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How should Christians react to the latest school shooting?

Late yesterday afternoon I heard the tragic news about the school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. It broke my heart to hear that seventeen teenagers and adults were heartlessly slaughtered in this horrific attack.

"Not again" has become my mantra every time I hear about the latest school shooting (eight school shootings so far in 2018.) And, of all the times for a shooting like this to take place, it happened on the same day when Valentines Day and Ash Wednesday collide.

April 20th, 1999 was the day my world was forever changed. That's when the Columbine High School massacre occured just across town from where I live. My wife is a public school teacher in the same school district and I knew a lot teens who went to Columbine. The news rattled me to my core, especially as, in the days that followed, I talked to and prayed with teenagers who had been impacted by the shooting as they gathered in the park adjacent to Columbine High School to mourn.

This tragic school shooting, now almost 19 years ago,  led me to resign from pastoring a church that I loved to pursue Dare 2 Share full-time. I knew that, if I was going to be part of the solution, I had to go all in to mobilize teenagers to reach teenagers with the hope of Jesus. 

And right now in Parkland, Florida there are thousands of teenagers who desperately need that hope. They need the hope of Jesus, the God/man who suffered like no person in human history and grieved like no one else could imagine. He is the only one who can genuinely feel their pain on the deepest level and bring comfort to their souls through his own shed blood on the cross.

So how should we as Christians react to the school shooting that happened in Florida yesterday? What can we do?

We mourn. There is a time to mourn, and this is it. We mourn for these teenagers. We mourn for their parents. We mourn for this school and the surviving teenagers and teachers who forever will be traumatized by these terrible events.

It is indeed strange that this shooting took place on Ash Wednesday. Yesterday was the beginning of Lent, a season where the church is petinent over sin for the 40 days leading up to Easter. Perhaps we should be petinent over our failure to reach out to the schools in our own areas...to pray for them, to care for them and to share the good news of Jesus with them. 

We pray. We pray for God to act on behalf of this school in South Florida, its teachers, administrators, children and parents. We ask for him to comfort them in their grief. We also pray for the elementary, middle schools and high schools in our own community. We pray for their safety and salvation. Why not adopt your local high school to pray for on a consistent basis? Go to everyschool.com to adopt your school right now.

We support our local schools. It is time for churches to stop demonizing public schools and start reaching out to them. Let’s provide adults to support teachers, to help them grade papers, read with children and be available to serve. It may not prevent school shootings, but the more adults there are in a school, the better the chance that kids can be protected or taken to a safe place in an emergency situation. 

Finally, we reach out. This nation needs the gospel now more than ever. We need to reach everyone with the hope of Jesus Christ.

Who knows how much violence has been averted because a potential killer or school shooter was led to Christ and had their soul transformed by the power of God. I know that, in my own family, the extreme violence that once characterized many of my family members was replaced with the love of God when someone reached them with the gospel message.

We must get the gospel out. We must reach teenagers and their teachers. We must reach our neighbors and co-workers. We must reach friends and strangers. Because only the gospel can transform hate into love and a potential shooter into a follower of Jesus.

On October 13th, 2018 we are hosting Dare 2 Share Live. Our goal is to mobilize 25,000 teenagers in 100 different cities from coast to coast to impact their cities and peers for Jesus. Our prayer is to equip them to share the Good News of Jesus with their friends and classmates and train them to make a difference at their schools. Eventually we'd love to be in hundreds of cities across the United States and mobilize hundreds of thousands of teenagers to be ambassadors of the hope of Christ at their schools.

It's time to take action. It's time to reach this next generation. It's a matter of life and death.

Published on by Cassie Littel.

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How to reach a billion teens with the Gospel

There are about one billion young people in the world today between the ages 12-19. That's a lot of teenagers! How can all of them be reached with the Gospel? I'm convinced there is a way.

Before I dive into the plan, I want to define what I mean by the word "reached." I mean every teenager having the opportunity to hear, understand and respond to the Gospel as shared by a friend. 

First of all they must hear it. For them to be reached the message of the Gospel must be clearly communicated with words. It can't be communicated through osmosis or caught like a cold. Words are necessary.

