We need to emphasize conversion among young people in our churches

July 29, 2014

Following up on two recent posts—this one and this one—I link to this excellent article on the challenge we face in youth ministry. This author says we are missing the point if we fail to emphasize conversion among our youth more than our youth being “good kids” who are active in church. We may hope that there’s a positive correlation between those two things, but conversion doesn’t happen by accident. The mere fact that so many kids drop out of church when they go to college indicates that it often doesn’t happen at all.

To put it as bluntly as possible, our kids—even kids who are active in our church youth groups—need to be saved.

We need to stop talking about “good kids.” We need to stop being pleased with attendance at youth group and fun retreats. We need to start getting on our knees and praying that the Holy Spirit will do miraculous saving work in the hearts of our students as the Word of God speaks to them. In short, we need to get back to a focus on conversion. How many of us are preaching to “unconverted evangelicals”? Youth pastors, we need to preach, teach, and talk—all the while praying fervently for the miraculous work of regeneration to occur in the hearts and souls of our students by the power of the Holy Spirit! When that happens—when the “old goes” and the “new comes”—it will not be iffy. We will not be dealing with a group of “nominal Christians.” We will be ready to teach, disciple, and equip a generation of future church leaders—“new creations”!—who are hungry to know and speak God’s Word. It is converted students who go on to love Jesus and serve the church.

Of course, the only thing worse that “preaching to ‘unconverted evangelicals'” is preaching to unconverted Mainline Protestants!

It grates against our church culture to emphasize conversion. Again, this is why I take issue with a moderate evangelical like Scot McKnight telling his moderate-to-progressive evangelical readership that they’re wrong to emphasize “personal salvation.” I’ve seen the alternative up close, and it’s not working!

We Mainlines offer confirmation, which I strongly support. In theory, confirmation should lead to conversion in many cases. But we should offer confirmation while still emphasizing the necessity of conversion.

The problem is that conversion, unlike confirmation, isn’t something that we do; it’s something that the Holy Spirit does. But it’s something for which we the church and we parents have some important responsibilities, as the author points out.

Are we taking these responsibilities seriously enough?

One Response to “We need to emphasize conversion among young people in our churches”

  1. Gary Bebop Says:

    Evangelicals who preach conversion believe something “really happens” when the Holy Spirit acts upon and within us in a personal way; that’s such a contrast to the cool cerebral approach which drives out expectation of a real God-meeting. Wesley wasn’t content until his heart was engaged, but today we substitute. It’s all very predictable and banal.


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