it soak into us and then help our teenagers “cannonball” into it’s refreshing, transformative waters!
4. Gospelize it.
Whatever you are speaking on take it to the cross. From sexual purity to self-image to media choices every subject becomes clearer in the light of the cross and empty tomb of Jesus. We need to relentlessly share the gospel with Christian teenagers because it is the key to the Christian life (1 Corinthians 1:18.) We must relentlessly give the gospel to unreached teenagers because it is “the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16.)
If you think about it the entire Bible is gospelized. As Colossians 2:16-17 reminds us, “Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.” The Old Testament is the shadow of Jesus and the New Testament is the reality of Jesus. So whether you’re preaching about the shadow or the One who casts it you are preaching about Jesus.
Here’s another way to think about it: The Old Testament points to the person of Jesus. The Gospels tell the story of Jesus. The Epistles explain the theology of Jesus. And the book of Revelation proclaims the victory of Jesus!
Genesis through Revelation is all about Jesus and his good news. Our talks should reflect the same thing! So gospelize them!
5. Challenge teenagers to act on what they’ve learned and show them how.
As James 1:22-25 reminds us, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.”
Effective youth talks lift up a mirror for the audience to look into, exposes them to the mess in the mirror and offers a comb, toothbrush and washcloth to do something about it.
If you’re teaching on the importance of spending time in God’s Word challenge them to commit to a regular quiet time. If you’re talking on confession take a few minutes of silence for them to confess their sins to God. If you’re talking on the urgency of evangelism give them the 48 hour challenge to begin a gospel conversation with one person within two days.
But also give them a practical way to put it into practice. In a quiet time talk recommend a devotional for them to read daily. In a confession talk have them memorize 1 John 1:9 and meditate on it that week. If you’re talk is on evangelism have them download the Dare 2 Share app and watch the videos before they begin their gospel conversations.
These are 5 elements to preparing effective youth talks. What are some more?
Re-heroizing missions work to the next generation
I believe youth ministry is facing mission-drift when it comes to missions work. Far too many of our younger youth leaders view the “missionary” as an ancient relic of a bygone era whose place is as a dimly lit picture in the foyer of a steepled church on a “Go ye into all the world” wall. Missionaries are either ignored, marginalized or viewed as a necessity to pacify older tithers in the church and keep them happy.
But 50 years ago missionaries were considered the risk-takers, revolutionaries and radicals in the church who would go into the highways and byways of foreign countries risking life and limb for the sake of the gospel. That’s a far cry from today where they are often relegated to, at best, well-meaning but ineffective peddlers of Christianity and, at worst, an evangelistic brand of white colonialists trying to impose an American way of ministry on a not-so-receptive audience.
Sadly, in years past, this stereo-type had been earned in some quadrants of missions work. Yes, there were (and in some cases still are) those missionaries who’ve done harm to the Name of Christ by preaching the right message in the wrong way.
But these missionaries are the exceptions rather than the rule.
Most of the mission organizations I’ve encountered over the years are much more sophisticated, culturally sensitive and strategic than many Christians realize. Effective missionaries have moved way past trying to do things the “old way” and are adapting and adopting the best practices of what it will take to reach a people group with the good news of Jesus.
Meanwhile far too many youth leaders have intentionally or unintentionally de-emphasized missions work as an honorable and important vocation for their teenagers to pursue. For many, missions work has been replaced by social work and evangelism has been replaced by humanitarianism. Instead of social justice serving as an enhancement for evangelistic efforts it has become a complete replacement.
Ask on-fire Christian teenagers today what they want to do when they grow up and you’ll hear 10 different forms of humanitarian efforts before you hear one “I want to be a missionary.”
But the lack of hearing and responding to the gospel message must be seen as the greatest humanitarian crisis on the planet. The poverty, trafficking and sickening of the human soul should be every believer’s top priority because it was Jesus’ top priority (Luke 19:10.) I love what the Assemblies of God have done with their effort called “The Human Right” (that every human has the right to hear the gospel!)
