Are claims of going to heaven and coming back a bunch of malarkey?
This week Alex Malarkey claimed that he did NOT go to heaven and come back. In a letter he admitted that his eyewitness testimony of what heaven is like in the book “The Boy who came back from Heaven” was a bunch of, well, malarkey.
Kudos to this young man who admitted, “I said I went to heaven because I thought it would get me attention. When I made the claims that I did, I had never read the Bible…People have profited from lies, and continue to. They should read the Bible, which is enough. The Bible is the only source of truth.”
After Alex’s stunning confession Colton Burpo came out in a counterclaim this week that his trip to heaven as a four year old was for real. For those of you who have been living in Antarctica Colton’s story became both a book and a movie, Heaven is for Real.
So who are we to believe Colton or Alex?
Whoever you choose to believe I do think that we need to get our theological wits about us as believers when it comes to the afterlife. So, to help, I’ve developed a short list of three things I do when I hear someone claims to have gone to heaven and has come back with an eyewitness report from on high.
1. I’m initially suspect.
Don’t get me wrong. I fully believe in heaven (and hell for that matter!) I’m convinced that heaven will be more amazing than we could ever imagine. How do I know? The great apostle John gives a firsthand account in the book of Revelation of the glory, immensity, power and beauty of heaven. There are times when he has trouble putting what he’s describing into words which measure up, but it’s obvious that his vision of heaven is overwhelming to him. It’s also interesting that the apostle John did not have a “near-death” experience. He had a clear vision while he was alive and well and stuck on the Island of Patmos as a prisoner of the Romans.
So why do I tend to be suspect of firsthand accounts of those who say they died and then came back? Because the Bible makes one clear statement when it comes to this possibility:
“Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment…” (Hebrews 9:27).
This passage looms large in front of me like a yellow light (about to turn red) when someone claims to have died, gone to heaven and come back.
The Apostle Paul didn’t die but he did get a firsthand view of heaven. Check out his experience in 2 Corinthians 12:1-4, “This boasting will do no good, but I must go on. I will reluctantly tell about visions and revelations from the Lord. I was caught up to the third heaven fourteen years ago. Whether I was in my body or out of my body, I don’t know—only God knows. Yes, only God knows whether I was in my body or outside my body. But I do know that I was caught up to paradise and heard things so astounding that they cannot be expressed in words, things no human is allowed to tell.”
Look at that last phrase, “I was caught up to paradise and heard things so astounding that they cannot be expressed in words, things no human is allowed to tell.”
It is just plain weird to think that Paul wasn’t allowed to express what he heard in heaven but a child would be allowed to express what he had heard and seen (let alone write a bestseller!)
2. I weigh their description of heaven against the Bible’s.
When “Heaven is for Real” came out it was interesting to me how many Christians flocked to accept this preschooler’s description of heaven without thinking or blinking. Many of these same Christians, I assume, had not studied the Bible thoroughly on the subject of heaven and measured it against what the little boy said.
Far too many Christians would rather accept the testimony of a four year old boy (who I assume is a very sweet kid) over prophets like Ezekiel, apostles like John and Jesus Christ himself.
So how does the Bible describe heaven?
-Jesus described it as big. In John 14 Jesus said, “In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so I would have told you.”
-John describes the capitol city of heaven (aka “The New Jerusalem”) as big, brilliant and beautiful. According to Revelation 21:17 it is 1,400 miles long, high, wide and deep. If it landed on America it would extend from the Canadian border to the Mexican border and from Chicago to Salt Lake City. It would extend 1,300 miles into space.
-In heaven there are streets of gold (Revelation 21:21), walls of twelve precious stones (Revelation 21:19), gates made from giant pearls (Revelation 21:21) and a tree that bears twelve kinds of fruit (Revelation 22:2).
-There is no sickness, sadness, disease or death (Revelation 21:4).
-The Father dwells there in an unapproachable light (1 Timothy 6:16).
-Jesus is in the center of this city (Revelation 7:17), seated on a throne (Revelation 7:11-12) on what looks like a sea of glass (Revelation 4:6).
-Seraphim flutter around his throne singing “Holy, Holy, Holy” (Isaiah 6:3).
And on and on and on the descriptions go in Scripture. What is common to most of these descriptions is a glorious, heart-rending, mind-blowing description of Jesus being central. So, any book that comes out that doesn’t drive the same theme or has a different physical description of heaven I move to the fiction side of my library.
