Thought Factory Podcast #309 || Is Jesus Too PC for Gen Z?

Do students find it offensive to talk about Jesus?  Is evangelism dead?  Is this generation of students too afraid to share their faith with others?  Do they even care?  It appears we are in the middle of a pendulum swing between two extremes.  The tactics used in the past may have been birthed out of fear, causing people to simply be saved from Hell, but not for the life God grants us.  It was based on a confrontational approach using words only.  Has the pendulum swung so far to the other extreme that we now remove the words, essentially the good news, completely from our approach?  In this episode, we explore students’ thoughts on sharing their faith and where we are going in regards to the state of evangelism in youth ministry.

Segment 1
“For me, growing up in the past, evangelism was a very confrontational thing.  If you were going to share your faith, you needed to have a conversation that was very to the point, it was very direct.  A lot of times there wasn’t a lot of small talk involved in those, especially when it came to training and learning different methods to share your faith.”

“This approach that came from a perspective that said, ‘you know you need to make this decision right now because you could die in five seconds.  Where would you spend eternity?’  We’re not saying those things are wrong but we’re just saying from where we’ve been in the past that seems to be more of that approach.  I know so many of my friends have said, and I came to Christ not really out of a love for God but more of a fear of Hell and that seems to characterize the past – this guilt-driven, confrontational approach.”

It was more of a saved from perspective than it is a saved for perspective.  Meaning, become a Christian and get saved because it’ll save you from going to hell rather than this is what your life is being changed for.

Now it appears that the swing is going in the opposite direction.  More relational, but void of words from our actions.

In the book, “Destined for the Throne” by Paul Billheimer, the author talks about the link between salvation and intercession – intercession meaning prayer.  It says, “if Wesley is correct (meaning John Wesley) in saying God does nothing but in answer to prayer then this must include the salvation of souls.  This then means that no soul is saved apart from intercession and that every soul who is saved is saved because someone who would not give him up to Satan prayed.”

The idea is to see people come to know God, know Jesus, and be saved, it all starts from somebody praying for the lost.  The key thing in that quote is that every single person that comes to Christ in faith does so because someone was praying for them, someone was interceding, in other words, praying on their behalf.

A question we wrestled with is, is salvation ALWAYS linked with intercession?

In looking at the past, as the pendulum has swung more from this confrontational approach to what we would call a more relational approach, it seems like we’ve been taken off the hook as Christians.  As if it doesn’t really matter if we share our faith because someone will or God has ordained it from the beginning and it doesn’t matter.

The idea here is how responsible are we as believers when it comes to our role that we play when it comes to other people coming to faith in Christ?

A champion of prayer and faith in students, Chuck Klein said this, “I think for some time communicating the gospel one-on-one and inviting people to trust in Christ has been devalued in the body of Christ, it seems in America in particular.  What is alarming is that we now have a generation in large part that has not had evangelism modeled by its leaders and so we are in danger of losing it altogether.  Unless there is a reformation of some type, certainly the Holy Spirit can bring about this type of Reformation, and I pray that it will happen while we are still on watch as leaders.  I think we have the opportunity to champion evangelism as a core value of youth ministry and discipleship.  We can argue that discipleship is not true discipleship unless it includes the balance of equipping young disciples to invite others to put their faith in Christ.”

We have swung so far in removing the words from our evangelistic approach that we take ourselves off the hook.  It appears we now say deeds matter more than what we say and so we don’t really need to say anything about our faith.  We just have to live out our faith.  We want people to see our actions and strategically don’t say anything.

Is this where we’re going next?

Segment 2
Now we want to take you inside the minds of students because they’re gonna tell us what they think about evangelism.

How often have you initiated a conversation about God with a non-Christian in the last year? (First number is the students’ response, the second number is what the adults thought how students would respond)

A. Once or twice // 53% // 77%
B 3-5 times // 27% // 19%
C. 6-10 times // 11% // 3%
D. More than 10 times // 9% // 1%

Again, as we’ve seen in all of our research, adults are underestimating students.

Why don’t we share the gospel?

  • Fear of rejection and risking the relationship.
  • We don’t know what to say or do.
  • Self-fulfilling prophecy – we think people aren’t interested, they aren’t interested because of the way we approach evangelism is not interesting.
  • Thinking deeds are a better sign of love than words.

Doing good deeds should be normal no what for a Christian.  But words should be present when sharing the gospel.  Something that we have concluded is that when we’re sharing the gospel, words need to be present.

I show God’s love more through:
(First number is the students’ response, the second number is what the adults thought how students would respond)

A. My words // 21% // 10%
B. My actions // 35% // 42%
C. My life as a whole // 19% // 13%
D. I don’t do a good job telling others about God’s love // 25% // 35%

Fifty-four percent of students show God’s love through actions and how they live.  Only 21% show God’s love through words.  We’re seeing it be more of an action and a life-based response when it comes to how students share the faith.

When I hear the phrase “share your faith” I feel:
(First number is the students’ response, the second number is what the adults thought how students would respond)

A. Interested  // 41% // 8%
B. Instantly guilty // 13% // 18%
C. Excited to learn more // 23% // 5%
D. Unsure of what it means // 12% // 30%
E. That it could be offensive  // 11% // 38%

The fear of being offensive is the lowest response from students at 11%, yet it is the highest response from the adults at 38%.  Based on the results from adults, you would think that students thought sharing their faith was offensive.  We see the opposite.  They are interested (41%) and excited to learn more (23%) when it comes to this topic.

Again, adults have the opposite view and underestimate the students.  They believe only 8% of students are interested and only 5% think students are excited to learn more.

This should still give us hope, as students reveal they are more interested and excited to learn more about sharing their faith.  Those of us that are working with students in some kind of faith-based environment, we have to remember that we shouldn’t project our feelings as adults on to students.  We can all be guilty of doing this, but it can also be dangerous because the students may have a different perspective.

Romans 10
“14 But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them? 15 And how will anyone go and tell them without being sent? That is why the Scriptures say, ‘How beautiful are the feet of messengers who bring good news!'”

This is where we are going. We think it’s going back toward a more balanced approach.  To include both actions AND words.  As it should.

© 2017, Never The Same