Pastor George W. Chapman III’s article, “Church is about physical connections, not social media” (Friday, Sept. 27, 2019) was right on.

In it, Pastor Chapman makes some good observations about the positives and negatives of social media, concluding that it can be used for many good purposes, but shouldn’t be used as a substitute for actual church attendance and participation.

I remember one of my evangelism professors in seminary saying, “If Facebook was a country, it would be the third largest country in the world. How can you guys say you are serious about reaching the world for Christ, if you aren’t willing to engage with people on Facebook?” I signed up for a Facebook account the next day.

As I was reading the article this morning, another thought popped into my head. I thought about how important social media is to younger people. Today’s teens, and many young adults, don’t know a world without Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram or any number of social media platforms that I’ve never heard of, but they surely have. If you are looking for a way to reach young people, engaging them on social media should certainly be near the top of your list.

And that got me to thinking about how else we can reach that generation. Specifically, how do we help teens and young adults become dedicated followers of Christ? Here are a few brief thoughts:

1. Be real.

Young people are good at recognizing fakes, and authenticity matters to them. Being real means a few things. It means speaking up for what you believe in. It means living a life that shows you actually believe in that thing you are speaking up for. And it means (and this one’s important) acknowledging your flaws and imperfections, especially when your actions contradict the belief system you claim to hold. Genuine apologies go a long way with a young person.

2. Don’t blow off things that young people consider important.

You might disagree with them on some of the issues that are important to them, but don’t become dismissive. My teenage son loves Jesus and is also very concerned with the environment. If you blow off global warming or make fun of his desire to recycle, don’t expect him to listen to you on other issues. The same could be said concerning the hot topic of gun control. Our young people don’t know a world without school shootings, and they are well-aware of the inner-city gun violence that continues to ravage our country.

You don’t have to agree with their conclusions about such things, but you better not disregard them, if you want them to hear you on more important matters. Remember — “winning” a political argument while losing the chance to speak truth on spiritual matters to a person is never worth it.

3. Related to the previous thought, be careful when talking about homosexuality and LBGQT issues.

As a Christian, you must cling to God’s view on sexual immorality as spelled out in the Bible, so I’m not telling you to change your stance. I’m just reminding you that the young person you’re trying to reach, if he doesn’t identify as gay him or herself, has friends who are gay and transgender — lots of them. That person might believe homosexuality is a sin or he might not, but he definitely sees homosexuality as much more normal and much less taboo than the previous generation did.

When you speak out against any sin, you must do so lovingly and biblically, but this is especially true concerning sexuality. Be bold but be smart.

4. Make it worth their while. I’m talking specifically about church involvement.

Most teens and young adults will reject a setting that is mainly one person lecturing to everyone else. That is the traditional Sunday morning church model, and that model is unlikely to change, but there are other ways to reach young people. Have open discussion groups. Have one-on-one talks. Have service projects. If all we ever offer is an hour of “sit down and hear this sermon,” we are making it less likely we’ll reach this age group.

We can’t compromise the message, which is salvation through Christ alone. We can’t stop teaching the Bible (if anything, we need to teach it more). We can keep in mind, however, the differences in today’s youth and yesterday’s, and we can find ways to bridge the gap, for the sake of the Gospel. We must.

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Mark Wingfield, pastor of First Baptist Church in Grottoes, is a columnist for The News Virginian. His column is published Sundays.

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