3. I use it as an opportunity to talk to people about Jesus.
There have been several times when I have heard somebody talking about “the amazing story in ‘Heaven is for Real.’” I didn’t challenge them theologically or tell them that it could be “a bunch of malarkey.”
No, I used this book and these types of books as conversation starters to whether or not they know for sure they are going to heaven. I’ve had great evangelistic experiences as a result.
These kinds of books, whether true or not, get read by the general public. And the general public needs Jesus.
Whether you choose to believe Burpo or Malarkey is up to you. But please measure their claims against Scripture first and then make your decision. But, in either case, use it as a conversation starter with those who don’t know Jesus.
Why? Because heaven is not a bunch of malarkey! It’s for REAL!
10 possible reasons you don’t share your faith (even though you know you should)
1. You don’t know, I mean really know, many non-Christians.
Possible Solutions: Get to know your neighbors/Take a co-worker out for lunch and ask questions and listen/Go to the same coffee shop consistently and get to know the baristas there…maybe even ask them how you may pray for them (that is bound to open up a spiritual conversation!)
2. You couldn’t explain the Gospel clearly if you tried.
Possible Solution: Take the Dare 2 Share GOSPEL acrostic and memorize it word for word. Then move from just quoting it to explaining it and from explaining it to being able to navigate a conversation about it.
3. You don’t really know how to bring it up.
Possible Solution: Learn how to Ask, Admire and Admit. Ask great questions (moving from everyday subjects to spiritual ones), Admire what you can about what they believe and then Admit the reason you’re a Christian is that you are so sinful that you needed Jesus to save you.
4. You have a bad stereotype of evangelism in your mind that you just can’t shake.
Possible Solution: Look to Jesus, not other messed up human beings, as your stereotype of evangelism. Read John 4 and discover how Jesus skillfully brought the Living Water to a spiritually thirsty Samaritan woman.
5. You’re afraid of dealing with possible objections.
Possible Solution: Here’s a hint. You don’t have to know all the answers to every question. You just need to know how to say, “That’s a great question. I have no idea what the answer is but let me search the Bible and let’s keep talking.”
6. You’ve don’t consistently pray for opportunities to engage in Gospel conversations.
Possible Solution: Pray consistently for opportunities to…you know.
7. You don’t think about hell much.
Possible Solution: Spend some time reading every passage in the New Testament that talks about hell. Passages like Luke 16:19-31, 2 Thessalonians 1:8,9 and Revelation 20:11-15 will break your heart for those who don’t know Jesus…and where they are headed if they don’t hear and believe the Gospel.
8. You think that it’s your pastor’s job.
Possible Solution: Read Ephesians 4:11-12 and realize that your pastor’s job is to equip you to do “works of service.” This includes evangelism. Your pastor is paid to get you to do the work.
9. You’ve never seen it effectively modeled.
Possible Solution: Find somebody in your church, small group or Sunday school class who effectively shares their faith and ask them to train you. Maybe even go out with them sharing the good news and watch how they engage others with the good news of Jesus.
10. You’ve forgotten the power of the Gospel.
Possible Solution: Write a letter to God, thanking him for sending his Son to die in your place for your sins. Describe to him your life before you met Jesus and how it has changed since you were transformed by his saving grace. Re-read this letter as needed.
Here are 10 possible reasons you may not be sharing your faith and potential solutions to help you break the silence cycle. While you’re at it you can download the Dare 2 Share app and learn how to share the good news in a simple and powerful way.
Hope this post helps you spread the love of Jesus!
5 Simple Ways to “Gospelize” your 2015
“I contend for this, that to gospelize a man is the greatest miracle in the world. All the other miracles are wrapped up in this one. To gospelize a man, or, in other words, to convert him, is a greater work than to open the eyes of the blind.” Charles Spurgeon
“Gospelize” is an old English word for “evangelize” (but just sounds way cooler!)
So how can you gospelize your 2015? Here are 5 quick ideas:
1. Pray for an opportunity everyday to share your faith! You’ll be shocked how many opportunities God brings your way!
2. Learn how to ask, admire and admit. Ask great questions (moving from everyday topics to spiritual ones), admire what you can about what they believe and admit the reason you’re a Christian is that you needed someone to rescue you spiritually.
3. Carry Gospel tracts with you or Life in 6 Words cards and use them when you leave a tip at a restaurant (and tip really big!) Here’s another blog I wrote called “10 tips on tipping if you’re a Christian.”
