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The Biggest Discipleship Myth in Youth Ministry

Picture of Greg Stier
Greg Stier

Sitting Man“My teens just aren’t ready for evangelism yet.”

There is a big discipleship myth that has been bought off by many, if not most, youth leaders I have met. This myth has resulted in, not only a tremendous slow down in the spiritual growth of teenagers in youth groups across the country, but a serious dent to new and young disciples being made and multiplied.

What is this myth?

That teenagers have to wait to actively share their faith until they have achieved a certain level of spiritual maturity.

The thinking is that newly believing teens need more teaching, more training, more Sunday school and more spiritual growth before they are “ready” to share the good news of Jesus. My response to these youth leaders is simply this, “How’s all that teaching and training worked out for the adults in your church? Are they actively sharing their faith as a result of all that teaching?” (insert mic drop.)

New believers in the New Testament hardly ever waited to spread the Good News of Jesus. When Jesus delivered the Gerasene demoniac from being possessed the man “begged that he might be with him….” But instead “Jesus sent him away, saying, ‘Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you’” (Luke 8:38-39). In this passage Jesus actually commands this delivered man to go back and share the message about what God did in his life.

Even when Jesus commanded those he had healed to keep their mouths shut about what he had done for them they couldn’t help themselves (Matthew 9:30-31; Mark 1:43-45; Mark 7:34-37.) They went out and spread the Good News to everyone!

In John 1:41,42 Andrew didn’t hesitate reaching out to his older brother Peter with the message that Jesus was the Messiah, “The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, ‘We have found the Messiah’ (that is, the Christ). And he brought him to Jesus.”

Soon after Phillip reached out to his friend Nathanael. “Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” John 1:45

Right after she believed in Jesus, in John 4:29, the woman at the well went back into town “and said to the people, ‘Come see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Christ?’” As a result, “Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony….” John 4:39

As a matter of fact the only time you really see a group of believers not actively sharing their faith is in John 12:42,43, “Yet at the same time many even among the leaders believed in him. But because of the Pharisees they would not openly acknowledge their faith for fear they would be put out of the synagogue; for they loved human praise more than praise from God.”

Now of course new believers need training and mentoring. Before they can become skilled “fishers of people” (Matthew 4:19) they need to spend enough time with the Master Fisherman, Jesus himself. They need to learn how to grow deep in their faith as they go wide with the gospel. But these new believers can “grow as they go” and learn the basics of the Christian life as they are sharing the basics of the gospel.

I’m convinced that getting teenagers to share their faith accelerates their spiritual growth faster than any discipleship curriculum you could take them through. Why? Because the core call of discipleship is to pick up your cross and follow Jesus! Evangelism, especially relational evangelism, causes teenagers to risk a social death like nothing else!

The very risk of being rejected by the friends they hold dear forces teenagers to trust in God and take the giant step of faith of opening their mouths and making known the mystery of the Gospel. When our teenagers choose to walk in dependence on Christ for strength to share their faith they, like grape branches connected to a vine, will produce much spiritual fruit (John 15:1-8.)

Don’t buy the discipleship myth that your teenagers aren’t ready to share their faith. Instead, make evangelism training central to your discipleship strategy.

For a powerful crash course in equipping your teenagers to share their faith check out Shine, an adventure based series Dare 2 Share produced last summer starring six Christian teenagers in the mountains of Colorado training them to share their faith. This six week evangelism training youth group curriculum will inspire and equip your teenagers how to face their fears, find their motivation, engage their peers, master their message, share their stories and continue their conversations! 

Then unleash your teenagers to actually start sharing the good news with everyone in their social circles. Their spiritual growth will astound you!

Unlikely Fighter

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The story of how a fatherless street kid overcame violence, chaos, and confusion to become a radical Christ follower.

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