How do we help a generation who has no sin see their need for a savior? A major part of our calling as youth workers is the vital task of evangelism. Unfortunately the tyranny of the urgent puts our true calling on the back burner. We have programs to run, bible studies to lead, and parents to keep happy. As great as these are to do, very few of us got into student ministry because we love programs and managing parents. Many of us got into student ministry because we have a heart for this broken and lost generation. We are cross cultural missionaries called to the ﬁeld to connect with early and mid-adolescents so that, by any means necessary, they will come to know Jesus.
“I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some “ 1 Corinthians 9:22
Classic Evangelism: This verse sums up the classical understanding of evangelism. Simply we want people who don’t know Jesus yet to know him as their Lord and Savior. We want to use whatever means, whatever stories, whatever programs, whatever resources are needed to do it.
Classic Gospel: For the past 100 years, the story that has been developed is a simple,
compelling, and effective story. You may have heard of it. God loves us, but our sin separates us from him. Jesus, because of His love, took the punishment for our sin on himself. If we accept what Jesus did for us on the cross, then we will be saved and have eternal life. The classic gospel has proven to be very effective in our context where Christianity has been our national religion and story. But as our context becomes increasingly more post-christian this classic gospel has developed a classic problem.
Classic Problem: Simply put, there is no longer an understanding of sin. Our students live in a world where there are really no ethics, no right and wrong. If there is any residue of an understanding of sin, it is when it happens to them. They can clearly identify all the times and places others have wronged them, but can not see when and where they have wronged others.
Situational Ethics is now king. Whatever might be right and wrong in theory, gets re-worked depending on the circumstances they ﬁnd themselves. Cheating may be wrong, but what deﬁnes cheating, depends on the situation. Stealing may be wrong, but downloading pirated music or lifting something small is ﬁne, because no one notices or cares. Saving sex for marriage is a good idea, until they are really in love.
It seems like situational ethics has so invaded the psyche of our students that they are convinced they are good people and do not sin. I bet that they could take lie detector tests and pass because their world is so fragmented and post-modern. There are no ﬁrm rules which means that there is no such thing as missing the mark, because there is no longer a mark to hit.
With this world view, sin is a foreign concept. It is like trying to help a ﬁrst grader understand algebra. They don’t even understand basic addition and subtraction. It is mind bending for them to begin to add letters to the mix. But sin is a a foundational concept in a Christian worldview. It is impossible to understand the gospel without also understanding sin, in effects and consequences.
But this post-christian context where situational ethics rules the day should not dishearten us youth workers. We are true missionaries and culture is not the enemy, it is the tool. We have to be students of culture and our context and ﬁnd a place where the gospel story can meet up with some of the cultural stories we ﬁnd ourselves. And like all cultures all over the world, there is always a thin place where these stories will meet, and I think there is a gigantic thin place in the cultural context of our students. While they may have no need of a savior to save them from their sins, every one of my students understands that they are broken and in need of repair.
Our students live in a world where brokenness is the norm. Because there are no rules, there is never ending uncertainty. Their parents are getting divorced, there is no loyalty in friendships, their hearts are crushed in romantic relationships, there is bullying that happens in private, and there are no consequences for any of it. They get that the world isn’t as it should be. They may not be able to articulate it, and they may not get that there is right or wrong, but they do get that this brokenness is awful and hopeless. It is lord of the ﬂies, but the adults never show up.
And it is into this cultural story that we bring the good news of Jesus Christ.
This world our students live in is a dark and broken world. They get that they are broken and that everyone around them is broken. Their brokenness has impacted others, and others have impacted them. It is into this dark and broken world that the light has come. Jesus shows up and brings our brokenness into the light. We are like cancer patients. On the outside we look just ﬁne, but inside we have a deadly disease. Jesus comes and diagnoses the problem. The problem is we are broken.
In our inner being our students understand that this brokenness is not the way life should be. While it is their reality, there is a hidden memory of a life of wholeness. The gospel tells this story in dramatic fashion. God created the world and us and it was very good. Brokenness entered the world through our rebellion and ever since humans have been crushing each other. At the same time God was coming up with a plan to heal this broken world. That plan culminated in Jesus Christ.
Jesus not only shines light and exposes our brokenness, He also provides a way for healing. Most church kids have heard that Jesus died for their sins. But this statement has power when we help them understand that Jesus takes all our sin and brokenness on him when he died on the cross. His conquering of death is a conquering of brokenness. 2 Corinthians 5:21 says, “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
Once we can equate sin with brokenness we can see that this gospel is truly good news. God takes our sin and brokenness on him so that we become his righteousness, we are made whole. And now the gospel is no longer a gospel of sin management, but it is a gospel of sanctiﬁcation, of healing and transformation. Our students need to have hope that there is more than this life of brokenness, I need to have hope that there is ore than this life of brokenness. The good news of Jesus Christ is that Jesus came into the darkness to take our brokenness and exchange them for wholeness, healing, and life!