Young Adults and Jesus

If you were given the opportunity to teach some young adults the teachings of Jesus in ten (or twelve) sessions, what topics would you cover?

As I see things, there are two kinds of approaches: one is to ask Jesus to address the pressing topics of our day. That is, find the major topics – sex, drugs, popularity, materialism, apathy, relations with parents, problems with friends, etc — and then see what Jesus says on those topics.

The other approach is to find major topics in Jesus’ own ministry and ask Jesus to talk to young adults about those topics. In other words, examine the Gospels and see what turns up as significant and central and crucial to all that Jesus said and did.

Often we sacrifice what Jesus was on about because we want to talk about what we are on about. But, why not let Jesus be Jesus? Let’s listen to what Jesus wants to talk about.

So I, along with Syler Thomas and Chris Folmsbee, chose the second approach in our book The Jesus Creed for Students: Loving God, Loving Others. So we began with the Sermon on the Mount, where Jesus’ major teachings are bundled together, and branched out, and we came to the following basic topics:

Here’s an idea I’d like to challenge you to think about.

Evangelism is often considered trying to persuade someone to make a decision for Christ. To make that happen, we do our best to convince that person they are a sinner, and then we show that Jesus is the one who can save people from sins. I don’t doubt we are sinners and that Jesus saves people from their sins. He’s my Savior. But… is that evangelism? Is that what Jesus did?

What if evangelism is telling people about Jesus? I promise you this: this book can tell young adults about Jesus. Here’s a place to start to teach young adults about Jesus.

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  • Amos Paul

    Jesus proclaimed to the Kingdom and demonstrated its reality–generally to those whom the Spirit had already provided some sort of inclination to be interested.

    He then asked people to understand His authority and who He was once he properly demonstrated those things himself in order to make disciples.

    Therefore, I define evangelism as proclaiming the goodness and demonstrating the character/power of Christ’s Kingdom in any and every way possible. I say this only because *telling* people about Jesus is certainly *one* avenue of doing evangelism in general (on my view), though not the only one!

    Of course, when evangelism pulls someone in, Jesus certainly wants them to understand who He is so they can follow their King. We shouldn’t be afraid of talking about our King! But can we not share Him and His Kingdom holisitically in ways far more than words?

    Christ in us. Us in Him.

  • If you were given the opportunity to teach some young adults the teachings of Jesus in ten (or twelve) sessions, what topics would you cover?

    1. Kingdom of God
    2. Radical Living
    3. Friend to Sinners
    4. Forgiveness
    5. Grace/Truth Paradox
    6. Peace/Reconciliation
    7. Sermon on the Mount
    8. Loving God/Loving Neighbor
    10. Great Commission Mandate

    But… is that evangelism? Is that what Jesus did?
    What if evangelism is telling people about Jesus?

    As Jesus demonstrated in His ministry, evangelism involves both showing and sharing God’s love. Showing God’s love tangibly, meeting a need, befriending the lost, and loving them. Sharing God’s love by expounding deep spiritual truths that plant seeds for thought in the hearts and minds of people, possibly transforming people’s lives in a radical way.

  • There’s a big difference today in ministry in how young adults learn, share, and communicate their faith that is very different from how many churches approach evangelism. Once told, young adults seem to be better able to share and show this to others. It comes naturally to them through relationships, and that’s seems to be the model Jesus used most effectively.

  • This book title is so right on! The New Testament (when certain mistranslations are corrected such as “diakos” = justice and not righteousness) is one unified message from cover to cover–love God, love people. This fulfills the spiritual law (Matt. 23:23).

  • Paul Johnston

    He left us a spirit before he left us a book outlining his teachings and exploits. I would ask any young person if they long for something more than life offers them at the present. If the recognize an interior voice suggesting to them that life can and should be more than it is.

    I would suggest to them that this is God calling from within and await their response.

  • Randy Gabrielse

    Amos Paul (#1)

    You hit the nail on the head! We need to present the gospel in more than words! This is what Dr. John M. Perkins and the Christian Community Development Association have been emphasizing for years. Our relationships and actions need to communicate the gospel in flesh and blood ways.

    I have found that a counter-intuitive way of ministering holistically is to listen carefully and discerningly to the needs expressed by those whom we minister to. When we meet those needs and build deep relationships with them it becomes easy to talk about Jesus, because we are already living like Jesus before them.

    Randy Gabrielse

  • I have to admit I haven’t read this particular text (for students tho have read and grown from reading the initial text). I have this sense that maybe just maybe we can teach all day long but until we plant some seeds of understanding it isn’t about me but about us, then a lot of stuff gets viewed from an angle that has a lot of obstacles in it. Its about mutual submission and walking down the road in and as a community and dealing with the issues as they arise from that starting point.

  • DRT

    I was listening to an NPR commentary a couple days ago where they were discussing the ability of people to make the right decision varies depending on the timeframe before the impact of the decision will be felt. They contended that everyone involved in the US budget negotiations is able to make a good decision recognizing that they don’t have to execute the decision for two more years, but they make a poor decision on the one that they have to execute immediately. That is, promises of budget cuts in the future and none now.

    I have wondered about certain forms of Christianity in that same vein (evangelical). Making the decision now to “believe in Jesus” is easy if that is all you have to do to “go to heaven”. You can even recognize that you will have to change in the future, and that too is easy. But to recognize that we will be judged based on the life led and not a single decision is a much more difficult thing to do. But Jesus held out the carrot, not the stick!

    I like what you are saying Scot.

  • DRT

    ..and as I said on the Erasing Hell thread, following Jesus out of fear of hell is not what Jesus taught. Living in the KoG is about losing yourself. Following evangelical fear of hell is purely self interest and anti-christian.

  • Fish

    Someone asked my teen if she were saved, and she replied “I was saved 2000 years ago.”

    She has spent so much time on mission work this summer that I actually yelled at her about getting a real job.

    The only time I have zinged her youth director was when I asked her if God was a man and she said yes. I considered that a fail, big time, and suggested they might want to spend more time on Bible study and less on fun.

  • Scot McKnight

    Fish, dude, what was that about?!

  • I’m sure this is really good. Look forward to getting a copy, and also getting others, especially the younger on to this book.

  • Radu

    What I would do is challenge them to memorize the Sermon on the Mount and the Farewell Discourse. I firmly believe that memorization of longer portions of Scripture would be more profitable than any packaging of the teaching. The illustation that comes to mind is “would you like to listen to Bach’s Well Tempered Clavier in Gould’s / Hewitt’s / Brendell’s interpretation OR would you rather be able to play them yourself”?

  • “Evangelism” is proclaiming “good news.” Another word for that is “Gospel.” More than anything, Jesus is the Good News. His directions to followers (Acts 1:8) is to be “witnesses.” Josh, who leads the young adult training experience SEND, says, “Young people who experience a relationship with Jesus shares how Jesus has impacted their lives by (1) who they are; (2) what they do; and (3) the story of their personal encounter with the King of the Universe.”