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As a bassist for a worship band that plays for dozens of student ministry events every year, I have heard hundreds of Gospel presentations directed at students. I believe that each of these presentations was genuinely offered for students to come to know Christ, but the language many speakers use about sin could be sharpened to help students understand their need for a Savior. We have reached a point in a culture wherein most Americans have heard Christians speak about sin, and many people, especially students, tend to respond to discussions of sin with a knowing eye roll or a shoulder shrug. Most students we encounter will have some understanding of what sin is, but they will dismiss the conversation out of hand because they either think that they’re not that bad or that sin isn’t real or relevant.
While students often tune out “sin” or discussions that label things as “sin,” they quickly recognize brokenness. After spending time in high school classrooms for the last decade, I can assure you that students can identify brokenness in the world around them, whether that is the pain inflicted on them by parents, the struggles they have because of the actions of classmates, the interpersonal battles they fight with those that would use them, or the difficulty of finding identity in an increasingly listless age. The students we speak with recognize that the world is not as it ought to be.
Brokenness is the result of sin, the sense that things are not what they should be. If we remember back in Genesis 3, God told Adam and Eve that they would experience difficulty with aspects of life like agriculture and childbirth. That’s part of what brokenness is – how the world is affected by sin. We can experience this as a result of personal sin or the sin of others, but in general, brokenness is the visible and tangible result of sin. Students might not want to acknowledge sin, but they always recognize the result of sin.
Think of brokenness as a symptom and sin as the cause. Symptoms let us know that something is wrong. No one wakes up knowing they are sick, but as they experience the effects of
sickness, they begin searching for answers. Sin and brokenness are similar to sickness. Students
feel the brokenness around them and ask, “why?” The world will have all kinds of stories to offer to answer their questions, but we know they will all come up short and empty. The story we find in Scripture of a loving Creator bringing redemption and renewal is the true answer to the question of brokenness.
As believers, we have the chance to explain this brokenness that students feel, and better yet, we have the story to tell of how that brokenness can be made whole! Not only did Jesus come to die for our sins in our place, but He died to end sin’s effect on the world. The book of Revelation explains the creation of a new heaven and new earth wherein Christ will make all things new, including eliminating sin and its effects – brokenness.
In no way am I saying not to discuss and name sin directly. I am suggesting that we
use language and experiences that more directly address the typical students’ thoughts and
questions. Students might shirk any discussion of sin, feeling like the term is outdated or
judgmental. The bigger issue is that many Gen Z’s don’t care because they think of sin as irrelevant to them. But when we discuss brokenness as the result of sin, which Jesus sacrificed Himself to redeem, we can connect students to the Gospel story.
Share your thoughts with others in our YM360 community:
- How do you talk about sin in your ministry? How often do you talk about it?
- Do you think you’d have an easier time trying to explain “brokenness” to your students rather than “sin”? What about “sin” do you think is so off-putting?