A few months ago, I was watching an interview with the cast of the very controversial television show, Preachers of LA, who appeared on a late night talk show. I’d been told each speaker competed in what the host called a “Preach-Off,” in which each of them had 30 seconds to give a sermon or message to the crowd and the viewers. Rather than comment on the nature of such a competition, I’d like to talk about what they said. In each sermon, the listener or viewer was left with encouragement:
“God will lift you out of the pain of life.”
“In Christ, who you are, is not what you have done.”
“No matter what mistakes you made, God will never cancel you.”
I completely agree with the previous statements. It’s true; we serve a gracious, powerful God who is ready and willing to accept all who come to Him. But of all six speakers, there was a key point I felt they had missed. Not a single sermon led the listener to salvation.
Have you ever caught yourself thinking that perhaps everyone has heard the Gospel and has heard what you have to say? In a surprisingly large portion of the world, it seems everyone has heard about this “Jesus stuff” and how He died and rose again. And maybe they have—but do they understand? And even further, as Christians, shouldn’t we realize that there is more to it than that? There are very few people that we will meet who already know the Gospel as a whole and these people have usually already had a deeper encounter with the message. So what about these others who have been written off? What about the parts of the Gospel that, perhaps unintentionally, have been deemed unimportant?
As youth, as students, there is an even greater urgency to make the most of every opportunity. It’s a mad world! In politics, culture, media, in everything, we see a world that has begun to stand against truth and what is right. It’s taken a stand even against God, and even worse, has tried to recreate Him and redefine Him. Our youth and students are the only light of an entire generation headed for a collision with fate. Does this sound dark? That’s the world. But where do we stand?
I’m 19 now. I will admit—I didn’t make the most of every opportunity. In fact, I completely wrecked many potential opportunities. I was raised Christian, but it wasn’t until the summer between my freshman and sophomore years that I completely dedicated my life to Christ. Before that, I had done anything possible to ruin my ability as a witness. Not intentionally, but it’s just what happened living the life I lived when I wasn’t home or in church. After my transformation, people could see I was different, but few people were ready to believe I had something they wanted. My effectiveness as a witness had been handicapped. It took me two years to finally break completely out of that. But when I did, all the work I put into it paid off. A friend and I started a Bible study group at school and dedicated ourselves to making the most of every opportunity in study, in class, in hallways, anywhere we went. We had the opportunity in our actual classes to share the Gospel and we saw lives transformed. This didn’t come without prayer and following the leading of the Spirit to be bold and courageous in the face of opportunity.
I say this only as an example of what God can do. I started out with a poor reputation. I rejected opportunity. But I decided to let God take the lead. God shined a light on opportunity. God opened doors. God opened up people’s hearts to accept. God transformed lives. It is only by Him that any of this is possible. And still, He requires us as Christians to have a sense of urgency. No matter where you have come from, God can use anyone who will give themselves to Him wholeheartedly. You will see opportunities, you will see lives changed. You will see God at work in your lives.
This is where we really need to understand the Gospel. This is where we truly must understand our purpose. I want to quickly break down the non-negotiables of the Gospel:
1. While we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). God loves everyone. All sinners. Hates sin, but loves His creation. There is no sin that is stronger than God’s love.
2. God sent His Son to die so that whoever believes in Him can have eternal life with Him (John 3:16). Christ lived a perfect life, blameless. Born of a virgin, He was the only perfect person to ever walk the earth. He was crucified on a cross on our behalf, because of our sins. He then conquered death and rose again. Because of this, we can have eternal life with Him.
3. If anyone is in Christ, they are a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). The old is gone! We were once enslaved to sin; we are now warriors of righteousness. We have separated ourselves from the ways of the world and live a life that is pleasing to God.
4. There is only one way to God (John 14:6). Only through Christ can we come to God. There is no other name by which we are saved. We cannot save ourselves. We cannot make it to God by someone else’s faith. Jesus is the only way. If we are not in Christ and Christ alone, we are still separated from God.
In its most basic form, this is the Gospel. These are non-negotiable truths that must be understood by anyone in the faith. Anyone who comes to God needs to know this. This is what we have been entrusted with. This is the life to which God has called us. It is our duty to present this good news to everyone. Christ died for us so that through Him we can be with God and be separated from sin and death. Still though, this seems easier said than done. I want to offer a challenge.
Students, youth, or any other reader in the faith, this is for you. Any youth pastors or student teachers, you are free to use this with your students as well. I challenge you to come up with a “Gospel Elevator Pitch.”This might sound weird, but hear it through. Study the Gospel. Understand the key points. This can take days, weeks, or even months of studying. I want you to be able to give a Gospel message in under 30 seconds. You can leave out no important details. Understand that you will likely not use this exact “pitch.” More than anything, this is to force you to truly understand the Gospel and to get used to presenting it completely. This forces you to know the whole Gospel and to be able to lead someone to salvation. You may find yourself one day short on time and perhaps use this Gospel Elevator Pitch message, or perhaps on a talk-show, being told you have 30 seconds to speak your heart to the entire world (without censorship). But what this will challenge you to truly understand the values of the Gospel and how to present it.
Youth pastors and ministers, you are not just the pastor of the youth that step into the doors of your church. You are a minister to all youth. You are a minister to the youth of your city. If you want to see a city of youth on fire for God, it starts with you. Are your students equipped and ready to head into the battlefield and lead other students to Christ? Are they being led by The Spirit to make the most of all opportunities? Take nothing for granted. Teach, train, and equip all students and leaders.
Students, the only ones who can make a difference in your school are you. You understand just as much as anyone that everyone in the world today wants to stand up for something, and in a world apart from God, these are usually darker things. You are a light! You have with you the Good News that can change the world. This is the time to break out. Break out of comfort zones and the role the world has given you. This is your time to break out. In all these things, God is with you.