During my first year serving as a youth minister, I was pleasantly surprised and challenged to find that my students were unafraid to ask the hard questions surrounding their faith. While previous generations may have been content with surface-level responses or outright avoidance of difficult discussions, Gen Z is hungry for nuanced, biblical answers in an increasingly skeptical world.
How to Teach Your Youth Group About the Unreached
While most students won’t bring up the destiny of the unreached, many of them have pondered the fate of those who are not reached with the gospel. In order for our youth ministries to better equip students to be on mission both domestically and internationally, we must be diligent in biblically addressing this pressing question.
Establish The Necessity of the Gospel
Students often ask, “Is Jesus the only way to be saved?” In order for our students to understand the urgency of their role in reaching the unreached, they must first be able to answer this question with conviction. At the heart of this issue is the doctrine of the exclusivity of Christ.
In John 14:6, Jesus famously teaches, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
Throughout Scripture, it is clear that trusting in Jesus’ work on the cross is the only way that someone can come into a right relationship with the Father. To say otherwise would be to contradict Scripture and diminish the significance of Jesus’ atonement.
Many youth ministries are content to state that Jesus is the only way to heaven, but they avoid addressing the urgent implications of this truth, particularly as it pertains to the unreached. Paul provides clarity on this issue in Romans 10:14, asking, “How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?”
Salvation cannot come where the gospel of Christ Jesus has not yet gone.
Paul poses these questions to emphasize the necessity of bringing the good news where it has not yet been proclaimed. Salvation cannot come where the gospel of Christ Jesus has not yet gone. Without teaching this truth to our students with conviction, we cannot expect them to feel any burden for the billions of people worldwide who do not have access to the gospel.
Emphasize the Justice of God
When teaching about the exclusivity of Christ and the necessity of his gospel, it is important that we emphasize the holiness and justice of God. Without Christ, all of humanity stands equally condemned before a holy and just God. The grave effects and consequences of sin admit of no exemption for the unreached.
Without Christ, all of humanity stands equally condemned before a holy and just God.
As Paul details in Romans 1:20, “For [God’s] invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.” Through creation, God has revealed himself to all people, and all are accountable to his perfect standard.
If this were not the case, then people who have yet to hear the gospel would be held to a different standard than those with gospel access. Under these circumstances, the worst thing that we could do as Christians would be to bring the gospel to the unreached, thereby making them accountable God’s standard.
Instead, Scripture teaches that all stand equally condemned apart from Christ. This is not because God has set up the unreached for failure, but because all of humanity has chosen to reject God. This truth can be difficult to swallow, especially for students, but without affirming it confidently, we lose our urgency in proclaiming the good news of God’s love to the unreached.
Educate Them on Their Role
If we are successful in communicating the necessity of proclaiming the gospel to our students, then they will be confronted with a difficult truth that requires action. Billions of people are marching towards an eternity apart from God unless those people are reached by the message of Christ. When students hear this, they may feel overwhelmed or helpless. How can they change this sobering reality?
Youth leaders have a responsibility to explain that students are the very instruments that God has chosen to use in reaching the unreached.
As youth leaders, we have a responsibility to explain that they are the very instruments that God has chosen to use in reaching the unreached. Scripture shows us again and again that God’s heart is for the nations. God’s people are the means by which he reaches the nations.
Encourage Your Students to Take Action
Once your students understand the critical role they play in bringing the gospel where it has never been, we must encourage and empower them to take action. While the unreached may seem distant, our students cannot afford to be bystanders when Christ has called them to “go therefore and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19).
Practically speaking, this means empowering students to live on mission locally, partnering students with sending ministries, and asking our students to wrestle with a potential call to serve as missionaries to the unreached. As John Piper explains, “You have three choices in world missions: be a joyful, sacrificial goer, be a joyful, sacrificial sender, or be disobedient.” These three choices are presented to all believers, regardless of their stage of life.
As we encourage our students to take action for the sake of the unreached, let us do so while reminding them of Jesus’ promise to the disciples at the close of the Great Commission, where he proclaims, “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). Armed with the promises of Christ and supported by the church, perhaps Gen Z could be the generation that God uses to finally reach all people groups.