Evangelism Roundtable – Part 1
Evangelism is a crucial element of the Christian faith, but it can also be a controversial topic, particularly when it comes to reaching out to young people on school campuses. In this roundtable discussion, interlínc editor, Rob Brower (RB), sits down with a panel of experts to explore the importance of evangelism in today’s world and discuss effective ways to share the Gospel with students. Through their collective wisdom and experience (Over 150 years!), these leaders provide valuable insights and practical tips for anyone looking to engage in student evangelism anywhere. Join us as we delve into this timely and important conversation.
RB: Growing up, when I heard the term “evangelism” I thought of either TV preachers in flashy suits or religious people knocking on our door. What does evangelism look like today?
CB: I would say evangelism today mostly comes through pastors at church, or a conference, or from a worship leader at a worship event.
GS: Evangelism doesn’t just look one way today. It can range from TikTok Gospel snippets to mass outreaches to service projects combined with evangelistic engagement to one-on-one Gospel conversations. The more expressions of it the better, especially amongst this post-Christian generation of teenagers.
HW: I think it still has the same type of stereotypes as it did years ago, except it now carries a negative connotation with it beyond simply being “scary.” TV preachers are scam artists that only want your money, “proselytizing” is seen as forcing your beliefs on others, and relativism gives validation to all beliefs. It’s not just seen as scary anymore, it’s seen as politically incorrect.
BB: I think it looks like how it did among Jesus and His disciples. Communicating the Gospel, caring about people’s needs, and living the way Jesus did. Evangelism is not just a one-time event or just a conversation. How we live and how we relate to others deeply matters. This is what Jesus did. Jesus said to those who would become His disciples, “Come follow Me,” and at some point, people came to faith in Him. Jesus told us to make disciples not make converts. We need to share the Gospel explicitly with people, but we also need to talk about, model, and show people what Jesus was about and how He changes lives here and now.
LR: The best evangelism today happens when someone explains the Gospel to a friend on a relational, conversational basis, and invites that friend to put his or her faith in God. Today, we challenge students to be Campus Missionaries, meaning whatever the campus of their life is (public school, home school groups, cyber-school), they are making a commitment to share Jesus with their friends on that campus.
MM: The two most important things according to Jesus, are to love God and love others. Evangelism today should simply be an extension of the second-greatest commandment. How can you love someone and knowingly watch them go to hell? It should be personal, contextualized, and above all relevant. It’s not about talking down to a person or judging them. We are simply one beggar, showing another beggar where to find some bread. The Bread of Life!
CK: Evangelism has always had many different faces and styles, some I don’t care for and others are just fine. My view, however, is that anytime the clear Gospel is being shared, regardless of who is sharing it, and whether it is on stage or personal, God will use it in someone’s life to bring them to faith in Jesus. So ultimately it is really about the power of the Gospel, and not the person delivering it, that is important. Paul said, “But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.” See Philippians 1:15-18. Today personal evangelism is most common, but there is still the great need for effective platform communicators.
RB: Why is it so important to teach students to share the Gospel? Isn’t that what Youth Pastors are for?
MM: Preaching the Gospel is a part of the Great Commission. It’s not the great suggestion. It is imperative that every single believer in Christ shares the love of Christ with others, teaching them the things they have learned. The most important of all of these is the message of the hope that we have through salvation in Christ. We do so out of obedience and a genuine heartfelt response to the grace given to us by Jesus Christ.
CB: Because they are the ones that are around lost and broken students every day. There is a very small chance that non-believers will go to church until they believe or at least are interested in knowing more about God.
JM: Jesus didn’t command positions to make disciples, His commission was for people to make disciples. Students don’t hold positions on church staff, but they have the greatest reach to the most open segment of people to the Gospel. That’s pretty important.
GS: Of course youth pastors play a key role in reaching teenagers for Christ. But the biggest role they play is that of a coach and not a quarterback. In other words, they equip teenagers to share the Gospel with their own peers instead of trying to be the one who always has to throw the touchdown pass. The best youth leaders I know are equippers. In the words of Ephesians 4:11-12 they “equip God’s people for works of service”…including evangelism.
HW: Students need to know the Gospel for 2 main reasons: 1) For their own sake: In a society full of cultural Christians it’s important that each of us knows and understands the true Gospel and are not placing our faith in our own goodness, our parent’s faith, our church attendance, etc. 2) For the sake of others: There is no better evangelist to a student than another student. “Youth pastors” are foreign missionaries to the culture, and teenagers are indigenous missionaries.
LR: Youth pastors should absolutely be teaching students to share the Gospel; it’s a non-negotiable part of the discipleship process. At the same time, very few people possess all five ministry gifts mentioned in Ephesians 4:11. In Youth Alive we often function in the evangelist and apostle gift, coming alongside youth workers to supplement their own ministry gifts to create a well-rounded discipleship experience for teenagers.
BB: Now we have the technology to communicate the Gospel explicitly to the masses or over text or email with people we don’t have an embodied conversation with. 42% of Non-Christian Gen Z say they would be more interested in learning about Christianity and what it could mean for their life if the Christians they know were less judgmental of their personal beliefs (Barna, Reviving Evangelism In The Next Generation). Having conversations and listening without judgment is key.
CK: It is important for several reasons. First, it advances the Gospel in their generation; a huge need! But just as importantly, it is a key element of discipleship. Jesus modeled this, He “sent” His disciples out to engage people with the truth of the Kingdom. It alone is an essential experience God uses to produce significant spiritual growth in students. It deeply roots their faith and helps them personally identify with Jesus as they share Him and articulate their relationship with Him. It helps their confidence as a follower of Christ. I believe you cannot authentically disciple someone and not help them engage in sharing their faith.
RB: Many ministries had to make major shifts due to COVID-19. What should be our greatest takeaway as we enter into this era of post-COVID ministry?
LR: The greatest takeaway is that students are hungrier than ever for community—something they were deprived of during the height of COVID. This is a great missional opportunity for the church because we understand authentic and purpose-filled community better than any other organization on earth.
CB: That we need to equip students to do one-on-one evangelism and discipleship.
HW: The Church must exist outside the walls of our church buildings. If we are not being the Church Monday through Saturday, our “church” on Sunday is dead already…COVID just made that obvious.
CK: In my mind, one of the significant takeaways is the importance of personal ministry with students, not only program and large group ministry.
The youth ministries that survived and even flourished in COVID, and since, are those who have small group discipleship and personal one-on-one models as an integral part of their strategy. And included with that, training students to lead small groups.
It has allowed those ministries to be much more flexible, mobile, and organic, and see significant results in evangelism and discipleship.
MM: Remain immovable. Christians from here on out need to step up when others are telling us to step out. Our band, Christafari, did this over the last three years and saw incredible results. While others were waiting until things opened up, we did 277 free concerts in all 50 states. The people were hungry for the Word and the youth were hungry for hope. We can’t let future events keep us from personally reaching the people that God has called us to. At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the people that were reached the least were going through some of the toughest times of their lives. We can’t let this happen again.