I’ve been reading through the Gospels with a few of our students and staff and have noticed an incredible truth about Jesus. There’s TONS of times throughout His life on earth that He laid down a specific truth or command for those He was speaking to and Scripture would follow this teaching with something like, “As a result of this, many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore.” (John 6:66)
These people thought that what Jesus was asking was TOO much, TOO hard, TOO challenging. Ultimately, these disciples who proclaimed, “Yep Jesus I’m in!” heard what it would take and changed their mind. And Scripture says, they walked away from Christ.
I’m convinced that, far too often, the reason people don’t grow in faith, don’t follow Christ, and aren’t devoted to ministry is because the challenge we put out there for people is UNDERwhelming. It doesn’t meet the standard of our great God! It isn’t biblical at all. It breaks my heart to think that it’s because of our soft explanations of Scriptures or our cowardly approaches to ministry that people don’t follow the Lord.
The invitation we give people must be challenging. It must be God-sized. We can’t give people anything less than the dangerous, mind-blowing truths of God. Too often, I give in to small-mindedness and I’ve gotten to where I can’t stand it. When we’re planning ways to reach teenagers for Christ in our church, our Youth Staff and student leaders will CONSTANTLY tell me, “This is either gonna blow up in our faces or TONS of students are going to follow Christ!” And in that scary moment, I just continue to think, “Are we called to present the Gospel in any other way??”
It’s not that people DON’T follow God because it’s too hard, but I tend to agree with several of my youth pastor friends who say that students are simply BORED with our challenges. Why are they bored? Because we’re giving them a plastic Gospel. It’s cheap. It doesn’t demand their lives. In fact, it hardly demands anything. The ministries we give them is just filling time. It’s a surface solution…it doesn’t go deep. It’s like eating cotton candy…there’s just nothing to it.
We get lost in Pharisaical additions to the Gospel, do’s and don’ts that are opinions rather than what Scripture gives us. Let’s stop the preaching, teaching, and mentoring that is led by, “I’m just scared that they’ll leave,” and let’s stop accepting ministry positions that are described to you as, “Just keep the young people busy!” If that’s the invitation to students – just to stay busy – as soon as they graduate from your ministry, they’ll leave Jesus just like they did in the John 6 passage mentioned above and Jesus will be asking you the same question: “You don’t want to go away too, do you?” (John 6:67)
Be bold in your explanation of the Gospel. Tell people what the Lord demands of us. Help them to dream about the amazing challenge that God gives us and help everyone around you to RISE to the occasion in reaching the ends of the earth with the greatest message of grace known to mankind! There is no greater invitation than to know God and make Him known.