4. Ask the server at the restaurant you often go to or barista at the coffee shop you frequent how you can pray for them. You’ll be shocked how many gospel conversations naturally open up. I’ve had situations where complete strangers opened up and started telling me what they’re struggling with in their lives. At one nice restaurant where my wife and I were having our anniversery dinner two servers ended up telling us their life stories and we were able to fully share the good news. We ended up in a huddle in prayer right in the middle of the dining room. It was awkward and awesome!
5. Use the SALT videos to spark Gospel conversations. Post one of these short videos on your Facebook page and then navigate the conversation that hopefully ensues. Here’s a sample of one of these highly produced videos that “salt” gospel conversations:
Of course there are tons of ideas to choose from when it comes to sharing the good news in 2015. You could have a neighborhood spiritual discussion group, start a campus Bible study (that is focused on explaining the gospel), take a co-worker or classmate out for coffee (or waffles or whatever) and listen to their story then share your story so that ultimately you could explain Christ’s story! You could invite a friend to church or youth group and then go out afterward and talk about it. You could send someone a link to the Life in 6 Words, Something Amazing or Falling Plates video and ask them what they thought. You could go old school and write an actual letter that explains the good news message.
What are some of your ideas for Gospelizing your 2015?
5 quick things to consider before you make that year-end gift
I know. I know. It’s been a crazy year.
And you just looked down at your watch and realized “Holy Canoli! It’s December 31st and I still haven’t done my year end giving yet!”
Take a deep breath. It’s okay. There’s still time.
Here’s some things to consider before you make that last minute gift to those ministries that you care about:
1. Is the ministry aligned with the passion God has put in your heart?
I remember a potential donor who once nonchalantly handed me a $5,000 check while telling me he really didn’t care all that much about evangelism or teenagers. I gave it back to him and said, “Then keep your check.” What ensued was a very heated and very awkward conversation about giving with a generous spirit toward those ministries you are passionate about. Don’t give out of guilt or obligation but because God has given you a passion for the cause that the ministry is seeking to accomplish.
2. Is the ministry measuring activities or outcomes?
Mark Senter III once wrote that too many ministries measure what they are doing rather than what is actually getting done. I agree. I lead a ministry called Dare 2 Share and outcomes have been a huge topic of conversation and ministry reorientation over the last several years. It has changed the way we do and measure ministry. Make sure that whatever ministries you give toward are accomplishing their mission and measuring outcomes, not just activities.
3. Is the ministry making an exponential or incremental impact?
Two words I use a lot are “maximum impact.” At Dare 2 Share, we want to make the biggest bang with our donor’s bucks so that the gospel reaches the maximum number of teenagers possible. We are building in a way to grow in our scalability so that we can unleash technology, trainers and Gospel advancing youth groups across the nation to equip as many teenagers as possible to share the gospel with their peers.
Ask yourself if the ministries you are supporting can eventually scale in their impact? If they can’t I’m not saying don’t support them. But I am saying that you may want to re-consider where you give the lion’s share of your donation dollar. If you’re like me you want to make a maximum kingdom impact with the money God has entrusted you with.
4. Is the ministry trustworthy on an organizational and financial level?
My first act when I got installed as the President of Dare 2 Share was to join the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA.) Although there is a cost involved (annual fees and required annual audit) there’s a bigger cost NOT to be involved. ECFA membership allows us to make sure that we are effectively executing the latest and best practices on an accounting and organizational level. It also becomes a sort of a Good Housekeeping Stamp of Approval for donors as they consider where they want to invest their finances.
5. Have you prayed through it?
Don’t just knee jerk a last minute gift. Think through it, pray through it and then do it! God promises us wisdom when we ask for in faith according to James 1:5,6, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.” So ask God for wisdom, claim it in faith and then go for it!
I hope these five quick tips on year-end giving have been helpful to you. Just remember your check needs to be postmarked by December 31st for it to be considered giving in 2014. On many charity websites you can give via credit card right up to 11:59pm (but that may be cutting it close!)
By the way, if you’re passionate about seeing the Gospel transform the next generation then you may want to consider a gift to Dare 2 Share. Click here to make a year-end gift. Click here to see our annual report.
Here’s a video that tells our story…it’s worth the watch:
Happy New Year!
Hey, how are you. Sorry I’ve not written earlier. You know how things get, especially around the holidays.