Secondly, it must be understood. This implies conversation. In some cultures this communication process will take longer than others. But whatever the culture the core message of Christianity must be understood.

Thirdly, it must be responded to. Those hearing it must have an opportunity to say "yes" to Jesus. Perhaps they'll say "no" or "I'm not quite ready" but they need to be given the opportunity of saying "Yes, I'm ready to put my faith in Jesus right now!"

To reach one billion teenagers by giving them the chance to hear, understand and respond to the Gospel may seem like a daunting task but I believe that it can be done. Here's how...

1.  The Church must be energized.

There are approximately 5 million churches worldwide. In the next 10 years some project the growth to 10 million global churches. The infrastructure to reach these teenagers is already in place. And, if you count the many youth-focused, Gospel Advancing para-church organizations around the world, you begin to realize that the opportunity to reach every teen everywhere is, with God's help, doable.

Local churches around the world can be energized through a call to prayer, evangelism and disciple multiplication. They must be encouraged and equipped to do what it takes to reach as many people as possible as effectively as possible as soon as possible.

To help with this Dare 2 Share has developed a website that helps churches, youth ministries and para-church organizations apply the 7 values of a Gospel Advancing, Disciple multiplying ministry: Gospeladvancing.com. Go there, take the diagnostic and see how you rate when it comes to having a fully energized/Gospelized ministry.

2.  The youth must be mobilized.

Every Great Awakening in the history of the United States has had teenagers on the leading edge. Why wouldn't the Church seize the youthful excitment and activist edge of teenagers and point them toward the fulfillment of the greatest cause ever...making and multiplying disicples!

Those who overlook teenagers as a potential powerhouse when it comes to advancing the Gospel do so to their own shame. Jesus chose mostly teenagers to be his followers. If Jesus saw the potential of teenagers then maybe we should too.

Young people have launched movements, won wars, triggered revolutions and overthrown tyrants. Young people can be a part of launching a global revival as well!

3.  Their world must be Gospelized.

Teenagers come to Christ quicker and spread the Gospel faster than adults. They can utilize their social media channels to spread the Gospel to their feeds and their friends. 

The average teenager has over 400 online and face-to-face friends. If they can learn how to engage (not enrage) their peers in a Gospel conversation then God can use them to impact their world with the Good News.

Published on by Cassie Littel.

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5 Surprisingly Simple Reasons Your Church May Not Be Growing

As a former church planter, current traveling evangelist and lifelong student of church growth strategies, I'm convinced that there are 5 big reasons many churches never experience the right kind of growth.

I use the phrase "right kind of growth" because church growth that benefits from sucking other church members out of smaller congregations in the area is not ideal. Sure, it does and will happen, but the optimal brand of church growth happens when new disciples are being made and multiplied by the members of that church.

Having preached in tons of churches across the nation and having personally interviewed hundreds of pastors and thousands of youth pastors I'm convinced there are at least 5 big reasons why your church may not be experiencing significant growth.

1.  Your church is not united in prayer.

"I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all people. This has now been witnessed to at the proper time. And for this purpose I was appointed a herald and an apostle—I am telling the truth, I am not lying—and a true and faithful teacher of the Gentiles. Therefore I want the men everywhere to pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or disputing." 1 Timothy 2:1-8

When Paul wrote Timothy about building effective churches, he reminded him that priority number one must be prayer. Paul knew that when a church was united in prayer, it will be united for action. As the old saying goes, "Much prayer, much power. Little prayer, little power. No prayer, no power."

Far too many churches today fail to experience growth through evangelism because they fail to experience God through prayer. The day before his death Jesus himself reminded his disciples in John 15:5, "I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing."

Jesus' promise to us is that if we stay connected to him through prayerful dependence we "will bear much fruit." So if you want your church to grow then start praying and get your people praying too! 

2.  Your church is not fully "gospelized."

Do you give the gospel every Sunday? Have you trained your people to share the Good News of Jesus in a clear and compelling way? Are your church services, Sunday school classes and small group meetings drenched in stories about new disciples being made and multiplied?

