Evangephobia

By Greg Stier | Dare 2 Share | Arvada, Colorado | dare2share.org

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Do your teens have evangephobia? In their “live and let live” world, evangelism can seem like an antiquated idea. We shouldn’t be surprised that evangephobia has spread like an epidemic through our youth groups.

Jesus clearly stated that He came to seek and save the lost, and He’s charged us with spreading His message to those who don’t know Him. Sharing the Gospel is not optional simply because of the times in which we live. It’s something we’re commanded to be about until His return.

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So what’s a youth leader to do? I’ve identified five key reasons teens don’t share their faith. I’ve also uncovered a few insights that can help you address their evangephobia and help you mobilize them to share the Gospel with their friends.

 Reason #1: Fear – What will my friends think if I talk about Jesus? Fear of rejection looms large, but you can help your teens overcome their fear straight from the pages of Scripture. Show them that they’re not in this faith-sharing thing alone. God goes with them and promises to provide His power as they share His love and truth with others. 2 Timothy 1:7-8 assures us: “For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline. So never be ashamed to tell others about our Lord.” Help your teens learn to rely on God’s power and promises. Encourage them to pray for their lost friends and to ask for God’s assistance. This can give teens the courage they need to step out bravely.

Reason #2: Lack of Urgency – What difference does it make anyway? Hell is a very unpopular concept these days. But, Jesus spoke matter-of-factly about a literal hell. Jesus used the word gehenna (“hell”) eleven of the twelve times it appears in the New Testament. He never described hell as figurative, temporary, or anything less than horrific. The Bible describes hell as “for real” and “forever.”

Sometimes, the twenty-first-century version of the Christian God is just loving instead of just and loving. The just part of God (which demands absolute justice, holiness, and perfection) has been minimized and the loving part of God (which shows mercy, grace, and forgiveness) has been emphasized. As a result, teens have begun to view God as more of a cosmic Santa Claus who caters to their every whim instead of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords who said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6) By helping your teens understand the reality of hell and the hope of heaven, the urgency of the message of the Gospel comes alive. They need to see that their friends’ eternal destiny hangs in the balance.

 Reason #3: Live and Let Live – Other’s spiritual beliefs aren’t my business. Sometimes teens think evangelism is all about standing on a street corner with a bullhorn and yelling, “Repent!” They may see spiritual conversation as inappropriate or intrusive. Evangelism, however, is actually about…

For the rest of Greg’s article, go here.

Resolved

Don't Make a Typical New Year's Resolution

By Ken McCoy | JumpStart Ministries | Charlotte, North Carolina

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When I get to heaven, I’m really looking forward to meeting Daniel – the Daniel, the one from the Bible. That guy was a STUD for the faith! His intelligence, capabilities, and character were world class. Of all the characters in the Bible—besides Jesus, that is—Daniel is the one I admire most.

And it all started with a “New Years” resolution.

Daniel 1:8 starts out, “But Daniel resolved not to defile himself…” Note that key word: resolved. He made up his mind. He was committed and determined.

If you know the story, you know that Daniel was probably a pre-teen or teenager when this happened. He was one of who knows how many wealthy and intelligent boys who were taken from their families, transported across the Fertile Crescent from Israel to Babylon, and put into a three-year crash course that would strip them of their Jewish identities and turn them into government employees.

“But Daniel resolved…”

Even though almost all the young Israeli guys were going along with the program, even though you can’t fault them for thinking that God had abandoned them, even though the price of going against the established order was high, Daniel resolved not to leave his faith back at home.

And God came through for him.

Daniel and his three roommates first asked the school Principal for permission to eat only kosher food, but he denied their request. So, they struck a deal with their homeroom teacher – a ten-day diet to prove that the teacher wouldn’t get in trouble with the authorities. I don’t know about you, but my experience with ten-day diets is that they don’t work. In this case, it did – in reverse. The four young men looked healthier than the rest of their school after the ten days were over. Plus, God gave them greater intelligence, and favor with others – and Daniel was given a supernatural ability.

And for three years, those guys were vegetarians. Three years!

So, here’s the reason I’m thinking about Daniel’s teenaged determination to remain faithful to God. It’s New Years, the time to make “resolutions” for positive change in the coming year. You know as well as I that New Years Resolutions rarely work. The reason is that they’re not resolutions. They’re hopes. They’re goals. They’re good intentions. But there is no “resolve” in those resolutions. There’s no determination.

So, this year, think about something that is so important that you can be resolved about it. Don’t make any New Years Resolutions this year – instead, become resolved to follow God with everything you have.