Take a deep breath and don’t be nervous. This letter is not to confront you but to help you understand one of your newer target audiences…evangelical Christians.
I am a theologically conservative Christ follower who actually enjoys going to see movies. From the time I was in middle school I remember watching great films and being moved by the messages of many of them. The first time I saw a movie in a movie theater by myself was when I was 12 years old. It was the original Rocky. This movie was about more than just boxing. It was a powerful love story. It was about overcoming insurmountable odds. Tears were rolling along with the credits as I sat in that dark theater. I was so inspired I ran and shadow boxed all the way home with the Rocky theme music still blaring in my head.
Yes, I was (and continue to be) a dork. But a good movie is a good movie. Some of them make you cry. Some make you laugh. Some make you shadow box down the street like an idiot.
Sure for every great movie there are a hundred not-so-great ones. But I’ve learned the art of dicifering beforehand through spot-on critics and trusted friends so that I don’t waste my time or money on mediocre or raunchy films.
Thank you for the good and sometimes great movies you have made over the years.
So when you started making movies that focused on appealing to faith-based audiences I was super excited. And you started with a bang. The Passion of the Christ was a bloody masterpiece. Sure, it made audiences cringe with it’s grotesquely high level of violence, but it also made us think about all that Jesus went through to pay the price for our sins and offer humanity hope. And the resurrection scene was the best ending (beginning?) ever!
We loved it! The box office numbers proved it.
Thus began an ever-increasing focus on reaching believers with movies that they will, not only attend, but bring their friends and family to see as well.
The secret was out. Christians enjoyed movies and will spend big money on tickets, popcorn and soda pop if the movies are wholesome and well made.
Thus began the movie faith train…Chronicles of Narnia (Yeah!)…Soul Surfer (Yeah!)…Left Behind (Oops!)
Sure you fumbled a few times. But that happens. You were trying and we, as Christians, appreciated that. Sony, for all it’s current problems, even has a faith division of movies now, Affirm films.
Yes, we know that you are in the movie/money making business. So, in light of some of the box office stumbles you’ve made recently (Noah and Exodus: Gods and Kings) I thought I’d pass on a little advice from a Christian who appreciates good film making and who is excited about the prospect of epic Biblical stories being turned into epic blockbuster movies. So, for what it’s worth, here’s my two cents (or maybe I should charge you $14.50 like you charged me for the last 3D movie I watched.)
1. Stick with the script.
If you’re going to appeal to a Christian audience, especially an evangelical Christian audience, then you have to do a better job at sticking with the major points of the script, God’s script.
And before you defend yourself with needing to create tension to make the movie more impacting, let me assure you that you can do that without changing the big points of the Big Book. Rock monsters who know how to build boats were not needed in the Noah movie. Whoever told you that may have thought that Christians like rock monsters because of one particular episode of VeggieTales.
They were wrong.
And don’t even get me going on the Exodus movie. Actually I shared my thoughts on a blog not too long ago. The movie was a total let down to me and many of the Christians I watched it with. But I really wanted it to be good, even great. The previews were promising but the movie missed the mark.
Evangelical Christians and secular critics finally agreed on something (although probably for different reasons)…The Exodus movie fell flat.
Before I go on any further I want you to know that I understand that you have every right to make whatever kinds of movies you like. And be assured that preachers like me will continue to refer to many of them in our sermons, books and blogs. The Apostle Paul indirectly started this unlikely habit for preachers when he quoted a pagan poet to a group of Athenians in Acts 17:16-33. That particular poet had not adjusted his poem for a Christian audience but Paul quoted him anyway.
In the same way I, and many of my fellow communicators of God’s Word, will continue to “quote the pagan poet.” Why? Because people relate to movies and preachers relate God’s truth to people. Sometimes referring to a movie or showing a short clip of a movie to a church congregation can make the point way better than the preacher can.
But for us to show clips from Biblical epics it would be helpful if the movie was, well, Biblical. If you really want to appeal to a Christian audience with Bible-based movies then make sure the major points of the Bible story are kept in tact and honored.