If your answer to these questions is "no", then your church is not fully gospelized. 

To be gospelized means that your people are drenched in Gospel Fluency. They know the gospel message because they hear it week in and week out. If someone put a microphone to their lips and asked them to present the gospel clearly they could because you have helped them master it through relentless repetition. Like Charles Spurgeon, your sermons are always making "a beeline for the cross." No matter what preaching on the gospel is your endgame.

If your church is gospelized, it's because you have adopted the strategy of the Apostle Paul when it comes to church growth and revitalization, "For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified" 1 Corinthians 2:2.

For more help in gospelizing your church or youth group, go to gospeladvancing.comand take the self-assesment (diagnostic).

3.  Your church leaders are not modeling Gospel Advancing, disciple multiplying lives.

In Luke 6:40 Jesus said, "The student is not above the teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like their teacher."

Ouch!

If the pastors, leaders, elders, deacons, small group leaders, youth leaders and Sunday school teachers in your church are not actively sharing their faith, then they won't be challenging those under their lead to share their faith. 

People replicate what they see modeled. Far too many church leaders don't model evangelism well so this crucial DNA strand of the church is never replicated in the congregation.

I challenge you to get your entire leadership team to read the Dare 2 Share Field Guide. Take them through it and wrestle through some of the questions at the end of each chapter. Although it's designed for teenagers, it's basic enough that even a ministry leader can understand it ;) 

It will give you and your leaders the Biblical framework for evangelism as well as the practical "take off to touch down" gospel sharing skills they need to carry on a gospel conversation in a clear and compelling way. 

But once they are trained to share their faith, it will be up to you to keep the gospel central to your leadership meetings. It will be up to you to hold them accountable to share the gospel story consistently and compassionately. 

Because the more your leaders evangelize, the more your people will. 

4.  Your church services are lame.

Far too often churches don't grow because the music stinks or the preaching is subpar or the nursery is messy or the programs are disorganized.

We must be willing to speak (and hear) the truth about these things if our churches are going to grow. Our church services must be organized. Our sermons must be compelling. Our buildings must be clean. Our programs must be tight.

And don't give me the lame excuse about not having enough budget. For the last 25 years, I have been training teenagers to share their faith through full weekend Dare 2 Share conferences. We've not always had the budget to do everything we've wanted to so that we could produce high quality events. But, what we've lacked in budget, we've made up for in prayer, creativity and hard work.

It doesn't take a big budget to have inviting services and tight programs but it does take a big effort. You and your team must be willing to make that effort!

5.  Your church's "lampstand" has been taken.

"Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place." Revelation 2:5

This is when the power and presence of Jesus has evacuated the building. The people are cold, the warfare is hot and the momentum has stopped.

To prevent this from taking place in your church, Jesus gave three "calls to action" in Revelation 2: He challenges the Ephesian believers to remember, repent and return. 

Remember your original gospel fire. Repent (literally, "change your mindset") about how and why you're doing ministry. And then return to doing what you did (or should have been doing) when you first got into ministry. In other words, start gospelizing again!

Through Jesus, it's not too late. It's never too late! 

My prayer is that this article motivates you to take action and build a church that is growing both deep and wide! Through Christ it can be done!

Published on by Cassie Littel.

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Why the Gospel is our only Hope for Reaching an Increasingly anti-Christian Culture

We are living in a culture with a growing distaste for traditional Christianity. Those who claim the name of Jesus are often mentally hashtagged by non-Christians (especially younger ones) as #Homophobic, #OutOfTouch and #NarrowMinded. 

According to the ground-breaking (and now somewhat classic) book UnChristian: What a New Generation Thinks about Christianity and Why It Matters by David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons, 40% of those between the ages of 16-29 consider themselves outsiders to the Christian faith. That's up from 27%!

The rejection of the historic Christian faith among young people is skyrocketing. If the current trajectory continues, this nation will continue to morph into, not only a non-Christian nation (which some would say it already is), but possibly an anti-Christian nation.