And then, don’t be surprised when He comes through for you!

 

The Real Meaning of Christmas

15 Ideas to Keep Your Students Focused on the Real Meaning of Christmas

By Dave Weiss | New Creation Fellowship | Redding, Pennsylvania

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As we approach the Christmas season, our thoughts usually turn to wish lists, gifts, shopping and the hustle and bustle of the holiday season. It’s a great time of year and there’s nothing wrong with having a wish list, but Christmas has a deeper meaning — it’s the time when we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, the greatest Gift of all. How do we as youth workers turn our students’ focus from the gifts to the Giver? The answer can be found in Matthew 25:34-40. Jesus said, “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine you did for me.” (NIV) Since Christmas is the time we celebrate “Jesus’ birthday”, the way we give gifts to Jesus is by serving His brothers and sisters — other children of God, especially those less fortunate.

Here are some ideas to help your students participate in sharing the greatest gift of all, the message of salvation through Jesus Christ.

  1. Serve Meals at your local homeless shelter, soup kitchen, etc. Jesus said, “I was hungry and you gave me something to eat.” Meeting this most basic human need is a great way to help your students appreciate God’s blessings.
  2. Caroling and visitation: Yes, caroling is old fashioned, but there are many people who feel forgotten during the holidays. Something as simple as singing a few songs for some “shut ins” from your church and including a gift like a fruit basket can be a great way to show that love and care.
  3. Angel Tree: Many retail stores and churches have “Angel Trees” that contain ornaments listing needy children in your community and their needs. Have your students…

Dave has a ton of great ideas, and you can read the rest of them here.

It’s The Thought That Counts

Meaningful ways to show love and appreciation without spending a lot of money.

By Jay Helms | Mt. Sylvan United Methodist Church | Durham, North Carolina

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One of the most rewarding aspects of being involved in youth ministry is showing God’s love in practical ways. Giving gifts, the “assumed” method at Christmastime, is just one way to show love and appreciation to your students. Here are some ideas that may connect even better.

Words. Whether written or spoken, words are food to the soul. Write handwritten letters to your students. Create “Affirmation Awards” (such as “Mr. Selfless,” “Miss Rock Solid,” “Miss Humble,” or “Mr. Fearless”) and present them at a youth meeting. Have your volunteers write out a “What We Love About Billy (or whomever)” letter or poster. Anything that is spoken or written that will communicate clearly of your love and God’s care for your students will have a long lasting impact.

Time. Recently, I took three of our high school guys a movie and then to the Krispy Kreme downtown. They had more fun that Friday night than they would have if they’d done something else with their friends. Bring students a free lunch from their favorite restaurant. Attend one of their performances. Bring them along on a service project. Take them out for dessert after a youth meeting. Play disc golf, or regular golf, together. Everyone craves to have another person pay rapt attention to him or her!

Service. Consider doing one of their chores for them, washing a student’s car, teaching them a skill, helping them find a job, making dinner for them and their family, rebounding for them as they practice shooting basketball, or providing…

To see what else Jay has to say about this topic, go here.

Carol Power

By Rick Bundschuh | Kauai Christian Fellowship | Koloa, Hawaii

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It started off as a wild hair dinner idea to help new adults in our church get to know people by sharing some flaming BBQ ribs and a touch of something personal – but not scary personal. It became something far more significant.

The invitation to the party included the following instructions:

… for something completely different, please imagine that you have been banished to a desert island for an indefinite future. You have been given a solar-powered CD player but you are only allowed to bring ONE CD with you. Which would it be? Please grab that CD and bring it along with you (we may want to play it) — if it is the Grateful Dead’s Greatest Hits, be prepared to explain yourself. Heck, be prepared to explain anyhow!

Now, being a clever guy, I thought that this would be a sneaky way to get to know something about these new folks without having to do serious gut-spilling — a safe and fun glimpse into new lives. But I was shocked and unprepared for what happened at that party. And in reflection, I realized that I should have known — after all, music can be more than mere entertainment; it can be the milestone or rally points for the most important events in a person’s life.

Why was I shocked? Because over half of the people who attended brought, of all things, Christmas CDs – carols and old, old songs. (I on the other hand, mysteriously brought Leif and Liege by Fairport Convention.)

As they started to share why they picked those Christmas carols to accompany them on their banishment, their reasoning made sense. These are songs…

To read the rest of Rick’s article, go here.

Making The Most Of Holiday Craziness

5 Ideas For Maintaining "Peace On Earth" At Christmastime

This article was written by Cindy Engøy | YesWeServe | Long Beach, California before she left us for Heaven.

