Saturday, August 8, 2009

How to Share Your Faith with a Postmodern Young Person

In earlier decades most families went to church on Sunday morning. They may not have always lived out their faith during the week, but at least on Sunday they tried to act “Christian.” Because so many people went to church back then, they had a general knowledge of God. That general knowledge of God made it easy for evangelical Christians to talk to non-Christians about the things of God. As our nation has moved farther and farther from our Christian heritage, fewer people now attend church on a regular basis. While there are many societal impacts that flow out of a lower church attendance, one of them is that fewer people are fluent in what the Bible actually says. It has become more complicated to share our faith with our friends because our friends often don’t know enough about the Bible to follow our conversation intelligently. Many of the “old methods” have lost their effectiveness. We must discover new methods of sharing the timeless story of Jesus with our friends.

This is especially true for young people who are growing up in an increasingly postmodern world. For those who might not be familiar with the term “postmodern,” it basically refers to a way of thinking that says that each person decides for themselves what “truth” is and no one can “judge” another person’s version of the truth. Evangelical Christians know that there is a real TRUTH out there, and His name is Jesus! Christians face the challenge of trying to show people who do not believe in any objective truth that there are things that are actually true regardless of whether people believe in them or not.

This is why a number of popular witnessing plans from the past are less effective than they once were. Many of the past witnessing methods rely on learning a pre-written script and memorizing the verses that go along with that script. Most of these plans assume that the individual being witnessed to has a general belief in God, a general belief in heaven and/or hell, and accepts the Bible as being true. Few postmodern young people accept any of those assumptions. Witnessing to postmodern young people is complicated, but it can be successful.

When witnessing to postmodern young people, keep these points in mind:

1. See witnessing as a process. You may only be able to share small portions of the Gospel at any one time. It may take several witnessing encounters with a friend for you to present the entire Gospel. Learn to be patient and let God guide this process. Your job is to share what you believe; it is God’s job to call a person to repentance and faith in His Son Jesus Christ. If you keep sharing seeds of the Gospel, your sharing will eventually culminate in an opportunity to ask the person to make a decision. It is going to take a lot of work to get to that moment, but it will be worth it.

2. Use a version of the Bible that people can actually understand. We all have our favorite versions. But the goal is for us to communicate truth to the other person. Today’s young people have a very low understanding of the Bible and using a version they cannot understand only complicates the situation even more. Understand that even though they may not accept the Bible as true, there is power in the Word. But it takes time for that Word to sink into their hearts. Sometimes it is better to share only one or two verses than to share a large number of verses. This is because if they do not accept the Bible as truth, then simply giving a non-Christian additional verses is not going to convince them either. Share a verse or two and then let those verses sink into the person’s heart for a few days. Then continue the conversation.

3. Learn to ask open ended questions of the person you are sharing your faith with. Open ended questions are ones that cannot be answered with a “yes” or a “no.” Open ended questions invite discussion. When we ask questions that have a “yes” or “no” answer, we tend to lapse into our “presentation” mode, which is often perceived as non-authentic by our friends. When we fall into “presentation” mode, we tend to answer questions they are friends not asking and miss the questions they really want to ask.

4. Be prepared to admit that you don’t know all the answers. The person to whom you are witnessing may ask complex questions. These will often be based on a negative experience they have had or some evil they have seen in the world around them. You may not know the answer. There may not be an answer. It is better to admit that you are still looking for answers to those questions yourself, but that you are trusting Christ to show you those answers as you grow in your faith. As a matter of fact, sharing that you trust Christ even when you DON’T know the answer is a powerful testimony of your faith.

5. Share how you came to understand the truth of Christ in your own life. Share how Christ has changed your life. Share a story of how your faith in Christ helped you overcome a significant challenge or difficulty. Use one powerful Bible verse that helped you in your time of need so that they can see how the Bible impacts your daily life.

6. Realize that the results of our witnessing will depend on the Holy Spirit. Sometimes we push too hard because we think we are the one responsible for the other person’s soul. We are responsible for sharing the Gospel, not for the results. We need to do our job and let God do His!

12 comments:

  1. Great understanding that I'm sure has come from many opportunities and study. I'm a trainer by trade (retired, somewhat) and see many of the parallels between the "old methods" and canned sales pitches. Today's youth are immume to sales pitches or should I say numb to them.

    Keep up His work!

    Bill Hinds

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  2. Point number four is one that most people need to hear.
    When you dont know the answer dont try to make something up that sounds good.
    Be honest and let God do the rest.

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  3. This article on witnessing is wonderful. It is obvious that the conclusions you have derived, have not come from hypothetical reasoning, but actual time in the field with the people you and others are trying to reach. I especially appreciated the section on relying on the Holy Spirit to open the people to the truth. I have found that from external pressures (looking good to others, statistics, need for self gratification) and the desire to see a response, it is easy to by-pass the most foundational key in witnessing, the work of the Spirit. I have realized what my responsibilities in witnessing are, obedience and availability. As I have done my part, God is able and willing to do His par,t in His time. Thanks for confirming some things that I have observed along with others, as we strive to reach the post modern culture around us.

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  4. Terry, well said. As someone who has been sharing my faith almost 40 years, I can affirm that this is much different and as you said, much more difficult than a few years ago. I thank God for men like you with a heart for this younger generation who have learned how to relate and share that with those of us who want to relate. May God's good hand continue on you as you reach this generation with the gospel.

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  5. I like this!

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  6. I have watched you in action and you do exactly what you wrote about above. And the 25 non-churched teens that you have led to Christ in the past two years are evidence that it works!

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  7. I am still trying to figure out how a church that is less than 5 years old that started with three families at your kitchen table and has never had anything other than a bivocational pastor can be such a massive power house of evangelism for teens. And I'm still trying to figure out how you have time to be a bivocational pastor AND the administrator for your denomination for the state of Vermont. How is all this happening???

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  8. Obviously it MUST be God not me!

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  9. I'm going to USE # 5 with very liberal friends on FB. Our son's ill health is the vehicle thru which God opens the door, gives me at least a listening ear from them. Now I need to quote a verse. Thanks so much. You hit the nail on the head in every category. CARING FOR and LOVING the person is #1. I find that challenging in my finite thinking. Yes, it's work and more time in the Word and prayer for them. God does it.
    Thanks for addressing each challenge of the postmodern.

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  10. This article has also been posted at:
    http://www.sandycreekba.com/templates/System/details.asp?id=20835&PID=349188

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  11. Looking for practical ways to put some of the principles in this blog post into action? Purchase my book, Developing Leadership Teams in the Bivocational Church. The first part of the book explains why bivocational ministry is biblical, normal and missional. The second part of the book explains how to mobilize the laity to do high level ministry in a team setting with the pastor so that the church can be effective in reaching its community for Christ.
    The book is published by Crossbooks and you can buy the book directly from them at:

    http://www.crossbooks.com/BookStore/BookStoreBookDetails.aspx?bookid=58188

    The book is also available on Amazon.com, Barnes and Nobles.com and a many other online bookstores.
    If you live in Central Vermont, you can purchase a copy at the Faith Community Church in Barre, VT.

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