Of course this doesn’t negate our responsibility on a physical level to feed the poor, rescue the trafficked and help the sick. It actually deepens and sanctifies it. That’s why over the last few hundred years the greatest missions efforts have birthed the greatest humanitarian efforts. Why do you think so many hospitals start with an abbreviation for “Saint” (St. Anthony’s, St. John, St. Jude, St. Francis, etc)? It’s because these hospitals were birthed out of gospel advancing missions movements led by missionaries who sought to save the soul and heal the body.
But when the healing of the body eclipses the saving of the soul then it is a dark day indeed. That’s one reason I’m convinced it’s time to bring missions back to youth ministry. We need to “re-heroize” missions work to the next generation. We need to make becoming a full-time, gospel advancing missionary in an unreached people group a high calling again. How do we do that? Here are some ideas:
-Bring your teenagers on a Short-term mission trip. Get them to feed the poor with bread AND the Bread of Life. Have them pass out water for the body and Living Water for the soul. Get your teenagers to build houses for the poor on earth and ones in heaven too.
-Share stories of missionaries, both past and present, who have and are advancing the good news of Jesus in other countries in powerful ways. Use Google and Bing as your allies to find stories and show videos that will inspire teenagers to have a global perspective when it comes to the good news of Jesus.
-Bring missionaries into your youth group to share stories and do a Q&A time with your teenagers so that they get a real sense of the power and impact of missions work. If your church is bringing in a missionary to speak in church ask that same missionary to speak in youth group.
-Help teenagers to “gospelize” their humanitarian aspirations. Whether it’s stopping human trafficking or serving the poor encourage those of your teenagers who feel genuinely called to humanitarian service to not forget the importance of reaching the souls of those they serve with the hope that only Jesus can offer.
-Raise on-going money to support missions.
-Do a youth group series on global evangelism annually.
-Bring your teenagers out to Lead THE Cause this summer. This week-long intensive led by Dare 2 Share and Sonlife is a crash course in evangelism, intercessory prayer and leadership training. It is in a very real sense a short-term missions week on steroids. And the teens who attend will get a heart for reaching the lost “across the street and around the world!”
Let’s help to elevate the temperature of missions work with our teenagers. Let’s make our Jesus-loving, gospel-advancing, people-serving missionaries heroes again to our teenagers!
It’s time to “re-heroize” missions work to the next generation!
The Gospel CAN go viral through your teenagers!
My first book ever was called “Outbreak…creating a contagious youth ministry through viral evangelism.” It was released almost 14 years ago and was loosely based on the movie Outbreak starring Dustin Hoffman and Rene Russo. According to our trusted friend Wikipedia, “The film focuses on an outbreak of a fictional Ebola-like virus called Motaba in Zaire and later in a small town in the United States. Its primary settings are government disease control centers USAMRIID and the CDC, and the fictional town of Cedar Creek, California.”
When I first watched that movie I couldn’t help but think of the gospel and how contagious it is. I couldn’t help but start thinking of the message of Jesus in a viral way. As I did research for my Outbreak book I discovered a few interesting facts about outbreaks and how they spread. I discovered…
-A sneeze pushes mucous out of your nose at up to 100 mph.
-Viruses cannot be stopped by antibiotics, only bacterial infections can!
-According to Robert DeSalle in the book Epidemic, “When a virus attacks and infects a vulnerable living cell, it pours its own DNA inside. Once inside it begins a coup de tat…and sets up a new command center.”
Of course,we know that these kinds of viral infections are most often described in a negative sense (for obvious reasons). But I believe that the viral nature of the gospel infects in a very positive and transformational way. Like a virus…
-The gospel “virus” can spread through an army of “student super sneezers” at a rapid rate.
-There are no spiritual antibiotics that can stop the spread of it.
-Once a person is infected with it a new command center is set up in their heart and Jesus takes control!
