In a South African village called Namakgale, the church youth were gathering for a weekend rally. One of the goals of the rally was to evangelize the community around the local church. Their one strategy was called “open airs,” which is when one bold young person preaches on the street corner to those who pass by. The other youth would stand by and observe their bold friend and pray for him or her to have the words to say.
Now I’m not saying this kind of evangelism is wrong. It can be effective. However, I’ve realized that often we just keep doing the things our “forefathers” did. It may have been effective then, but the community around us is changing. The message remains the same but the methods that used to work may no longer do so.
The heart to reach the lost was there, but were the youth being effective? Like youth of any culture, many of them just stood on the sideline talking to their friends. Why were they not talking to the lost people that passed by? Many youth were just glad they were not that one bold youth who had to preach on the side of the street that day. They didn’t know what kind of words they would use to lead someone to faith. Sadly, that day, most of the “lost people” were not interested in what the one bold youth was saying. The only crowd he really had was the youth from the rally.
The next day’s focus was also evangelism. I asked if we might try a different method and train the youth in evangelism before going out of the church. Without a lot of time, I shared with the youth how to share their faith and why it was important. I encouraged them to break up in smaller groups of two or three and go door to door throughout the community.
As I went out that day, my group found ourselves at a home directly across from the church. We met a 17 year old girl named Khavisa and her one-month-old baby, Ethan. She shared with us her challenges and we were able to lead her in a prayer to receive Christ. The next day, a Sunday, she came to church with her baby and other family members. Even though she accepted Jesus, Khavisa’s challenges did not end.
A month after Khavisa received Christ, her little sister died of AIDS. Then just a few months later, her baby Ethan also died. Receiving Jesus doesn’t make everything instantly “perfect” and Khavisa was still walking through difficult circumstances. But, thankfully, she now had the hope of Jesus to give her peace in those storms. What would have happened to her if we had not gone door-to-door to share our faith?
Since that weekend in Namakgale, I have written a curriculum for our National Youth Department called Train the Trainer (training others to train others in youth ministry). One of the levels of training is now on evangelism. It teaches youth the purpose of evangelism, different ways to evangelize, and the importance of relying on the Holy Spirit when sharing your faith. Now our youth are equipped and more effective in leading the lost, like Khavisa, to Jesus Christ.