"Day after day, in the temple courtsand from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Messiah." Acts 5:42
There's something extraordinarily Biblical about Christians intentionally sharing the Gospel with others. From the bold early believers at the beginning of the church (Acts 4:31) to the Gospel proclaiming 144,000 Jewish evangelists at the end of time (Revelation 7), believers sharing the Good News with unbelievers is the norm, not the exception in Scripture.
It can be (and should be) the norm again today.
Over the last four decades I have witnessed again and again the power and impact of youth leaders taking teenagers out to intentionally share the Good News of Jesus with others. Now, I'm not talking about teenagers standing on a corner sign twirling a repent sign or passing out Gospel tracts like a Black Jack dealer in Vegas.
When I talk about "taking teenagers out" to share the Gospel I'm referring to taking them to a public place where other teenagers may be hanging out (think shopping mall, city center, main strip, etc.) And what do they do when they get there? They pray for and look for people, usually other teenagers, they can begin a conversation with in a natural way.
In John 4 Jesus engaged in "cold turkey" evangelism with a complete stranger (the woman at the well), but he did it in a very relational way. We can equip our teenagers to do the same.
At Dare 2 Share we teach teenagers to Ask-Admire-Admit. We teach them to ask questions and get to know someone personally. Along the way they try to find out what that person's spiritual background is. They try to find areas of their belief system they can admire (like Paul did in Acts 17:22,23 with the men of the Areopagus.) And, finally, they admit the reason they're a Christian is that they are so messed up they needed Jesus to save them.
This type of approach keeps it from becoming a presentation and makes it more of a conversation. It also opens up the opportunity for the Christian teenagers to share their own stories and the Gospel story in a more natural, engaging way.
So, with this as a backdrop, here are 7 reasons why you should consider taking your teenagers out to share their faith once a month or so:
1. It will help your teenagers grow in their faith.
Evangelism accelerates the discipleship process because it forces teenagers to put a bit of their social equity on the altar. When they share the Gospel with another teenager there is a chance they could be mocked. This risk fuels growth.
When Abraham put Isaac on the altar James reminds us that his, "his faith and his actions worked together. His actions made his faith complete" (James 2:22.) Abraham's faith was matured by his being willing to sacrifice what meant most to him ... Isaac.
What means most to many of our teenagers is how they are perceived by other teenagers. When they share the Gospel with their peers, even in a shopping mall, they are putting this on the altar. This step of boldness can help their faith and actions work together to produce a more complete and robust faith.
2. It will accelerate their relational evangelism efforts.
For the last 25+ years of training teenagers to share the Gospel via Dare 2 Share I have seen this proven again and again. If teenagers can jump the high hurdle of sharing the Gospel with a complete stranger it gives them confidence to jump the even higher hurdle of sharing the Gospel with a friend.
When teenagers come back from an outreach experience they are pumped and excited. This is the prime time to challenge them to share this same message of hope with their friends.
For most teenagers engaging in an evangelistic conversation with their own classmates, teammates and friends is way harder than approaching a stranger in the shopping mall or on the street. Why? Because, when it comes to sharing Jesus with their close friends, they can lose more than just face, they can lose a friendship completely!
Sharing the Gospel with strangers enables them to gain evangelistic confidence. It helps give them the faith-sharing momentum they need to share Jesus with their friends.
3. It will give your teenagers Gospel fluency.
When I was a teenager our youth leader took us out every week to share our faith. On Friday nights we would gather together at someone's house, pray for boldness, clarity and opportunities, and then disperse to local shopping malls and gathering places to engage others in Gospel conversations.
I would venture to say that, after years of doing this, the majority of us who shared our faith weekly had more Gospel fluency than the average seminary trained pastor. Why? Because there is nothing that will help you know the Gospel like sharing the Gospel with those who are unbelieving or skeptical.
The articulation of the Gospel leads to a deeper understanding of the Gospel. As Paul reminds us all in Philemon 6, "I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith so that you may know every good thing you have in Christ Jesus."