2. Dive deeper into the side stories and relationships.
We Christians understand that you’re making a movie and that characters need to be developed and relationships explored. We know you need some creative license to make a two hour movie that is compelling. And, in some instances, you’ve done just that. For instance, the sibling rivalry that developed between Moses and the future Pharaoh at the beginning of the Exodus movie was promising. Did it actually happen in the Bible? No! The text indicates that Egypt had all but forgotten about Moses when he ventured back to have a showdown with Pharaoh (Exodus 4:19.) But most Christian audiences will give you a knowing wink when you color outside the lines a bit with backstories that are compelling. We understand that you’re making a movie and a movie needs character development. But when you start unleashing rock monsters that’s when we tend to check out.
3. Work with faith leaders from start to finish.
One of the things that Mel Gibson did well in developing and distributing The Passion of the Christ was working with faith leaders from square one. I’ll never forget being brought out to the Icon Productions studios to see an early release of the movie. We met Mr. Gibson and it was obvious he had a deep passion for the project. He and his team had done the groundwork of consulting and conspiring with faith leaders to make sure this movie was as impacting and far reaching as possible. We paid him back by helping to catapult this movie to the highest-grossing faith based film of all time even though it was rated R (gasp!)
You see Hollywood, we Christians love a good movie and we will bring all of our friends, family, neighbors and churches to a great one. Heck, sometimes we’ll even rent out entire theaters if the movie is strong enough. You stumbled out of the gates with two epic Biblical stories (Noah and Exodus) that could have been epic movies as well. But, please don’t give up, there are plenty more Bible stories to go.
Just think of the potential of movies about the book of Acts, the story of David vs. Goliath, Esther, Abraham and Sarah and so many more!
My hope and prayer is that you do these stories justice by making great movies of them. Their plots have stood the test of time for thousands of years. Their story lines are strong and compelling. They just need directors and studios who get them and get us. They don’t even need to believe the stories themselves. But they do need to believe that we believe them (because we do) and then make them with that in mind.
If you do this we will help you break even more box office records. We will fill up church vans and flock to the theaters. If you don’t that’s fine. We’ll just eat our popcorn at home and watch it when it comes out on Redbox.
(Christian, preacher, movie watcher, shadow boxer)
10 reasons I thought the Exodus movie was lame
My wife and I just got back from our Dare 2 Share staff party. We all met at a restaurant for food and fellowship then drove over to a movie theater to watch the much anticipated Exodus movie.
While the staff party was fun, the movie itself was pretty lame. Here’s 10 reasons why I thought this movie was so bad:
1. It depicted God as an angry 5th grade-ish looking boy who kept appearing throughout the movie to awkwardly confront Moses.
2. It used a classic liberal interpretation of the book of Exodus by depicting the miracles as a series of natural phenomenons that just all happened to unfold back to back to set up the exodus of the Israelites.
3. Moses used a sword instead of a staff, depicting a Moses who delivered the Jews more through his own strength rather than the power of God.
4. The previews made the movie look like it aligned with the Biblical account. It wasn’t even close. I felt duped.
5. You couldn’t quite tell if God was real or Moses had been just hit in the head by a rock (which he had been in the movie) and imagined it all.
6. The parting of the Red Sea was the result of a meteor hitting the ocean, or something like that.
7. The people of Israel walked across the Red Sea in mud and water that at times was almost chest high.
8. In some ways Pharaoh was the most sympathetic character in the movie.
9. Believe it or not the ten plagues were kicked off by an army of angry alligators.
10. The plot of the actual story in the Bible is way more compelling than this convoluted, confused mess of a movie.
Save yourself the hassle, read the book of Exodus and go rent The Prince of Egypt. But, if you’re determined to watch Exodus: Gods and Kings, wait for it to come out on Red Box. It doesn’t deserve more than a buck fifty.
A fun (and kind of gross) video that has nothing to do with disciple multiplication (but kind of does)
I stumbled on this little video on YouTube while looking for “serious” videos about what it means to make and multiply disciples. Although it technically has nothing to do with the gospel (it’s about how bacteria multiplies in our bodies) it has implications on what contagious evangelism can look like in a teenager’s life, an “Outbreak” if you will.
So without further qualifications, here ya go…
The Power of Collaborating together for the Gospel
As I type these words I’m at a mountain retreat with 10 other youth ministry leaders from around the nation. We are collaborating around a vision that we pray will result in every teenager in America engaged in a Gospel conversation with a Christian peer. To accomplish this we need to inspire, equip and deploy at least 30,000 churches/youth ministries to join us in this quest.
That’s right 30,000!
Humanly speaking this big vision seems well beyond our capacity to achieve. But we are convinced that, through God’s strength and the power of collaboration, it can be done.