Here’s what I wrote in the first chapter of my Outbreak book,
“Viral evangelism is the type of evangelism that recognizes the inherent efficiency and velocity of the gospel message. It is the type of evangelism that is dependent, not on passive strategies that seek to water down the message and make it appealing to the watching world, but on unleashing the virus boldly in its purest form. It is the type of evangelism that we see again and again in the book of Acts. What are the immediate and obvious results of the unleashed virus? The first is velocity.
Did you know that every person living in the province of Asia was exposed to the virus in only two years (Acts 19:8-10)? Did you know that the gospel had infected almost the entire Roman Empire within about thirty years of Christ’s resurrection? Did you know that Christianity became the dominant religion in the Roman Empire within three hundred years?
What you see in the book of Acts and the pages of early church history is an unstoppable ideavirus that infected large groups of people at a time. It spread person to person, life to life, mouth to mouth. It spread quickly. But it was not only fast-it was efficient.
Remember that it’s goal is to ‘set up a new command system’ in the heart of the host. Jesus desires to be Sovereign of the cells, so to speak. He wants every aspect of every Christian life to be completely under his control and he won’t stop until that desire has become a reality.
This process of ‘infection’ begins at salvation and doesn’t stop until that person in completely under Christ’s control! Philippians 1:6 demonstrates the process from beginning to end with these words, ‘being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you (the initial infection) will carry it onto completion (the new command system) until the day of Christ Jesus.’
The gospel message is efficient. It transforms everyone and everything it touches.”
Let’s get busy unleashing this viral message to anyone and everyone. Let’s train our teenagers to do the same.
And if you’ve never read my book Outbreak it could be a good time to pick it up and get a plan to unleash your student super sneezers!
Strategic evangelism in the 21st Century
I’m a big Tim Keller fan. His book The Prodigal God was a game changer for me when it came to the famous parable of Jesus. Keller’s small book carries a big punch and presents the Gospel in a fresh and powerful way.
That’s exactly what we need to do to reach this generation with the gospel.
Here’s what Pastor Keller had to say about evangelism in the 21st Century as he addressed Exponential West via video, “Paul didn’t just beat people over the head with the Gospel. He crawled up inside people’s belief, found something they believed that he could affirm and used those beliefs against them…That’s the difference between beating a person and telling them they’re wrong and having them glaze their eyes and walking away from you or making them feel like you have some force in your argument.”
This takes prayer, wisdom and strategy.
That’s one of the reasons I “Ask, Admire and Admit” when I’m sharing the gospel. What is this approach all about? Check out this short clip from our Dare 2 Share app,
Asking great questions, admiring what you can about what they believe and admitting the reason you’re a Christian is that you’re so messed up you need Jesus to save you allows you to break down walls through listening and find common ground to begin humble gospel conversations.
We need to heed Tim Keller’s advice and learn to “crawl up inside people’s belief” to find areas of agreement which we can admire. Then we can gently guide them through the Gospel message to the blood-stained cross, the empty tomb and the open hands of Jesus.
As we get more and more strategic in our evangelistic approach in this culture we will see much more spiritual fruit.
10 signs you may be going to a great church
I love the Church. She is Christ’s bride and the key to cultural transformation. In that sense every church is a great. But let’s be honest, there are a ton of churches that leave much to be desired when it comes to truly making a difference in their congregations and communities. So, when you plug into a church that is getting it done, it’s a true blessing.
Of course there are no perfect churches but there are many that are pressing toward the high water mark we see in Scripture. Here are 10 signs you may be going to a great local church.
1. It is lead by a team of godly leaders not a Lone Ranger pastor who gathers Tonto-type leaders around him to say “Yes, Kemo Sabe” to his each and every idea (Titus 1:5-9.)
2. The Gospel is central to every sermon, program and meeting (1 Corinthians 15:3,4) and the advancement of it both locally and globally drive strategic initiatives (Acts 1:8.)
3. People are using their spiritual gifts, not just watching the “stage team” exercise theirs (1 Corinthians 12:12-31) resulting is disciples being made and multiplied (2 Timothy 2:2.)
