As our students learn about how to boldly and relevantly take the gospel into the ordinary places of life they walk the line between making the gospel as attractive as possible and Jesus’ call to discipleship. Third year student, Lucy Butler shares her passion to call young people to respond to the gospel. Lucy regularly combines creativity with the concepts in The Stir Pack to help young people experience God for the first time
“I expect that no one wants to be a sales person for Jesus. It just doesn’t sound appealing. In fact, to me it sounds manipulative and it seems to make God seem small and incapable of being that good if we are having to persuade people into following him. I wonder, if at some point in your ministry you have had a time or a one off where you found yourself acting like you were selling God? Has there been a moment where you felt under pressure to make the gospel look as attractive as possible so that a young person didn’t say no?
I actually like selling things but I really hate selling God. I don’t see Jesus presenting the gospel that way. Through the gospels he is able to let people walk away from him if they choose to. He is also really clear that he is hard to follow and that it will demand a cost of commitment from the start, which will only increase throughout a lifetime with him.
But us youth worker types are dreamers. We have big ideas for our ministries and big hopes for our young people. I wonder, how many of us have considered how we currently present Jesus to our young people? Have we already practiced what we say about how wonderful life is with God? Do we feel apologetic when we share about how hard it is to follow Jesus? I have felt apprehensive about having that conversation because it is hard to tell someone with a fledgling faith that God will get you into trouble and will really mess up your own plans, mostly because that can cause people to say no to God.
A heart of discipleship is key to a young person’s understanding of God. They need to know their identity as a disciple and their personal responsibility to disciple others throughout the rest of their life. This is the challenge that Jesus came to call people to, so why do we leave it out? An empty invite isn’t exciting and that’s probably why a lot of Christian youth are bored and confused about when the abundant life they were promised actually begins. I wonder if young people who know that they are disciples from the very beginning of their faith journey, find it easier to embrace that call to follow Jesus and disciple others.
At Reign conference, we looked at different frameworks for challenging young people with the gospel. I felt prompted to make sure that the challenge is present very early on in my discipling relationships with young people. For example, young people who come along to a Stir group, haven’t signed up to hear about Jesus but they have shown an interest in being part of the group.
Because of that, I think it’s very important that Jesus is talked about early on in the group and we communicate well about who Jesus is and what following him. We should be clear and open about our passion for disciples to be made but we need to recognise what the group currently is about and where young people are at. In time we can create decision points where young people have the choice to hear more about Jesus and to decide to practice this way of living. It’s all about timing and listening to the present reality whilst still dreaming about the end goal of the group. The challenge needs to be obvious in any place where the gospel is being talked about.
Speaking from my own experience of coming to faith, just before I turned 18, I was actually completely inspired by the realisation that I was a disciple and that I had a call to go and disciple others. I remember sitting at a youth evening and physically feeling adrenaline at the thought of that responsibility. It set my faith into motion and made it exciting. I don’t want young people to miss out on that. I want discipleship to inspire people to grow in their faith and be a catalyst for movement to take place. We need to put challenge alongside our invitation.”
We are all learners when it comes to sharing the gospel. Do you resonate with Lucy’s struggle? How do you balance the invitation to the gospel with the challenge of discipleship? Let us know how you’ve wrestled through this in your own mission or youth group.
Categories: Youth Ministry Resources
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