As we brainstorm and work together to synergize our efforts toward this exciting vision there are certain realities I’m discovering anew about the power of collaborating for the Gospel.
So, whether you’re on a church staff that is collaborating to reach your community for Christ or a youth ministry network that is brainstorming how to reach the teens of your city for Jesus here are four principles of Gospel advancing collaboration that may help:
1. It is best when bold.
Bold vision fosters strong collaboration. As a matter of fact the bigger and bolder the vision the more it necessitates working together for your common and audacious cause.
And I submit that there is no cause bigger or bolder than the spread of the gospel in a community or on a campus. The gospel transforms people from the inside out (Romans 1:16) and the results can change everything.
The power of Jesus’ bold vision is still being felt today. He told his disciples in Matthew 28:19-20, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
As a result of the bold vision of Jesus entire societies have been transformed. The poor have been fed. The broken have been healed. The hopeless have been given hope. Nothing else changes everything else like the gospel.
So get a bold vision from God that centers around the advancement of this powerful message. Which leads us to our second point…
2. It is birthed out of prayer.
The ultimate collaboration is birthed out of prayer together as brothers and sisters in Christ. Prayer is the ultimate team building exercise. It opens up vertical channels of divine wisdom so that the horizontal interchange of ideas and strategies are full of impact and effectiveness.
As we have been brainstorming for the last three days we have salted our times together with extended times of prayer. Why? Because the vision is so bold and so big that we need God to give us the ideas to make it happen! Without his wisdom surging through our hearts, souls and minds there is no way it can be done. With it there’s no way it can’t be done!
That’s why I love James 1:5,6. He promises to give us the wisdom we need if we ask him in faith, “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.”
We must collaborate with God before we collaborate with each other if that collaboration is going to stick.
3. It is built on the God’s Word.
Every morning we have started with a devotional time where a principle of God’s Word was unpacked that was relevant to our subject that day. These principles have created the trajectory of our time together and helped us to make sure we are seeking to accomplish God’s will in God’s way.
One morning Doug Holliday talked about “The Jethro Principle” in Exodus 18. Yesterday Zane Black talked about the power of Christ to accomplish this bold vision in https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Colossians+1%3A28-29&version=NIV.
Every morning as we’ve unpacked God’s Word together the principles we have talked about have shown themselves to be crucial in our collaboration. They have formed the foundation of our plans on solid rock, not sinking sand.
4. It is bolstered by strong relationships.
Between playing broom hockey, eating meals together, hanging out in the hot tub and chatting it up around the pool table a band of brotherhood has been formed and forged. God made us social creatures and when we spend enough time getting to know each other then we can be more vulnerable, share more ideas, deal with necessary conflict and get more done.
I have found that when a group of people know, love and like each other then mountains become molehills. And when they don’t molehills can become mountains.
This whole experience has been a great privilege for me. As we wrap up our time together today we are literally coming down from the mountains with a clear vision and some practical plans to accomplish it for the glory of God.
I challenge you to unleash the power of collaboration for the cause of Christ with your team. As you dream, pray and play together God will clarify your vision and give you the wisdom to accomplish it for his glory!
7 reasons your teenagers aren’t sharing their faith more often
1. Because you’re doing it for them.
Think “outreach” in youth ministry and we automatically think “event.” The words go together like “dodge” and “ball“. The challenge is that our teenagers themselves are our biggest outreach “event“. Because the average teenager has around 400 online and face-to-face friends they must be inspired, equipped and unleashed to engage them in Gospel conversations.
Think about that for a moment, the average teenager has more friends than the average youth room can hold! But we have an almost irrepressible appetite for doing outreach events instead of mobilizing our teenagers to be the outreach event.
To make the switch we must turn from quarterbacks to coaches. Instead of just “Hey kids bring your friends out and watch me throw the touchdown throw of salvation in their lives” we must equip them to bring the “J” word up with their own peers. Of course, outreach events are fine and good and needed from time to time. But if they are replacing, rather than enhancing, our teenagers’ personal evangelism efforts then they are limiting our true outreach effectiveness.
2. They don’t understand the urgency.
When’s the last time you talked about the reality of hell with your teenagers? Yes, that’s right, hell. Of the 12 times the word “hell” is mentioned in the New Testament 11 are mentioned by Jesus himself. Perhaps the scariest story in all of the Bible is the story of the rich man and Lazarus. In Luke 16:19-31 Jesus paints a picture of eternity in hell in terrifying colors.