4. It, like the early church, is integrated, fully representing the demographic of the community in which it resides (Ephesians 2:11-21.) By the way my buddy Derwin Gray has got a lot of great material (blogs, sermons, etc) on this particular point.
5. Love, demonstrating itself in friendliness, generosity, internal/external care programs and community involvement, dominates the atmosphere (1 Corinthians 13:1-8.)
6. Most likely there is a thriving small group program where members truly can have great Biblical conversations, share struggles and pray with/for each other (James 5:16.)
7. The people are being inspired and equipped to share their faith relationally, resulting in more and more new believers being added to the church (Acts 2:47.)
8. The teaching/preaching is Biblical, theological and immensely practical (2 Timothy 3:16-17; 4:1-4.)
9. Ministry to children and teenagers are top priorities, not afterthoughts (Titus 2:1-8; Deuteronomy 6:4-9.)
10. Intercessory prayer fuels everything. It’s the engine, not the caboose, of how the church rolls from top to bottom (1 Timothy 2:1-8.)
These are 10 signs you may be going to a great church. What are some other signs?
Do your teenagers have “Gospel Fluency”?
“Gospel fluency” was a term introduced to me by my friend, David Hertweck. As I listened to him explain it, I knew immediately that this dealt with an important truth in youth ministry. Graduating seniors who aren’t well-versed in the good news of Jesus can easily buy into the many false doctrines that will accost their Christianity after they graduate from high school.
As Paul warned the believers in Galatians 1:6-9, “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse!”
When Paul says something twice it’s a big, big deal and, in this power passage, he gives a double-whammy warning regarding false teachers: Don’t buy the lies of anybody preaching anything less or anything more than faith alone in Jesus for salvation.
After this cold water wake-up call to the Galatian believers, he goes on to build their gospel fluency with passages like Galatians 2:15, 16, “We who are Jews by birth and not sinful Gentiles know that a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified.”
Paul knew that if these early believers didn’t master the gospel then they would not be able to live, share, and defend the message. It all started with Gospel fluency!
So how fluent are your teenagers in the Gospel message? If you put a microphone to the face of each of the teenagers in your youth group as they left the youth room at your church could they fully explain the good news of Jesus?
At Dare 2 Share Gospel fluency is a big, bid deal. We have produced and created videos, curriculum, and even banners to help build Gospel fluency in youth groups.
It’s also why we relentlessly use a GOSPEL acrostic for teenagers to master and memorize. Some people look down on the use of acrostic with teenagers. But I can tell you from personal experience and thousands of gospel conversations with youth leaders and teenagers alike that the teenagers who memorize and master it, at the bare minimum, can articulate it clearly long after they’ve attended a Dare 2 Share event.
For me the GOPSEL is not a method but a re-telling of the full message of the good news of Jesus! Master it and you can use it with virtually any methodology. Have your teenagers master it and they will have a framework to build solid Gospel Fluency based on the meta-narrative (full story) of the good news of Jesus from Genesis 1 through Revelation 22.
So what is the GOSPEL acrostic?
God created us to be with him. (Genesis 1,2)
Our sin separates us from God. (Genesis 3)
Sins cannot be removed by good deeds. (Genesis 4-Malachi 4)
Paying the price for sin, Jesus died and rose again. (Matthew-Luke)
Everyone who trusts in him alone has eternal life. (John)
Life with Jesus starts now and lasts forever. (Acts-Revelation)
This simple little acrostic can be the starting point for Gospel fluency in your teenagers. It is a simple, solid and Scriptural framework that you can us to train your teenagers. I challenge you to memorize it, have your teenagers memorize it and then encourage them to start using it to engage gospel conversations with their friends.
Memorizing it personally and sharing it publicly will help your teenagers truly know and own the good news of Jesus. That, my friend, is the power of Gospel fluency.
