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The EITHER/OR Dichotomy
Is LIFESTYLE or VERBAL Evangelism More Effective When Reaching Out to Postmoderns?
An article from Jonathan McKee at TheSource4YM.com
12/7/2004


Greg Stier recently interviewed The Source's Jonathan McKee about his new book from Youth Specialties, Do They Run When They See You Coming. We thought you'd enjoy hearing an excerpt from their dialogue as they talked about the "balance" between "Lifestyle" and "Verbal" Evangelism, specifically in reaching out to Postmoderns.

Greg Stier and Jonathan McKee have a similar passion ... reaching out to Postmoderns. Both are speakers, authors and contemporary voices bringing a relevant message to an "unchurched" generation.

NOTE: This is just an excerpt from the interview - CLICK HERE for the entire interview.

Greg: ... One of the things I find with youth leaders is that, when it comes to evangelism, they are either too quiet, or too loud. They either are too quiet-they think that kids should just see it in your lives and run up and ask you. Or they're too loud-they have a bullhorn kind of Christianity that takes a tract and crams it down your throat. I don't think either extreme works when it comes to reaching Postmoderns. You really provide a Biblical, balanced, relevant approach in your book.

Jonathan: That was my goal. And I think that's why we titled it Do They Run When They See You Coming? because I myself struggled with that. Where is the balance? I mean, do they see me coming with my tract and my canned presentation? You see, I think sharing the Gospel is a lot more than just "presentations." Today kids, more than anyone, can spot a fake. They've got words for fakes. You're a "poser" if you ain't the real deal. You're "frontin'" if you're putting up a false front but are different inside. This generation of Postmoderns know that actions speak louder than words. Yet, so many people out there are looking to convert, looking for an opportunity to give a "presentation," when their lifestyle isn't communicating that.

Greg: I think in our approach to Postmoderns, sometimes there is a tendency to have an "either/or" dichotomy. Either you "lifestyle" or you "verbalize." And personally, I don't think that's a Biblical approach. That's why I like your book. You've got a good balance of understanding that the powers in the message will transform but the authentication of that message is in the messenger.

You know, Howie Hendrix was once asked by a seminary student on a plane trip, "Which is more important: lifestyle or verbal evangelism?" Howie Hendrix replied, "Well, which wing on this plane is more important?" They're both equally important: The message of the Gospel delivered through a messenger whose authentically seeking to live that message as consistently as possible. And when that happens, I think you get someone who lives it loud and whose not ashamed to bring it up and turn conversations naturally toward Jesus. Not so much going through a presentation as much as explaining the good news of the Gospel and how they're being infected and affected by it.

Jonathan: I can't agree more about "either/or." I spent an entire chapter talking about that phenomenon. Some people have an aggressive approach. This is the approach where people are selling Jesus. It even has the presumptive close: "Would you like to attend the 8:00 or 9:30 service with me this Sunday?" This sends people running. Yet, others have a passive approach. They just sit around and wait for people to come up to them and talk to them. And when it comes down to it ... these people never share the Gospel with anyone.

Greg: That's where your book was very refreshing. A lot of books are "either/or." But your book talked about and gave practical examples of both. "Live it and give it." And in that order. This doesn't repel people from us.

Jonathan: I think the thing that surprises me is how often the aggressive approach is taught ... or slapped on t-shirts. We didn't see Jesus using this approach. Jesus, who didn't have a watered down Gospel by any means-ask the rich young ruler that, was all about helping others with no strings attached. He would see hungry crowds and just say, "Let's feed 'em." He saw the sick and blind and just healed 'em. He saw a slimy tax collector and he said, "I'm going to go eat dinner with this guy!" You didn't see him using back door approaches to try to share the Gospel. So I think it's funny how sometimes in ministry we are so focused by "the tract" or "preaching at people." I just didn't see Jesus ever forcing it.

Greg: But at the same time, He didn't hesitate to share. That's another reason I enjoyed your book so much. It's one of the few books about "lifestyle" that also focuses on sharing the Gospel. You have an entire chapter on "door opening questions." You have another chapter ab out sharing the Gospel story to this generation. And the refreshing thing about this Postmoderngeneration is how spiritual they are. You talk about this in one of your beginning chapters. You don't have to try to bring up spiritual things. This is the most spiritual generation around. I find that the "unchurched" are fascinated by the spiritual. I mean, you go to Barnes and Noble, Borders-there are spiritual books everywhere.

You know-you hear so many people in the church talking about Harry Potter. You know, I think Harry Potter might have done the church a favor in the sense that he creates spiritual conversations. Lord of the Rings, all these films. It's different than 10 years ago where it was a struggle to bring up spiritual things. Now, it just happens. It just happens naturally. And I think it's going to be those who are living their message authentically with a simple story to share that impact this generation for Christ.

Jonathan: I love how you talk about this in your Dare2Share events. You talk about living authentic lives and sharing their story. They learn to live it, and give it. And you do it in the context of a fun weekend event with all the right elements: a band they want to hear, powerful teaching, funny videos, and a taste of getting their hands dirty and serving others. I know your upcoming conferences are going to be life-changing.

Greg: Thanks. I'm looking forward to them. And we'll have your book available at all of them-a great tool to get into the hands of students and youth workers who want to reach out to the "unchurched."

CLICK HERE FOR JONATHAN'S NEW BOOK,
"DO THEY RUN WHEN THEY SEE YOU COMING?"


Jonathan McKee Jonathan McKee is the author of over twenty books including the brand new If I Had a Parenting Do Over, 52 Ways to Connect with Your Smartphone Obsessed Kid; Sex Matters; The Amazon Best Seller - The Guy's Guide to God, Girls and the Phone in Your Pocket; and youth ministry books like Ministry By Teenagers; Connect; and the 10-Minute Talks series. He has over 20 years youth ministry experience and speaks to parents and leaders worldwide, all while providing free resources for youth workers and parents on his websites, TheSource4YM.com and TheSource4Parents.com. You can follow Jonathan on his blog, getting a regular dose of youth culture and parenting help. Jonathan, his wife Lori, and their three kids live in California.


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