Good News Sharers: Giving Students a Language for Evangelism and Disciple-Making
By Joel Mayward
While walking through Balboa Park in San Diego on a recent vacation, my wife and I saw a booth set up next to a long avenue filled with park visitors. The booth had a clump of people standing next to a speaker playing loud music to draw attention. They were wearing t-shirts bearing religious slogans, standing next to vibrant promotional posters, and handing out pamphlets about their beliefs. Two nearby people were in a heated discussion—a passerby had clearly been offended by the tactics of this religious group.
No, these weren’t Christians sharing their faith. This was an atheist evangelism booth.
Walking a bit farther, we found a similar booth for Buddhism, another for a New-Age nature-based belief system, a group of people promoting gay marriage, and a booth for animal rights and environmental concerns. Finally, we turned a corner and noticed a lone man holding a Bible, screaming random passages of Scripture at people who walked by.
Lacking the Language
We are wired to share our faith. Even atheists are embracing evangelism, using similar methods as Christians, Buddhists, and Mormons. The tracts, the bullhorns, the arguments, the awkwardness—these tactics may not be particular effective, but they’re what most people associate with the word evangelism.
But what does evangelism really mean? Sharing the gospel, right? During a training session for a mission trip with high school students, I asked what I thought was a simple question: “What is the gospel?” They gave all sorts of answers—the Bible, a certain book of the Bible, a genre of music, a Christian belief, Jesus. These weren’t brand new Christians; these were students who had grown up in church and who had enough enthusiasm to sign up for a mission trip. Yet we had failed to equip them with the tools to understand and articulate the gospel message.
Many students simply don’t have the language to share their faith. Words like gospel and evangelism go right over their heads. We need to equip students with an everyday language of faith, translating the truths of Christ’s good news into a dialect students will use naturally and confidently.
I’ve often grown frustrated with students who avoid sharing their faith in Jesus. Yet perhaps their struggle is not with a desire to share; maybe they simply don’t know how to talk about Jesus in an effective and consistent way. When we’re unsure of how to do something, fear and anxiety are sure to follow. Students may want to share about Jesus, but they also don’t want to offend or appear stupid. Equipping students with the proper tools can go a long way to help them become confident about sharing their faith and seeing themselves as disciple-makers.
Who Are the Disciple-makers?
In a recent small group discussion, I asked some high school guys what prevents them from sharing their faith. Many could identify the obstacles—feeling awkward, not wanting to offend, unsure of what to say, never finding the right time. But few could tell me what they’ve seen actually work with their friends. When we started to dig behind the lack of effective evangelism moments, I realized, These guys have never actually shared their faith beyond telling someone they were a Christian. Some had invited friends to youth group events. But they didn’t see themselves as the ones who needed to share the message of Jesus. In their view, that was my role as the youth pastor. When it came to evangelism and discipleship, our definitions were radically different.
Training students to view themselves as disciple-makers and bearers of the good news of Jesus is essential before they can grow as confident gospel-sharers. Sharing the gospel is more than just one of many tasks for Christians; it’s an identity we embrace. When evangelism is isolated as just another religious obligation, or something only specially gifted uber-Christians can do—e.g., evangelists or pastors—students’ desire to share their faith may become stunted or questioned.
As youth workers, we can help students begin to see themselves as “sent ones” (John 20:21), people on a mission with Jesus to share the good news of his kingdom with the world. It’s one thing to see yourself as part of a Christian club that meets once a week in a church building. It’s something else entirely to embrace your identity as a person on a quest with Jesus and his followers to save the world. When young people embrace their identity as sent ones and good-news-sharers, when they have the language needed to go and make disciples, they’ll not only want to share their faith, they’ll know how to do it.
What does that language look like? What tools best help students share their faith? I’ll address these issues in Part 2 of this post.
About the Author
The LeaderTreks Blog is proud to share the hard-earned wisdom of student ministry leaders from many different backgrounds and professions. From time to time, we will feature guest blog posts from writers other than our regular contributors. We include these posts to provide additional perspectives and insight that we’re sure will help develop you and your ministry… Read More