For a country that was birthed in a quest for religious freedom and whose free-wheeling independent Christian leaders pioneered the launching of hundreds of thousands of churches across the world this statistic is a reality punch to our spiritual solar plexus. How can we "save" this nation if we are losing our young people at such a rapid rate?

The short answer is that we can't. Our best moral, cultural and political reformation efforts are bandaids on brain tumors. Our only hope is the brand of spiritual transformation which comes from the gospel. This narrows the churches options to the elemental essentials of intercession, compassion and the gospelization of our communities.

Evangelism is the touchpoint where stereotypes can be transformed or reinforced. So, if we learn to evangelistically engage this culture in a loving, wise and compelling way, the power of the gospel can do it's wonders in ways we've never imagined. 

This is why I love Romans 1:16 so much. It simply states, "For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile." From this short verse, three realities emerge to encourage us in this increasingly anti-Christian culture:

1.  The gospel is shockingly powerful.

"It is the power of God...." 

The Greek word for "power" in this verse is "dunamis." It means explosive. It is where we get our English word for dynamite. The gospel explodes in the hearts of those who believe it's message. It shatters sin and scatters it farther than the east is from the west. 

When we share the Good News we are pulling the pin on the gospel grenade. And, because it has inherent power, there will be results. 

We must believe that this message is more relevant now than ever. It's more relevant than politics. It's more effective than the culture wars. It's more powerful than anything else when it comes to really changing the nature of things. Why? Because only the gospel can heal what sin has broken! Only the Good News of Jesus can counteract the bad news in the deepest part of our souls.

Just a few days ago, Bill Perry, Chief of Staff for InterFACE Ministries, told me, "Guilt makes you feel bad for what you've done and shame makes you feel bad for who you are. The Gospel is the answer to both."

In a culture that is longing for healing, wholeness and purpose the gospel is the only genuine solution. When we share this explosive message with humility, charity and clarity it is shockingly powerful.

2.  The gospel is shockingly simple.

"...for the salvation of everyone who believes..." 

The gospel's power cloaks itself in a veil of simplicity. It sounds too good to be true but instead it's too good AND it's true!

We believe it (the gospel) and we receive it (salvation.) That's it. There are no pre-conditions. There is no small print. 

Now some would say that this is "easy believism" (as opposed to what "hard believism"?) But in a way there's nothing "easy" about it. We are trusting someone we've never met (Jesus) to take us to a place we've never been (heaven) based on an event we never saw (his crucifixion) and proven by a miracle we never witnessed (the resurrection!)

It's so easy a child could do it. It's so "hard" a religious person could choke on it! 

When we present the gospel clearly and offer the gift of salvation to all who simply believe in Jesus we will be bringing a breath of fresh air to the performance driven culture most of our young people live in today. Once they breathe God's grace in they'll get their friends to do the same.

3.  The gospel is shockingly inclusive.

"...first to the Jew, then to the Gentile."

The gospel was offered first to the Jews and then opened up to the Gentiles. This may not seem like that big of a deal to us today but it should. 2,000 years ago, the relationship between Jew and Gentile was a hate-fest. The Jews viewed themselves as God's chosen people and the Gentiles as "dogs." And Gentiles, generally speaking, hated Jews. They viewed them as the weird monotheistic group of religious people who thought they were a cut above everyone else. 

But the gospel obliterated this dividing wall between Jew and Gentile (Ephesians 2:14) and made them one in Christ! And it's not just Jew and Gentile who can be united in Jesus. According to Galatians 3:28, "There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus."

From racial tensions to economic injustices to issues of gender, the gospel can bring unity on the deepest level. The gospel brings transformaton out of deformation, unity out of division and wholeness out of brokenness.

In light of Romans 1:16, what is our role? It's simply to be shockingly bold. Let's declare with the Apostle Paul "I am not ashamed of the Gospel" and then demonstrate it by living bold Gospel advancing, disciple multiplying, God honoring lives.

It's all about the shock and awe of the gospel. The shock of the gospel is in it's power, simplicity and inclusivity. The awe of the gospel is when that message is shared with our lives and lips in front of a watching world.

Published on by Cassie Littel.

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