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“…and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.” (Luke 2:14 New International Version)

The angelic vocals filled the fields where shepherds kept an eye on their sheep. Oh fine! Easy for them to sing to the shepherds! I mean, what did the shepherds have to do but hang out and count sheep? Seems to me their lives were fairly peaceful already. If the angelic host came today and sang to youthworkers, their song would probably be more along these lines: “…peace on earth, but you better get your groove on because the holiday rush is stampeding your way. So think of something quick to keep those young people in the spirit of the season, keep the parents and the pastor happy, plus the church programs going. After the holidays are over you can have your rest!” (Luke 2:14 Youthworker Version)

So how can we make the most of our holiday craziness and still have peace on our part of the earth? Here are a few suggestions that might ward off an anxiety attack:

  1. Christmas Stockings. In November take pictures of your youth and have the kids fill out information cards. On the cards should be their name, age, photo, and inexpensive things they like or need – i.e. school supplies, candy, favorite CDs, junk foods, hair products, etc. Then have different people in the church pick a kid for a Christmas stocking. Only the name of the child should be on the stocking, not the name of the giver. Have extra goodies on hand so that no one is left out. Also, older students could make stockings for the younger children.
  2. Cookie Exchange. Send out a flyer to parents asking them to volunteer for a cookie exchange. Have each kid in your youth group bring a dozen homemade cookies to exchange (i.e., four kids in your youth group bring four dozen cookies). For larger groups, you could divide into smaller groups. Ask the parent also to provide…

To read the rest of Cindy’s ideas, go here.

See The Campus

By Chuck Klein | The Campus Alliance | San Diego, California | everycampus.org

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When the calendar hits September and you want to locate over 90% of the teenagers in your community, it’s easy to find them. Just check out the local high school and middle school campuses. For this simple reason alone, the campus is vital in every youth ministry plan.

I think Paul the apostle describes campus ministry very well in 1 Thessalonians 2:7-8: “As apostles of Christ we could have been a burden to you, but we were gentle among you, like a mother caring for her little children. We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become dear to us.” (NIV)

 Through school ministry we…

  • represent Christ and His awesome message of freedom
  • deeply care about students, teachers and administration
  • are delighted to share the gospel of God
  • impart our lives – which means relational and sacrificial ministry
  • are not a burden to the school or students, but a help

Like any ministry, with the campus we have to adapt to the setting. Let’s start there.

First, the campus is “the cultural center” for youth in your community. It is a tapestry of students involved in groups and relationships. It is a fun and vital place for you to connect with kids. So get to know the school culture.

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Second, a school is administratively controlled which means that there are guidelines and rules for students, and certainly visitors from the outside. Some administrators allow and welcome the faith-based community to participate in the environment of a school, with limitations. They see it as a positive influence that helps students.

Other administrators are leery, usually citing lack of legal clarity. In reality, it comes down to each administration or school district deciding how they will handle outside visitors to their school. There are neither specific laws nor legal precedents to guide schools, other than the fact that visitors must have permission to enter a campus. However, administrators must treat religious groups or individuals in the same manner that they treat secular groups or individuals. They clearly are the gatekeepers for outsiders, but must remain blind to religion based on the first amendment and equal access guidelines.

So how does this affect campus ministry?

  • Clarify in your mind your motive for campus ministry. What you bring to the campus is a living example of Christ – love, hope and genuine interest in kids. That attitude will help you focus on students and serve the school.
  • Build relationships with administrators, respect them and follow their guidelines and policies. (Romans 13:1-3).
  • Serve…

Chuck Klein gives leadership to the Campus Alliance and everyschool.com, a coalition of over 50 organizations and church denominations partnering to reach out to every high school and middle school student in America with the good news of Jesus Christ. You can read the rest of his article here.

Outrageous Evangelism

By Justin Bundschuh | justinbundschuh@mac.com | Kauai Christian Fellowship | Koloa, Hawaii

192716_Outrageous-Evangelism-Graphic KCF’s middle school ministry is well known on the island of Kauai for providing unique outreach events for young people in the area. He pulls off events that might get you fired at your church. Toilet Night. Sticky Night. Pig Night. Glow-In-The-Dark Night. You get the idea. (Good thing his dad is a seasoned and respected youth minister as well as the Pastor there.) So, we asked Justin for his thoughts on evangelism. Read on!