Dare 2 Share’s version of “The Office”
This video is about 7 years old and I just re-watched it for the first time in a long time. It’s still funny. Check it out!
The Power of Blind Faith
I’ll never forget Buck. He was a very fat, very fast, very old Buckskin horse that the girl I used to date in high school owned and rode. Although I was a city boy she taught me to ride him. Unlike the real cowboys she knew and rode with, I wore Converse high tops, not cowboy boots. I chewed gum, not chew. I was from North Denver not the South forty.
But, once I got the hang of it, I used to love to ride…especially Buck. Because he was so fat it was easier for me to stay on him (I mostly rode bareback) and because he was so fast he was a blast to ride. I’d grab his mane with one hand, hold tight to the reigns with the other and ride like the wind.
For date money my girlfriend used to take me to small, local rodeos called “Gymkhanas.” There’d be barrel racing, flag racing and a sled drag (where the female riders would drag the male riders on a sled across the dung-meets-dirt floor arena) all for $5, $10, $20 cash prizes. We usually won enough to cover dinner and a movie.
My favorite race was the rescue race. Female riders would be at one end of the arena and the males being “rescued” would be at the other side. When the race started the girls would race their horses down to the guys and circle around them. While they were circling we had to grab the horn on the saddle and leap up on the back of the horse as it circled and then hang on for dear life. First one to cross the finish line with both riders wins.
I used to love watching that fat horse kicking up the dirt on the other side of arena. The younger, faster looking horses that lined both sides of Buck seemed like they would smoke him. Other riders and rescuees would often laugh at the big, fat, old Buckskin they knew would be left in the dust by the younger, faster looking horses. But I was laughing for a whole different reason…I knew Buck would blow those other horses away.
And he did every time.
One day when my girlfriend was getting Buck out to ride him he walked straight into my car. She suddenly realized that Buck had gone blind. It was one of the saddest things I’ve ever seen, watching this girl break down in tears realizing that her prized Buckskin horse would have to be put down.
After consulting with the vet she told me that Buck had probably been going blind for months. He was either completely blind or mostly blind during the Gymkhanas we raced in and during the rides that we went on. For months this uniquely gifted horse was riding and racing purely on instinct and absolute trust in the rider.
How we need that in our service to Jesus! He guides us with the harness of his love during the sunny days. He leads us to green pastures when the light is bright and the sun is shining. But when things get dark and we can’t see the road ahead, when our spiritual eyes dim and we can’t view the pathway that lies before us, we must trust the Rider.
The One who rides us in the light will guide us in the dark. We must be sensitive to His every move in our lives and nuance of His Spirit. As we do He can be assured that, someday, He will take us across the finish line to victory.
Blind faith is not blind at all when we learn to trust in the One who truly sees.
Youth Leader you were built for BOLDNESS!
You were built for boldness. God chose you to do great things for his great glory. I’m personally inviting you to a training experience where you will learn how to accelerate this building process from the inside out. By the time we are finished it is my prayer that God will have done a bold work in you so that he can accomplish a bold work through you.
You will find this training experience fun, interactive and, by God’s amazing grace, transformative. Grab a youth leader or two in your area and road trip to the closest training experience near you. We will be doing these in KC, Seattle, Portland, Denver, Colorado Springs, Lincoln, Chicago, Columbus, DC, San Diego, Phoenix, Twin Cities and St. Louis.
Oh by the way, lunch is on us.
Sign up here for this free training experience. Here’s a short, “highly produced” iPhone video we shot in our front yard to tell you a bit more…
By the way, if you are a Dare 2 Share alumni, stick around after the Built for Boldness for the super-interactive “Alumni only” Roundtable event that will, I believe, help craft the future of youth ministry. You can ask your Ministry Advocate for more info about the roundtable but start by signing up for the Built for Boldness training.
I believe this is one of the most important youth leader discussions we have ever had. I highly encourage you to attend Built for Boldness. They start this week (in KC) and next week (Portland and Seattle) so sign up right away. Click here to sign up.