My 2017 Teaching Goals: Gospel-Purpose for Teenagers

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In the world we live in today the church needs a gospel-centered approach to every area of life among the upcoming generation. Dr. Carl F. H. Henry once said, “Teenagers by the droves ask whether life holds any real prospect for them or whether they belong to the apocalyptic generation.” Although a bit vague, this statement has become somewhat of a motto for me in youth ministry. Teenagers want to know if their lives will matter.

One of my deepest convictions is to see a generation of youth empowered by the gospel and live radical lives for Jesus Christ.

I want them to have purpose. And not just any purpose, but a gospel-purpose.

I trust that there are other youth workers with the same conviction. Therefore, it is important that we plan our teaching schedules accordingly. I plan to highlight three major series’ in our youth ministry this year, for the purpose of strengthening a gospel-purpose.

(1) Killjoys: The Seven Deadly Sins
Our teaching year begins with a series entitled, “Killjoys: The Seven Deadly Sins.” For eight weeks, we will take a deeper look into some of humanity’s biggest sin problems and sever them at their root with the gospel of Jesus Christ. This series draws heavily from a Desiring God book by the same name, edited by Marshall Segal (I highly recommend!). This series takes a thematic approach and visits various passages related to each sin.

Segal writes in the opening of his book, “Our hearts were designed to enjoy a full and forever happiness, not the pitiful temporary pleasures for which we’re too prone to settle. Pride, envy, anger, sloth, greed, gluttony, and lust are woefully inadequate substitutes for the wonder, beauty, and affection of God. They will rob you, not ravish you. They will numb you, not heal you. They will slaughter you, not save you.” My hope is not to simply call sin out for what it is – how it rears its head in the lives of teens – but also to preach the saving power of the gospel through Jesus Christ, for our ultimate joy in God.

Why would I start the year with such a series? It’s simple. Teenagers must believe the “bad news” before can understand the Good News. I have found that many of my students do not have an accurate understanding of how ugly and real our sin truly is; therefore, they have a shallow view of the grace God has for us in Jesus.

My prayer is that the Holy Spirit would use such a series for a better understanding of the monster that sin is, and the beauty of God’s grace to cover it.

(2) The Anti-Clique Gospel: A study through the book of Philemon
Next, we will engage in a series entitled, “The Anti-Clique Gospel,” using the book of Philemon. I admit that my first reason for looking at Philemon was because of its brevity. Who doesn’t like a short book? However, upon closer study, I began to see its relevance today (especially among teenagers).

High school students know about social cliques, they love being in one, and dream of someday making it to the popular clique. A simple definition of clique might help: A small group of people who spend time together and who are not friendly towards others who are not in the group. Talk about youth culture – closed circles and wolf packs!

Yet the Apostle Paul’s purpose in the book of Philemon was to teach and encourage Philemon and his church to view other believers in different light. Onesimus was once Philemon’s slave, but now the two are both believers. Paul tears down the slave-master relationship with a simple phrase in verse 17: “So if you consider me your partner, receive him as you would receive me.”

Paul wants his audience to understand that the gospel flips, changes, and molds all relationships. In other words, Paul was telling Philemon to view Onesimus, once a slave, now as a brother in Christ, because they both have been saved by the same gospel.

The gospel itself is an anti-clique proclamation. It dismantles our assumptions, our prejudices of others, and our sinful desire to create a simple and comfortable group of friends with impassable walls.

(3) The Spreading Flame: A study through the book of Acts
In this final major series, we will take the first 12 chapters of the book of Acts and trace the spreading flame of the gospel from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8). The first 12 chapters are essentially the story of Peter, and the igniting of the church movement.

My hope in this series is to not only show our students the fire that so quickly spread across the Mediterranean, but to ignite the same flame in them for gospel proclamation. Peter’s famous sermon in Acts 4:11-12 is a clear example, “This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

The early church was unashamed of the gospel. By preaching Christ alone, the early church declared that He was “The Way, the Truth, and the Life” (Jn. 14:6).

In recent months, I have become more aware of how little faith people actually have in the gospel. My ultimate purpose this year is to demonstrate before my doubtful, weak, and afraid students that the gospel truly does save. I want them to say with the apostle Paul in Romans 1:16, “I am unashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.” When God’s young servants faithfully proclaimed the gospel from person to person, the kindling of its message of love and salvation exploded into a spreading flame and a worldwide movement. The same is true for our young people today.

All in all, I am excited for the opportunity to teach the gospel from the scriptures this upcoming year. May this be a valuable resource of ideas, and encouragement in your own ministry!

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