You have your evangelistic event all figured out. You know the youth in your town will have their lives changed. You gave it a cool name; something like “2016 Jammin’ For Jesus.” You have a slogan that you feel will build interest such as, “2,016 kids! 2,016 hotdogs! 2,016 ways to have fun!” You’ve transformed your church building into a “youth zone” with decorations that can be pulled down before the grayhairs see them on Sunday morning. You have thought of every little detail—the hip Christian band, the crazy activities, the ex-almost-pro sports figure willing to give his testimony, and the altar call.

It is the night of the event. The flood of kids you had imagined is more like a trickle. One of your helpful volunteers makes the famed comment, “Even if just one kid meets Jesus, it will all be worth it.” You hold on to that thought as the speaker goes into the altar call. You watch as a handful of kids stand. What you know, and the speaker does not, is that those kids stand for every altar call at every event. To make matters worse, you have 1,986 hot dogs going bad.

What went wrong?

Let’s start with what went RIGHT: your desire to share with kids the saving message of Jesus. After that – well, it pretty much went wrong. Youth ministry is full of well-meaning people who get the whole concept of an evangelistic event the wrong way ’round. Their thinking goes something like this: “If I can just get the lost kids here, I can get to know them and tell them about Christ.” Let me help flip you over and put you on your feet. If you get to know the lost kids, they will come. Your life will tell them more about Christ while you walk beside them. When you do have an event, all the youth you have invested in will follow you to that event.

Get all the Evangelism Articles in YLO105 when you become a YLO Member.

The ability you have to speak into the life of a young person is directly related to the investment you have in that kid’s life. You earn the right to be heard.

Long before you even consider an event, plan on doing the tough time outside the church to BE with kids. Be where they are, not invite them to be where you are. Where are wild kids? Here in Hawaii most of them are at the beach. For you it may be football games, soccer games, or hoops down the road. It might be at a skatepark or popular diner. If you can be on school campus…

To get the rest of Justin’s insights, go here.

Abraham Lincoln and the Meaning of Thanksgiving

NOTE: This is such a powerful Thanksgiving message, we are reposting it again in 2016.

A note from interlinc President Allen Weed: My long time friend and co-laborer in youth ministry Ron Boehme sent me his Thanksgiving post this morning. His insights on President Lincoln’s 1863 Thanksgiving Proclamation blew me away! With Ron’s permission and our editor’s kind readjustment, Ron’s thoughts are here as a Guest Blog Post.

These thoughts and application points will be foundational for our family discussions over the next couple of days. I hope you will find them equally as helpful. Jesus Christ is the same – 1863, today and forever! Happy Thanksgiving to you, your family, and the kids in your youth ministry.


Thanksgiving is a uniquely biblical holiday (should we go back in time and rightly rename it a “holy day?”).

It is not simply a day off, with turkey and trimmings, time with family members or a good football game. Yes, it can involve all these elements, but it is much more than that.

Thanksgiving is a “reality reminder” day: There is a God. He is awesome, loving, and just. And everything we have and hope for comes directly or indirectly from him.

At least once a year we should “re-center” our lives and spend a day giving thanks to Him.

Abraham Lincoln, our most respected president, understood that truth. Here is his reminder, during a grim time in American history that can help us navigate our own.

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Bill O’Reilly’s book Killing Lincoln has been out for over a year and is currently ranked at number two on the New York Times best-seller list (amazingly his new book Killing Kennedy is number one–and both are excellent reads).

Stephen Spielberg’s Lincoln, starring David Day-Lewis, is also out in theaters this week and is getting excellent reviews. I am looking forward to seeing it as my “movie of the year.”

What made Lincoln a great president was his clear, uncompromising faith in God and his view that history is being guided by a Being who is worthy of our prayers, devotion, and thanks.

Here is his text for an 1863 Thanksgiving Proclamation. I would encourage you to read it slowly to get the depth of his thinking. In between paragraphs, I will comment on his wisdom.

Washington, D.C., October 3, 1863

By the President of the United States of America.

A Proclamation.

“The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God.”

Lincoln reminds us that we tend to “forget” about God. Do you forget him in your daily life and struggles? Lincoln rightly reminds us that God is our “source” of everything good in our lives. He says that our gratefulness to God should “soften our hearts” and make us aware of God’s watchful providence in our lives. Is your heart soft toward God and his blessings? Do you realize that a Loving God is watching over your life as well as guiding the affairs of nations?

“In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union.”

Lincoln is grateful that even during our nation’s darkest war, there was a peace and harmony in the world that only God could create and maintain. If left to ourselves, everything would explode or fall apart. But God keeps the world together with his ever-wise and loving care.

“Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom.”

