ym essentials: why students don't engage with the lost
More than ever before, I’m convinced that the entry point for those who don’t have a saving relationship with Christ is not your Church’s corporate worship time. Especially as it pertains to young people. No, I’m convinced that the most effective way of drawing people to Christ is first through Christ-centered community, outside of the institutional confines of the Church. I’ve alluded to this before in this article. And I believe it more now than I ever have.
This isn’t a new idea. In fact, it’s kind of an old one. The first time I can find out that it was utilized would have been early in the first century. In Jerusalem. By the apostles. And the effect was profoundly successful.
And yet, too often we still default to inviting our neighbors or co-workers to church, and encouraging our students to do the same. What’s more engaging to someone who doesn’t know Christ? Singing songs to a God they don’t know or don’t believe in? Or attending a few cookouts or catching a movie and dessert with a Gospel-centered community of friends? In my opinion, the answer is clear.
In our current cultural climate, where young people show a mistrust of institutions and a skepticism of authority, it’s farm more effective, far more authentic, to invite people to experience the uniqueness of a Christ-centered community.
I believe this. And maybe you do to. But based on my experience, I have to ask a question, one that’s admittedly not very fun:
Why is it so dang hard to get students to do it?
Because it is, isn’t it? It’s tough to get teenagers (and adults for that matter) to invite their un-Christian friends into their communities. Now, let’s make sure we recognize that there are many students who do get it right. There are those who are living as salt and light and bringing the lost into their communities of friends.
But there are definitely those who can’t seem to be bothered by it, no matter how badly we push and pull. I’ve been thinking about this a lot. And I have some thoughts on why this is the case.
Here they are. I wonder what you think and what pushback you might offer.
Fear, discomfort, shyness, etc.
Let’s give students the benefit of the doubt. Many Christ-followers get uneasy about the idea of sharing their faith. This is nothing new. Putting aside the fact that sharing life with people is the easiest, least awkward way of talking about faith, being uncomfortable around these types of conversations is a real reason many students don’t seek to include many un-churched friends into their community of friends.
The Compartmentalization Effect
Many Christ-followers (teenagers and adults alike) compartmentalize their lives, wearing the good, churchy side of their personality when it’s appropriate, and a life undistinguished by faith the rest of the week. This is not a new observation. But if this is the case, students will be less likely to invite those who don’t know Christ into their communities for fear of looking like hypocrites.
Not That Important
Maybe some of our students don’t have a heart for the lost. Maybe they’ve yet to truly internalize what it means to be separated from Christ. Maybe they don’t feel the urgency to bring the lost into their community of Christ-followers.
No Real, Christ-Centered Community
There’s one final factor that I fear might be true. I fear that many of our students don’t have strong Christian community. They aren’t bound together in a common pursuit of Christ with their commonly-minded friends. And so, there isn’t much of a Christ-centered community to invite people to engage with.
The Church must continue to figure out how to take the timeless truths of God and adapt our practices and philosophy to a changed culture. We have to teach students the Gospel and how it impacts their lives. We have to work with parents to facilitate and empower Christ-centered community. And we have to continuously challenge students to bring their un-Christian friends into these communities.
It’s one of the many ways, I believe, we’ll see young people discover what it means to be transformed by a saving relationship with Christ.