"I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth." Revelation 3;15,16
In this passage Jesus is telling the church of Laodicea that they need to turn the temperature up when it comes to their passion for him. What was true of the Laodicean believers when it came to their love for Jesus is true of the typical youth group when it comes to their passion for the gospel. Most need to turn up the heat.
But how do you do that? After decades of working with youth groups across the nation I've identified three ways to turn up the heat when it comes to the gospel!
1. Take your temperature.
We're always getting our temperatures taken these days (thanks to the pandemic!) Whoever invested in touchless thermometers a year ago must be thrilled with their profit margins today. Why? Because a high fever is one of the first signs you may have COVID!
A high gospel temperature is also one of the first signs of revival in a youth group. When teenagers are on fire for the gospel the heat of transformation just radiates across a youth room in amazing ways.
But how do you take your temperature? Is there a magical gospel thermometer you can use?
Nope! You'll have to self-assess where you are at. So here are the three heat indexes I've identified to help you see where your youth group is at on the gospel thermometer:
- Gospel Cold
A youth group that is Gospel Cold is theologically, philosophically and/or programmatically pre-disposed against evangelism. Theologically they may believe that either all go to heaven or that, since God sovereignly chooses only some to be saved, evangelism is a waste of time. Philosophically they may embrace the fallacy that evangelism is the job of the evangelist or that teenagers are too young to share the gospel. Even if they believe in the urgency of evangelism and are convinced that teenagers can do it, some youth groups are pre-disposed programmatically against evangelism. They leave little-to-no opportunity for the unreached to be reached. The gospel is rarely, if ever, given during youth group meetings and teenagers aren't expected to share their faith. Sadly, there are far more Gospel Cold youth groups than you would imagine.
- Gospel Warm
This kind of youth group sees the need for evangelism and is seeking to build an invitational culture where teenagers can bring their friends to hear the gospel. In this brand of youth group, teenagers aren't expected to share their faith but are strongly encouraged to invite their yet-to-be-reached friends. The gospel is given weekly, monthly or quarterly but teenagers aren't generally inspired or equipped to share the gospel personally. That is left to the "professional" (the youth leader or the guest speaker.) While this type of youth group is far more effective than Gospel Cold ones, they usually fail to grow exponentially because they are dependent on addition versus multiplication.
- Gospel Hot
Gospel Hot youth groups are theologically, philosophically and programmatically aligned for evangelism. These youth groups usually have a culture that is both invitational and intentional. Teens are encouraged to invite friends to youth group as well as being intentional about sharing Jesus themselves. In these types of youth groups the adult and student leaders model what it looks like to be both invitational and intentional when it comes to relational evangelism. But teenagers themselves take responsibility to not only share the gospel with their peers, but to disciple the ones who respond. This means that the youth leader has a primary role of a "coach" ("Let me train you to make disciples") vs. a "quarterback" ("Bring your friends out and let me throw the gospel touchdown.") Gospel Hot youth groups are thriving youth groups. Spiritual and numerical growth, often exponential, is the result of being Gospel Hot.
Based on these descriptions is your youth group Gospel Cold, Warm or Hot? Choose one. You probably already know.
2. Take the right next step.
What is that right next step for you and your youth group to crank up the heat? If you're Gospel Cold then maybe the right next step is that of confession and commitment. Confess your lack of gospel heat to God (1 John 1:9) then re-commit yourself to the process of turning up the heat (1 Corinthians 2:2.)
If your youth group is Gospel Warm then maybe the right next step is trying to figure out ways to begin mobilizing your teenagers to start advancing the gospel personally. Consider downloading a free version of my book, Gospelize Your Youth Ministry, which will help you move from a quarterback to a coach and equip you with the 7 values from the book of Acts to move from Gospel Warm to Hot!
If your group is Gospel Hot then pray through ways of getting even hotter! Until we are at a Book-of-Acts-level of heat, our job is not done.
3. Ask God to turn up the thermostat in your heart.
There's an old writer's quote that goes, "No tears in the eyes of the writer, no tears in the eyes of the reader." In other words, if the author is not emotionally moved by his/her own material then the reader won't be either.
What's true of writing is true of leading. If your love for Jesus and corresponding passion to reach the lost is not palpable to your teenagers then they won't catch fire...because there's no fire to catch.
In Luke 6:40 Jesus told his disciples, "The student is not above the teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like their teacher."
The disciples caught on fire for the gospel because Jesus was on fire for the gospel. They were so close to him they couldn't help but ignite with holy flames of gospel heat.
So it starts with you.
Ask God to turn up the thermostat in your heart and then do what it takes to crank it up in your teenagers. Pray, inspire, equip, deploy, repeat. Don't stop until your youth group is a raging inferno of gospel heat. Don't stop until every teen everywhere in your community hears the gospel from a friend.
Consider bringing your teenagers out to Dare 2 Share LIVE coming up soon. It will help you crank up the gospel heat in ways you never could imagine.