If youth ministry is going to accomplish a worthwhile purpose it must accept and pursue the purposes of God. That’s easy to establish in theory but difficult to carry out in practice. A youth ministry that says it exists for the purposes of God is quite different than one that accomplishes the purposes of God. The difference between the two is often defined by whether or not leaders and students will do the hard things God has called us to.
Enter…Evangelism—“The active calling of people to respond to the message of grace and commit oneself to God in Jesus Christ.” (Holman Bible Dictionary) Undoubtedly, evangelism is one of the hard purposes God calls churches, Christians, and youth ministries to live out. There are three main ingredients in the above definition of evangelism:
1. “The active calling of people…” This requires that Christians, individually and corporately, pursue people far and wide, through in-depth relationships AND brief encounters, with the purpose of calling (urging) them toward the God of the universe.
2. “…to respond to the message of grace…” The gospel message of salvation is not one that a person can remain indifferent towards. A person will either fully and freely accept God’s offer of salvation available through Jesus Christ His Son, OR fully reject this offer through blatant denial of truth or an attitude of indifference.
3. “…and commit oneself to God in Jesus Christ.” Evangelism has fallen short if it only calls people to respond to the message of grace. This happens all to often when well-meaning Christians present the ABC’s of becoming a Christian or the Roman Road and believe that the task of evangelism has been completed once a person agrees to receive the gift of salvation. Salvation includes accepting the gift, but it also requires making a commitment—to place God in Jesus Christ at the center of one’s life. This commitment in salvation will later be proven by living as a disciple of Christ.
Why is evangelism hard? Because it requires loving people unconditionally, intentionality and planning, personal maturation regarding Biblical truths and answers, time and hard work, and perseverance. Leaders must be evangelizing students; students must then be evangelizing other students…and on and on for the spread of the gospel.
Call it evangelism, missions, living missionally, being “on mission”…or any other tagline, this purpose of God is fulfilled when, and only when, Christians actively call others to respond to the message of grace and commit oneself to God in Jesus Christ. This requires actions AND words. It requires boldness and courage. It can be a program, event, or activity; but it doesn’t have to be. Regardless, youth pastors must prepare themselves, engage themselves, prepare students, and commission students…to GO. Leave the results up to God, but GO…in grace…with a heart for people…for the benefit of the Kingdom. This is the purpose of evangelism.