And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. Matthew 16:18
We rant and rave about the drugs, depression, social media and violence that are ravaging our youth. And, yes, these are critical issues that must be faced head on and dealt with. We are in a cultural moment where the church is reeling. Pastors morally failing, congregations politically dividing, BLM, CRT, OMG…we are living in crazy times.
And many pastors are whirling, running from one dumpster fire to the next trying to throw a cup of water on each of them. But, as the church, we often forsake “playing offense” when it comes to youth ministry.
It’s not our job to put the fires out. It’s our job to preach the Gospel and to get our congregations doing the same. As Charles Spurgeon once said, “It’s the whole business of the whole church to preach the whole Gospel to the whole world.“
So what’s a pastor to do? What action can a church leader take that will put the fires out once and for all? It’s not just about taking vapes out of their hands or Smartphones out of their rooms.
It has been said, “The best defense is a good offense.”
It’s about calling them to something bigger, something better, something biblical. We must help our teenagers grasp the glorious reality of the Gospel, that salvation is more than a ticket to heaven, it’s a train ride through life that reveals their true identity, belonging, and purpose in Christ.
We must inspire them to be used by God, to be change agents on their campuses, and ambassadors of Christ in their communities. We must treat the teenagers in our churches, not as apathetic narcissists waiting to be entertained, but as missionaries waiting to be unleashed.
Pastors, church leaders, youth leaders: it’s time to play some offense.
Now is the time to mobilize your congregation and your youth group to advance the Gospel. Now is the time to energize your people to share the cure for racism, division, confusion, and delusion.
I saw this play out in my own family growing up. My family and our neighborhood was a violence-drenched mess. My uncles were so violent that the Denver mafia nicknamed them “the crazy brothers.” To add insult to the real possibility of injury our very Welsh and very white family was right in the middle of a largely Latino community. Suffice it to say that our streets and hearts were rife with racism.
But then a hillbilly preacher nicknamed “Yankee” shared the Gospel with my family and one by one the root of evil in the hearts of “the crazy brothers” not only got cut, but replaced with Jesus, who was nicknamed “The True Vine” in John 15:1-8. Soon, racism was replaced with relationships and violence replaced with victory through Christ!
I wrote extensively about this in my book, Unlikely Fighter: The Story of How a Fatherless Street Kid Overcame Violence, Chaos and Confusion to Become a Radical Christ Follower.
This book demonstrates the power of playing offense (sharing the Gospel and mobilizing believers to share the Gospel) over defense. There’s no defensive strategy in the world (prison, rehab, moral education, etc) that could have rescued my family. But the Gospel turned my family from street fighters into street preachers, almost over night.
Prayer and the Gospel are our primary offensive strategies as Christians. We must unleash them to transform society from the inside out.
So how can you stop playing defense and start playing offense right away? Here are three actions you can take:
1. Tackle every issue in light of the truth and mission of the Gospel.
We need to tackle difficult cultural issues from time to time. But, as we do, may we lead our congregations back to the blood stained cross of Jesus and find the solution there. And may we dare not merely EXEGETE the Gospel. May we EXECUTE it’s mission as well. We must mobilize our congregations to reach their spheres of influence with the Gospel.
2. Refuse to get distracted from the last and lasting mandate of Jesus.
The twelve apostles didn’t get distracted from their mission of making disciples. They devoted themselves in Acts 6:4 to “prayer and the ministry of the Word.” The ministry of the Word has a two pronged focus: strengthening the believer and reaching the lost. Refuse to get distracted from the one thing that should drive everything: making and multiplying disciples.
3. Mobilize your young people to lead the way.
Paul told Timothy in 1 Timothy 4:12, “Let no one despise your youth…” Instead, he told young Timothy to lead the way with his life and witness for the entire church.
Remember that Jesus chose primarily teenagers to be His followers. God used a teen named David to defeat a giant, a teen named Esther to save a nation, and a teen named Mary to bring the Savior into the world.
God doesn’t despise youth. He unleashes them.
So should you. Check out the Gospel Advancing page to learn how to equip your teens to lead.
Henry David Thoreau once said, “For every thousand hacking at the leaves of evil, one strikes at the root.” Only the Gospel can strike at the root of evil.
It’s time to strike!
It’s time to play offense!
It’s time to energize the Church to mobilize youth to Gospelize their world.