Was he using scare tactics? Of course he was! In the same way a dad uses scare tactics on their four year old child who is chasing a ball toward a busy street at rush hour. It’s out of love that Jesus “scares” us with what is at stake for those who are lost.
And, of course, we want to motivate teenagers to share the good news of Jesus to their lost friends, not just because of the hell they are headed to but because of the “hell” they are going through apart from Jesus Christ. Jesus himself was clearly motivated by this himself in Matthew 9:36, “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”
3. It’s not a true priority in your youth ministry.
I’ll never forget getting a personal tour of a multi-million dollar non-profit Christian ministry and asking the tour guide an awkward question. On a plaque this ministry had listed their values and priorities for all who entered their building to see. The first one was evangelism. I simply asked the tour guide which of their many divisions were focused on evangelism and how it was being fleshed out on a grass-roots level. She looked at me dumbfounded (as the other ministry leaders who were with me cringed.) Evangelism was a plaque priority but not a real priority in this ministry.
The same is true in many churches and youth ministries. D.L. Moody used to say that he could tell more about a man’s priorities by his checkbook than his prayerbook. Why? Because we put our money where our heart is! I say that I can tell more about a youth ministry’s priorities when it comes to evangelism by it’s Wednesday night program rundown than any clever missional slogan (“to know him and make him known”, etc) on their ministry flyer or website page.
If evangelism is truly a priority then are youth leaders will be scheduling time for evangelism training on their calendars and in their weekly meetings? Are you carving out time to have teenagers share stories (good, bad and ugly) about gospel conversations they are currently engaged in? Are you taking the time to give the gospel just in case any unreached teens showed up that week?
Youth leaders schedule time for games, announcements, teaching, worship and even snacks on a weekly basis. Are you also scheduling time for the advancement of the most important message on the planet (aka “the Gospel“)?
4. They don’t know how to bring it up.
If teenagers don’t know how to bring up the gospel to their friends they probably won’t. If their friend says, “It’s hot in here” and they respond “It’s hot in hell too” that’s probably not the best strategy. Teenagers must be equipped to naturally engage their friends by asking questions and listening. The free Dare 2 Share app has a simple strategy we use called “Ask, Admire, Admit” on the “How 2 Share” segment than can be very effective in equipping teenagers to bring the good news up with their peers.
We also have developed high-quality, beautifully illustrated outreach books that youth leaders can receive free of charge on Share6campaign.com. Over 260,000 of these books are being used across the nation to help teenagers engage in Gospel conversations. Teenagers simply write a note in the front of the book, hand it to their friend, ask them to read it and then to talk with them about it afterward. A brilliant and simple plan for teenagers to bring the gospel up with their friends.
5. It’s not being modeled by your leaders (and, yes, that includes you)
Share the Gospel. Have your leaders do the same. Set the pace as leaders. Enough said.
6. They suffer from a lack of Gospel fluency.
Could your teenagers pass the microphone test? If I put a microphone up to their face as they were leaving youth group and said, “You have two minutes to explain the gospel message to me” could they do it in a clear and comprehensive enough way for a lost person to understand the good news? If not then your teenagers are not fluent enough in the gospel message.
A few years back Propaganda (Jason Petty) and yours truly did a youth group curriculum video series called Life in 6 Words: The Gospel Explored that is designed to build your teenagers’ gospel fluency. Get it and use it. When you’re finished your teenagers should be able to pass the microphone test.
7. Not enough intercessory prayer.
“I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth” 1 Timothy 2:1-4.
Is intercessory prayer for the lost a “first of all” level priority in your youth ministry? As someone once said “We must learn to talk to God about men before we talk to men about God.”
If every week in youth group you set aside some time for intercessory prayer for the salvation of the unreached teenagers in your community, God’s unquenchable love for the lost will begin to marinate into the souls of your teenagers. As they yield to the person of the Spirit in prayer they will also yield to the passion of the Spirit in evangelism.
These seven obstacles to your teenagers sharing their faith can be removed if you are willing to prayerfully and persistently make evangelism a youth-group wide priority as well as one in your own life.
So let’s get cracking!
Announcing a new strategic training partnership between Dare 2 Share and Sonlife!
We are pumped for this partnership but you and your teenagers will be the biggest beneficiaries! For more information on how to be a part of Lead THE Cause go here.