This is the fourth of a 5-part series where I will examine and evaluate each of the five reasons listed.
4. This generation is looking for meaning and Biblical evangelism provides it.
The goal of Biblical evangelism is to engage the lost, not enrage them. It is the process of sharing the good news, asking questions, listening deeply and making “a case for Christ” with humility and love. This is what the Apostle Paul was getting at when he wrote to his young protege’ in 2 Timothy 2:24-26, “And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.” In a way Paul was seeking to rebrand evangelism even in his day. He reminded Timothy that it wasn’t about winning an argument but wooing a soul to Christ.
Young people today are hungry for purpose and meaning in their lives. They’ve grown up in a culture that has told them that they are the chance product of evolution, a meaningless natural force devoid of purpose. According to research by the Pew Research Center, 18% of Americans under the age of 30 describe their faith as “nothing in particular.” They are looking for meaning in their lives, but not finding it. Many jump from one “cause” or religion to another, and develop a mismatched set of beliefs acquired from many sources. The philosophy of relativism has taught them that all beliefs are equally valid; therefore, none are actually true.
This worldview clashes with what the Bible tells us. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John14:6). The truth of the Gospel message, in part, is that the meaning and purpose for life that was lost at the Fall can only be restored through Jesus Christ. Young people today value meaningful relationships. No relationship can be more meaningful than a relationship with Jesus Christ.
Too often, when Christians try to share the Gospel with a lost person, it turns into an argument. The Christian argues that the Bible is the truth; the lost person argues it is not. While apologetic arguments are often valuable in answering the questions people have, at other times, they can become a hindrance. Many times, the lost need to experience the love and grace of Jesus Christ through their relationships with Christians, not hear another argument. This has been a difficult concept for me to grasp, since I came to faith in Jesus Christ as a result of apologetic arguments. However, the culture and worldview of young people has radically changed since I was saved in 1979. There is far more emphasis today on experiences than on logical reasoning. As a result, the apologetic arguments that worked well in evangelizing the baby boomer generation are less effective in trying to reach Millennials.
Consider how Jesus evangelized. In John 4:4-26, Jesus meets a Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well. Rather than giving a rational presentation of the Gospel message, Jesus starts by building a relationship with her, despite the cultural taboos against such a relationship. Only after showing the woman grace and love does he explain grace and love to her. Many young people today are much like this woman. They need to see the change a relationship with Jesus Christ can have in the life of the Christian before they are able to hear the Gospel message.
Evangelism based on the fiery preaching of Peter in Acts 2, and the rational arguments of Paul in Acts 17, worked well in previous generations; the relational method used by Jesus is usually more effective today. Unfortunately, many Christians have been slow to change their methods for evangelism to meet the changing culture. This does not mean we change the message; only the delivery should change. Nor does it mean we abandon the old methods completely, but rather, that we adapt them to more effectively reach the lost of the current generation. It also means that we need to look ahead to the next generation that will arise, and adapt more quickly to methods that will enable us to effectively reach them as well.
The rebranding of evangelism in part means adapting how the timeless truth of the Gospel is communicated in order to win the souls of the lost of this and future generations.