Everything was going well, and it looked promising. A mega-event to share the gospel with youth had attracted many sign-ups, and it looked poised to help achieve a year-long target of mobilising 400 believers to reach 5,000 of their peers with the good news of Christ.
Its organisers, a group of youth and youth workers from Malaysia Youth for Christ, had spent many months planning the event. They had got support from many people, and come up with fun and relevant ways to talk about Jesus.
Then, Malaysia’s first COVID-19 case struck. A week later in March, the authorities issued the Movement Control Order, under which everyone had to stay at home. The event was cancelled.
At first, the youth behind the event were devastated by the news. But as they prayed over it and discussed what to do, they began to see opportunities to continue the work of sharing the gospel with young people. And they would soon discover how God could open windows where doors closed to the gospel of Christ.
They learnt to . . .
1. Spot new opportunities
The lockdowns in many countries, closure of churches, and restrictions on gatherings may prevent believers from sharing the gospel in person. But as Jing Yee, a youth volunteer, discovered, young people now have more time on their hands. With the help of technology, she can connect with people “anywhere and anytime”—and they have more time to listen.
“Staying indoors meant that many day-to-day activities such as going to school or to work were curtailed,” she says. “Suddenly, it seemed as if time and freedom had been given back to us.”
Jiayun, a full-time youth worker, used to find difficulty making appointments with youth who showed an interest in finding out more about Jesus Christ. Some would be busy with their studies, while others would be tied down with other commitments. But now, she says, it has actually got easier. “Many of the non-believers feel that meeting online is more convenient, and they are more willing to meet up with us,” she says.
Learning to see opportunities in crises has enabled many youth workers to seize moments to talk to their friends about Christ. As 1 Peter 3:15 urges us: “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.”
Youth workers and volunteers meeting via Zoom to pray for one another
2. Be creative
While waiting to enter the university, 20-year-old Shin Yi decided to commit three months of her break to serving in Malaysia Youth for Christ.
It seemed like an odd time to do this, given the COVID-19 restrictions. But like many others, Shin Yi soon found a way.
She shares: “We couldn’t meet up with students as we usually do on the streets or in the shopping malls and fast food centres. But we continued to meet up with the Christian students via Zoom to pray for one another, and with the non-believers that we were reaching out to via phone calls.”
Along with other video conferencing tools, Zoom has become the go-to method of reaching youth online.
Youth ministries have also been quick to make full use of technology to reach out. Malaysia Youth for Christ made its follow-up materials available online, and used Google Forms to draw young visitors into sharing their thoughts about the Christian faith.
On receiving queries and comments from students, youth workers would then arrange to meet them online, using the “Share Screen” functions to show them some slides on Christianity and walk through the questions.
Jiayun recalls how a student had come to hear the gospel after they talked on the phone. “We were not able to meet before the movement control because he stayed very far away and was also busy preparing for the exams,” she says. “Now that he has more time, he has been very willing to meet me online to know more about Christ.”
Having an online evangelistic Bible study session with a non-believer
Google Form to invite students to share their answers to Bible verse
3. Stay focused . . . and leave the result to God
All the youth workers stress that whatever technology we use to connect with people, the ultimate aim must be to share and to care.
This is important as the convenience and creativity of online meetings can sometimes distract believers from the actual gospel work and have them exploring the latest, coolest ways to connect and impress, for example. The rush to make up for “lost time” can also send some down the path of meeting numerical targets, or make them so focused on the task that they miss out on the people at the other end of the broadband line.
Shin Yi says: “I have learned that while our aim is to share the gospel with the students, I must be earnest and passionate in caring and seeking to know and understand the students. Then I can share the gospel with them in a relevant and personal way.”
She also adds a critical point: whether it is Zoom, Google Hangouts, Skype, Facebook, WhatsApp or a simple phone call, the only thing that can truly turn a young person to Christ is the presence and prompting of the Holy Spirit.
“Salvation ultimately belongs to the Lord,” she says. “I must leave the result to Him.”
The need remains urgent today: to reach the lost with the good news of Christ. Will you join us in praying for the youth in Singapore and Malaysia to come to a saving knowledge of Christ? You can pray along with us here.