Georgia Baptists are kicking off an initiative to reach the next generation in the years ahead. Keith Fordham has had good success in reaching youth in his revival meetings. The Christian Index asked this Georgia Baptist evangelist to write a commentary on the importance of reaching today’s children and youth.
Jesus said, “I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing” (Jn. 15:5).
I answered the call to preach during the Jesus Movement in 1968. Youth revivals, youth musicals, preaching in high schools during class hours in the gymnasium, and giving public invitations were the norm. These events were concurrent with scheduled weekly visitation efforts that included the youth as part of visitation teams. Finding youth out on recreational fields playing ball and telling them about Jesus was routine.
During a normal church revival, you had a youth night and a night featuring a men’s wild game supper. Often, the revivals attracted students by inviting well-known athletes who gave stirring testimonies.
Often during those revival emphases on the Saturdays before the meeting ever started, the youth would visit a couple of hundred homes and invite people to the revival. Every prospect on the Sunday school roll and not on the church roll was also visited on those Saturday mornings after attending a one-hour witnessing clinic. Such preparation would typically result in young people walking the aisle on Sunday morning. In college, I saw 70 saved and 40 baptized at one revival meeting before I went back to school Sunday night.
By the time I graduated from seminary in 1974, you could not preach in high schools. So, I learned ventriloquism and got back into schools with an anti-drug message and a special feature on how to study and choose a college routine. This allowed the students from the schools to invite friends to the revival more effectively. And, there was always pizza for the youth.
The ventriloquist dummies have always been instrumental in bringing youth to the revival meetings. But, you must remember that the Gospel message featuring the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ and his forgiveness of sin is the “Divine Dynamite” that reaches today’s youth. And we have discovered the more forceful the message, the greater the response.
In our message we have urged students to make commitments stressing that “Jesus in me” means no drugs, no alcohol, and no pre-marital sex. We also urge students to marry an on–fire Christian if God wills them to marry.
To prove the point, God sent me to Friendship Baptist Church in Grand Bay, AL Nov. 5. Because of the timing of the services, I did not use the dummies.
I preached the two morning worship services. The youth sat in the front and center of the worship center during the morning service. There were some in the balcony as well. Students, including basketball and football players, were back in the front and center at a 5:00 meeting we had, but the number of students even increased at the 6 p.m. service.
The church in Grand Bay has a bus ministry for children. This requires the church to knock on the doors of hundreds of homes week after week.
Satan has fooled so many churches and ministers into believing you cannot reach today’s students with Gospel preaching. Some youth pastors say the youth turn out on Wednesday but will not come back on Sunday. Some are so discouraged by the lies of Satan that they do not even ask them to come to church on Sunday. Some churches have given up on having a student choir on Sunday night.
My challenge to today’s Church is to start a weekly visitation of youth. Quit listening to the devil’s lies that youth are different today and cannot be reached. Today’s students need Jesus just as much as those of the past.
I believe students are the easiest group to reach in America. They turn out in droves to hear people like Greg Laurie, Louie Giglio, and Andy Stanley preach.
At Friendship Church, Pastor Teddy Turrentine introduced me by saying, “Brother Keith we did not invite you here to listen to us sing. We want to hear you preach.”
That day eight people made professions of faith and four more came for baptism who had been saved, but never been baptized. The majority were students.
The Bible says, “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (Jas. 4:7).
Resist the devil with an all-out effort every week to reach today’s youth.