Teachings That Make Your Youth Evangelizers

Originally published September 2003.

Barna Research Group just released a new report about evangelizers (“49 Million Born Again Adults Shared Their Faith in Jesus in the Past Year,” July 28, 2003). This is the first survey of this type I can remember from them. It comes just in time for the back-to-school “win your campus for Christ” rallies and “campus missionaries” commissioning services. In a nutshell, Barna found out that if you want a church of evangelizers, teach them the Christian foundations.

“A veritable army of Christians is still active in spreading the good news about what Jesus Christ has done for all people. Believers use a range of approaches to share the message of Christ’s love and forgiveness with people regardless of the social restrictions and legal barriers to making Jesus known.

 

“The research also suggests that churches hoping to increase their evangelistic presence might be better served by affecting people’s spiritual beliefs than by offering evangelism training programs and motivational events. We know that people’s behavior is driven by their beliefs, and the research showed that the most significant distinction between those who share Christ with the culture and those who don’t relates to their religious beliefs. Providing motivation and behavioral training are helpful, but the factor that seems most likely to stimulate Christians to bring the truths and love of Jesus into the marketplace are what they believe about sin, surrender and salvation.” –George Barna

The research also includes the normal findings that too many people believe that the Bible is not totally accurate, that the Bible is not true and cannot be trusted, that Satan is just a symbol of evil, that a person can earn a place in heaven through good behavior, and that Jesus did sin while He was here on earth. Those who were named “evangelizers” (Defined as born again adults who share their faith. Born-again for Barna Research Group means people who said they have made a personal commitment to Jesus Christ that is still important in their life today and who also indicated they believe that when they die they will go to Heaven because they had confessed their sins and had ac cepted Jesus Christ as their savior. Respondents were not asked to describe themselves as “born again”) were not 100 percent on these foundational beliefs but had better numbers than the non-evangelizers.

I read these findings the day before I met with one of “my girls” from God’s Family at her college apartment. She went on and on about her frustration of the main campus Bible study group that sometimes rides her for not attending. She doesn’t attend because they teach that you need good works to get to heaven and she has tried and tried and tried to tell them that this is not true. Yikes! This active college group is teaching and sharing heresy. How did these young adults grow up and miss the foundational teaching of it is by grace that you are saved? There are too many possibilities to answer that question.

But you can answer that question for the youth in your group. You can give clear and concise teachings on these foundational points. As George Barna said, sin, surrender and salvation. You do represent the church and this is why they are scheduling in youth group in an already over-scheduled life. This is what you offer. The side benefit for you is that they will become better evangelizers.

Planning evangelism teachings and/or training or giving a back-to-school “win your campus for Christ” emphases should be done. We should desire that our youth do reach out to others. The Great Commission is a part of the foundations of our faith. However, I know youth pastors whose entire youth ministry makeup is based around evangelism and teaching their youth groups how to be evangelistic. But in light of George Barna’s summarizing statement, we should re-think some of these things. Those who know their faith better become better evangelizers. We assume that our youth do not share their faith because of lack of knowledge. Which is true but it is not the lack of knowledge we think. It is in the lack of knowledge of what they believe in.

This makes sense. If you know a lot about football, you talk a lot about football. If you know a lot about computer networking, you talk a lot about computer networking. If you know a lot about what your faith is, you will naturally talk about it.

What does postmodern youth ministry look like? That is the million dollar question. Lots of money has been made by experts who think they know. They are the ones getting the millions (okay, more like thousands) of dollars. How about this simple answer for free with research to back it up. Postmodern youth ministry is one that teaches absolute truth to those with relativistic truth. We have the absolute truth as our foundation. Teach it with with candles, incense, human videos or whatever. But offer the foundation for which postmodern youth don’t have. Even church-grown youth–Barna Research Group has other studies to back that claim up. With so many not knowing that Jesus did not sin while He was here on earth or that Satan is not just a symbol of evil, there is a gaping hole here to fill. It seems clear that the church should. That you should Again, the benefit–more evangelizers.

Another benefit that Barna Research Group found out–evangelizers give 70 percent more in tithes and offerings. Not that we are about money but it is interesting how it all works together.

On a closing note, I would like to give you George Barna’s summary statement from the research “Teens Evaluate the Church-Based Ministry They Received As Children” (July 8, 2003). (To read both of these complete reports, go to www.barna.org.) “We discovered fairly strong correlations between understanding how to use the Bible for life decision-making with becoming a born again Christian during the younger years, having an active spiritual life as characterized by consistent prayer, Bible reading and church attendance, and possessing a biblical worldview. Unfortunately, less than one out of every ten churched teenagers has a biblical worldview. In other words, the result of their involvement at a church is that they can recite some religious facts, they made some friends, and they had fun. That’s wonderful, but we also find that most of them have neither accepted Christ as their savior nor altered the basis on which they make their moral and ethical decisions in life. For most teenagers who have spent years attending church activities their faith is not integrated into who they are and how they live. Most of the young people who claim they developed an understanding of the Bible that enables them to make decisions based on biblical principles show no evidence of using that understanding in relation to the core beliefs and lifestyle choices that we studied.” –George Barna

This is our responsibility. This is why they are coming to a church youth group.