Despite the war and national travail, Lincoln is grateful that America is a fruitful, growing nation in which he expects a “large increase of freedom.” Do you expect same? Does your faith go beyond the horizon of your personal circumstances and national problems to thank God for his abundance?

“No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.”

Abraham Lincoln understood sin–and God’s anger against it. If you love people and truth then you must hate evil and its destructive forms. But he also knew that God was gracious–and that ALL the great things in America have come via his grace and mercy. Do you consciously realize that truth? Do you give God credit for all the good things in your life?

“It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People.”

I love Lincoln’s word choices here. Solemnly–don’t joke away Thanksgiving or fail to give God serious thought. Reverently–with respect, prayer, and admiration. Gratefully–it only has meaning when it is directed toward someone. Gratefulness in general is just pleasant feelings. Gratefulness to God grows a loving relationship with your Lord and Savior.

“I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.”

Lincoln asks all Americans to observe Thankgiving day–whether they are atheists, pantheists, or believers in God. It will benefit all because, whether they believe it or not, God is there. You may not see the sun for the clouds, but it is there and you couldn’t live without it. Even more so with God in whom you live, breathe and have your being (Acts 17:28). He exhorts all Americans to the double barrels of joy–thanksgiving and praise. One recognizes what God does and the other, who he is. He is our Father whose home is in the Heavens (the ultimate destination of his children).

“And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.”

Lincoln finishes his Proclamation with three distinct admonitions:

1. That we have repentant hearts over our “national perverseness and disobedience.” What would Abraham Lincoln think of the evolution of those sins today? Do you care? Do you grieve over America’s perversion and turning away from God? In 1863, the president of the United States encouraged our citizens to repent.

2. That we reach out to the needy, hurting, and unfortunate in our society. God cares–so should we.

3. That we pray that God would heal and restore us to Him. Have you personally prayed today beyond bowing your head before the turkey is served? Were your prayers passionate for your family and nation?

“In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.”

“Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the Unites States the Eighty-eighth.”

“By the President: Abraham Lincoln.”

There’s no mention here of the phony definition of separation of Church and State. Abraham Lincoln, the President of the United States, calls all Americans to repent, thank God, praise Him, and serve others.

Will you act upon his timeless words?

Happy Thanksgiving–in the year of our Lord 2012 and of the Independence of the United States the Two-Hundred and Thirty-Sixth.

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Belonging Before Believing

6 Descriptions of The Gospel

By Jeremy White | jwhite@valleychurch.com | Valley Church | Vacaville, California

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Sharing the Gospel is hardly a cut and dried methodology. How can we best communicate both the simplicity and the complexity of the greatest story ever told to an American culture that seems to reject the very idea of Christian spirituality? How can the truth of the Gospel be relayed effectively in a system where the only thing for sure is that there is nothing sure? At the risk of oversimplification, one place to begin is with Matthew’s account of the first Easter morning.

When we think of Matthew 28, “the Great Commission” comes to mind. If the end of the chapter is the what of evangelism, then I suggest we go back to the beginning of the chapter for the how. We can’t follow the Commission if we’re clueless about the Mission. We need to understand the first few verses of the chapter – without which we cannot attempt the last few.

According to Matthew, the Gospel is…

1. Propositional – therefore, it is meant to be understood and believed. Because of our tendency to reduce the Gospel to a mere set of facts to be accepted, some have responded with scathing criticisms of a purely factual Gospel which is void of any life-changing substance. While I agree with these concerns, propositional truth has not become irrelevant to the preaching of the Gospel.

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The angel told the ladies that Jesus had “risen, just as he said.” This is a clear affirmation of the propositional nature of the truth of the Gospel. God proposes something (i.e. that Christ would rise), and we then receive or reject that proposition as a matter of our will. While the Gospel is more than facts, it nonetheless involves facts to be believed and accepted in order for faith to be genuine. Paul said that the facts of the Gospel were of primary importance in passing it on to others (1 Corinthians 15: 3). However, many people are either lukewarm or bored to tears with their Christian experience because their faith stops with the facts. As important as Christ’s proposition about rising from the dead was, the story would be incomplete if it stopped there. Thankfully Matthew goes on to tell us that the Gospel is not only propositional, but…

2. Experiential – therefore, it is to be participatory. The angel invited the women to “come and see the place where he lay.” One of the most satisfying realities of Christ-following is that we partake in a “come and see” kind of faith. The ladies were invited to experience the empty tomb for themselves.

Many youth ministries are finding something different from the traditional “believe-before-you-belong” approach. Not-yet-believing students are taking part in…

To read the rest of Jeremy’s article, go here.