18 or 81?
Two years ago at Lifest, I had the privilege of working alongside Luis Palau, one of the greatest evangelists of all time. He shared the gospel at our Sunday morning worship service in front of 23,000 people, where two thousand hands were raised to receive Christ. When he came off the stage, I was celebrating what God had done through this man and simply said, “Thank you! What an awesome job!”
“Bob,” he said. “I have something for you to pray about. Would you be part of calling America’s church back to evangelism?”
Those few words changed me. God spoke through him that day, not just to the thousands in the audience, but directly to my heart. I’ve always had a heart for evangelism, but I have now taken this commission to not just evangelize people and bring them back to a relationship with God, but to call and challenge the church to reach back out to their community and world, to seek and save those who are lost. That’s the heart of Jesus, and it should be the heart of everyone who calls themselves a follower of Christ. I was reminded that day, that it’s not just the evangelist’s job to share the love of Christ with others; I needed to challenge others to do the same.
Since that warm July in 2010, I’ve been more determined than ever to live out that calling. I’m reminded of a Methodist church I spoke at last summer in North Carolina. There were two services. The first was a contemporary service that was held in the fellowship area of their church, with great worship music and a message. Then they also asked me to speak for their traditional service. So, I walked across the building to their old sanctuary, where I saw the choir in front with their robes, which I love, by the way!
As I scanned the congregation, it appeared the average age was around 65. To be honest, being a guy who spends 95% of his time speaking to youth, I was a little nervous of how the reception would be. Then I started talking about the need to reach youth before the age of 18 and how 9 out of 10 Christians never lead another person to Christ. I challenged them to reignite their passion for the lost.
I never expected what was about to happen. I got a standing ovation! Afterwards, a beautiful elderly woman came up to our information table where she saw that we had our 18 shirts available. She said, “I want to buy one of those.” She didn’t seem like the t-shirt type, especially seeing her all decked out in her Sunday best. I figured she probably wanted one for her grandson. But that wasn’t the case. “If you turn it around that’s how old I am,” she said. “I’m 81. I might be 81 on the outside, but I’m still 18 on the inside.”
It made me ask the question, “Are we a youth ministry, or an evangelistic ministry?”
I believe we are first called as an organization to be an evangelistic ministry. It’s who we are. It’s what we’re called to. It’s our core competency. Not only do we work with young people because we want to address the unique challenges they face and convince them they’re valuable, but we work with youth because 2 out of 3 people who respond to an evangelistic message will do so before they turn 18. Young people are the most ready for harvest, so that is why we are most focused on sharing the love of God with them. The bottom line is that we’re an evangelistic ministry that calls people into a relationship with Jesus Christ and calls the church back to evangelism so that they, too, can reap a harvest.
We recently met with a couple in Milwaukee, WI who came to Lifest for the first time 11 years ago. The reason they came was so that their kids would get more connected to what they called “religion.” They were going through some challenges with their kids at the time and thought that perhaps the wholesome music offered at Lifest would be a good influence. They came because of their kids, but when they heard the message that I gave geared towards youth, talking about what a real relationship with Christ means, it struck a chord with the parents.
As we shared with each other in our meeting, the mom told me, “There I sat at 43, and I realized that I had religion, but I didn’t have a relationship with Jesus Christ. I gave my life to Christ right there.” I remember tears streaming down her face. “I came there for my kids, and I found Christ,” she said. “You don’t know the difference you’ve made in my life and in my family’s life.
Their family has now come for 11 years in a row, making it their annual summer vacation. It’s their kid’s highlight of the summer. And because of it, their whole family has a relationship with Christ.
So I want you to know that, yes, we aim at reaching people who are under 18 because that’s where the most fertile soil is. But just as that elderly woman who said she felt like 18 on the inside, we are all called to follow Jesus and his teaching… “Unless you become like little children, you shall not enter the kingdom of God.” (Matthew 18:3)
This couple has personally seen the power of Christ in their own lives, and has been impacted by Life Promotions for eternity. They believe in our mission of evangelism so much that they signed up for the 18 campaign, becoming a vital part of the ministry with their $100 gift each month. It’s their way of saying “We know it changes lives. It changed ours. We have to get this message out to every person possible!”
I want to take this opportunity once again to say thank you to all of you who have caught the vision and have supported Life Promotions through your prayers and financial support. We’re in this together.
For the Kingdom,
Founder & President
Life Promotions, Inc.
UPCOMING LIFE PROMOTIONS EVENTS
Visit www.newsboys.com to see if the God’s Not Dead tour is coming to your area!
May 3, 2012 – The “God’s Not Dead” Tour with Bob Lenz & the Newsboys comes to Wisconsin!
Christ the Rock Church | Menasha, WI | Tickets available at www.lifepromotions.com (Click on EVENTS)
July 11-15 – Lifest
Featuring Casting Crowns, Switchfoot, Newsboys, Steven Curtis Chapman, Tenth Avenue North and more than 100 others.
Sunnyview Expo Center | Oshkosh, WI | Tickets available at www.lifest.com