In high school, I was known as the “church boy.” People knew that a lot of my time was spent at the church, I was always humming worship songs to myself, and there were a lot of social gatherings that I passed on because I’d rather be at a youth group event. I took pride in my identity being the person that was automatically assumed to do the right thing. Don’t get me wrong – I was still your typical high school kid, but people knew there was something different about me. One of my close friends, Mike, would always encourage me in moral righteousness, and because of that, I found it easier to be a teen pursuing Christ.
A lot of students at my school thought it was funny to very openly deny and question the things I held so close to my heart. I would be shaken up, and it would hurt. I didn’t understand how people could question the God of the universe and His great love for us. I remember getting into heated arguments with classmates, defending my faith and my God. It seemed as if for everything I said about the goodness and grace of God, my classmates had something to counter my points. It became discouraging and made me question how much of a Christian I really was if I couldn’t get other people to believe God in the same way I did.
In this post, I want to help you equip your young people with the tools to properly give a solid defense for what they believe through the things that they are already doing.
A Different Perspective on Evangelism
Every Wednesday, we open up with what we call “The Circle of Love.” In the Circle, we ask 2 questions: 1) “What are you thanking God for?” and 2) “What are you asking God to do for you?” Without fail, every week, one of our young people will say “I’m praying for patience…” and after I interject – When you ask for patience, God will grant you opportunities to be patient! – we always ask why? And typically, our young people will say something to the effect of “I’m just tired of people saying what I believe isn’t real,” and I am always reminded of what my Personal Evangelism Professor John White once said:
“You don’t ever have to defend the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit has no problem defending itself.”
Since apologetics and evangelism go hand in hand, I believe the best way to actively win someone to Christ isn’t with words or arguments. It’s through the way you live your life. Our students are facing things that we as youth leaders can’t fathom, and the fact that the enemy is ever present gives our young people struggles in living out their faith. I have learned through my ventures around this country that we as youth leaders have to transform our thinking when it comes to evangelism. The days of door-to-door and tracts are over. We live in a very “prove it to me” society where everything needs to be proven with empirical evidence.
That’s why the best way to prove the power of God and His greatness is in how you live.
I remember when I was a freshman in college, and I got into an argument with someone that became physical. What I didn’t realize is one of my Young Life kids happened to be watching, and when I got done fighting, he turned to me and said: “I thought you were a Christian.” That hit me like a ton of bricks. In that moment, to that young man, I became a hypocrite. I constantly remind our young people that they might be the only light some people see, so they should make the opportunity count. This idea expands far past young people and reaches straight into the depths of our souls as youth leaders. This provides us, as youth leaders, with a wonderful opportunity to talk about God’s grace and mercy and gives us memories to further motivate us in staying on the straight and narrow.
Another way we can encourage young people to defend their faith is through relationships.
I know I am full of stories in this post, but here is one more. I went to a Christian college (and yes, there are fights at Christian schools, too) and was taught by world-renowned theologians. They taught us all matters of doctrine and philosophy. One day, John White brought in a guy named Tony, who began to tell about the most horrifying displays of Christian ignorance of which I have ever heard. He went on to say that he would see Cedarville students, and without asking how he was doing or even saying hello, those students were trying to preach or witness to him instead of entering into his story in their attempt to speak life to him. It turned him away from Christianity. However, because the Gospel has the power to transform hearts, there was a person who entered Tony’s life and met him where he was at the time, walking with him through discovering his relationship with Christ. Relationships cause people to trust you, and when you enter into someone’s story – and can see their brokenness – you are able to pour directly into them.
Our young people are going through things that we’ve never dreamed of and need to find ways to show their faith. It’s not easy, and it may lead to hurt, but teaching our young people to live a lifestyle that is God honoring, and building community through relationships where you speak life into someone, is crucial. Our job as youth leaders is to provide the power and encouragement young people need when they get weak. Remember, the true depth of your Christian experience wasn’t through an argument, through a tract, or even through someone yelling Gospel truths at you. It was through someone taking the time to enter your story and to minister to your need.Lifestyle and relationships are the best witness. Click To Tweet
J.C. CARMICHAEL is a youth leader at New Prospect Baptist Church in Cincinnati, Ohio, and has been in youth ministry in some form for the past 10 years. He has a passion for seeing the young people realize their purpose for being world-changers. J.C. has had the opportunity to minister to young people all over the country and has also been instrumental in creating youth ministry models for youth leaders to adopt in their own church. He believes that everything that is done is for the glory of God. You can connect with J.C. on Twitter @JCCARM.