I'll never forget sharing my faith in middle school at a local shopping mall to two high school aged teenagers. As I shared the Gospel I vividly remember thinking to myself, "I believe this stuff. I really believe it!" Sharing the Gospel message verbally steeled it and sealed it in my soul.
Communicating the Gospel makes the Good News more meaningful to us. In the articulation of it we are reminded of it's power and preciousness ... and so are our teens.
4. It will energize the story-telling time in your youth group meetings.
If you want to have your youth group/small group meetings super-charged then include a story-telling time section during your program. Have the teenagers who have been sharing Jesus with strangers and friends share their stories in youth group.
When teenagers "Take 5 for The Cause" and share stories (good, bad or ugly) of their outreach experiences it supercharges the youth meeting. It breaks down the invisible wall of faith and action and raises the bar for the type of Christianity that does more than fill in blanks on a sermon outline.
5. It will fuel a hunger for learning God's Word.
We teach teenagers to say "I don't know but I'll try to find out" as a kind of get-out-of-jail free card when they are asked a question they don't have the answer to while sharing the Gospel. This motivates teenagers to study God's Word for themselves to learn the answers.
If teenagers are regularly engaging atheists, Mormons, Buddhists, Muslims and more in spiritual discussions they'll be getting asked difficult questions from time to time. This can spur a hunger and thirst for God's Word like never before.
Wouldn't it be great if your teenagers were grilling you with questions like, "How do we know the Bible is true?", "How can we be sure Jesus rose physically from the grave?"and "Just exactly what is the Trinity and why do we believe in it?"
Your teenagers will ask these types of questions if they are actively sharing the Gospel with strangers and friends. You'll discover them diving into God's Word personally and passionately as a natural result of being engaged in evangelism.
6. It will motivate your teenagers to pray.
Just last week I went to a local shopping mall/casino in Johannesburg South Africa with about 150 mostly South African teenagers. The excitement was palpable as we engaged others in Gospel conversations.
And we didn't even have to remind the teenagers or adult leaders to pray. Why? Because all of us were praying for confidence and clarity (myself included) as we shared the message of Jesus to others.
Evangelism can be scary ... some would say downright terrifying. But it's that very fear that forces us and our teenagers to pray and proclaim in utter dependence on the Holy Spirit.
In Matthew 10 when Jesus sent his disciples on a "fishing trip" for lost souls he told them, "...at that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you" Matthew 10:19,20. Evangelism, especially in the face of opposition, helps our teenagers stay fully dependent on the indwelling Holy Spirit through prayer.
7. It will help you and your adult leaders model evangelism.
One of the great benefits of taking your teenagers and adult leaders out to share the Gospel is that teenagers are able to witness their adult leaders witness. Teens will follow what the adults model. In Luke 6:40 Jesus emphasized this when he told his mostly-teenaged disciples, "No student is above their teacher but when they are fully trained they will be like their teacher."
If we want our teenagers to share the Gospel with friends and strangers but we never do then maybe what we need is a mirror and not a bullhorn.
And I believe it's good if teens sometimes witness adult leaders train wreck in evangelism. It helps them realize that they are not alone and that sometimes adults make mistakes or get slammed for sharing the Good News.
By the way, if you have adults who aren't willing to share their faith, share this passage with them and let the Holy Spirit use it to convict. John 12:42,43 tells us, "Yet at the same time many even among the leaders believed in him. But because of the Pharisees they would not openly acknowledge their faith for fear they would be put out of the synagogue; for they loved human praise more than praise from God."
Challenge them not to be like these early Jewish believers who didn't openly acknowledge their faith because of the fear of being ostracized. Encourage them to boldly open their mouths and make known the mystery of the Gospel to friends and strangers alike (Ephesians 6:19.) When your teenagers see you and your adult leaders share their faith they are motivated to do the same.
Consider taking your teenagers out once a month or so to share the Gospel. I believe it will give your group a Gospel momentum, help them grow deeper in their faith and accelerate their relational evangelism efforts in ways you never imagined.