Intro: They may be called the next generation, but they’re the church of today. Reach, disciple and mobilize students to share the hope of the Gospel. This is Next Gen on Mission with Shane Pruitt.
Shane Pruitt: Hi friends. Shane Pruitt here on the Next Gen On Mission podcast, and today we have Clayton King with us. Clayton King is the teaching pastor at NewSpring Church in South Carolina and founder of Crossroads Summer Camps and Crossroads Missions. Been in 50 countries, has written 17 books and is married to his best friend and they have two teenage sons that they adore. Clayton also can talk backwards and has killed three bears. What’s up my friend? How are you doing Clayton?
Clayton King: I’m good, Shane. How are you buddy?
Shane Pruitt: Hey man, three bears. Did you do that bare handed?
Clayton King: I did. Yeah, I did it bare handed. One hand held the barrel of the gun and the other hand pulled the trigger.
Shane Pruitt: Oh, there you go, man. And talk backwards. Give me a real brief example of that.
Clayton King: Well, give me something to say and I’ll recite it back to you backwards.
Shane Pruitt: All right. My name is Clayton King, and I love Jesus.
Clayton King: Speaking backwards
Shane Pruitt: Wow man, that’s impressive, man. That’s impressive.
Clayton King: Yeah, I don’t know how I do it. I personally think that people who can talk backwards are geniuses. But there’s no scientific proof to that, it’s just my theory.
Shane Pruitt: And you happen to be able to do it.
Clayton King: Yeah I learnt how to do it in the fifth grade. We had a contest to see who could do the weirdest thing at recess one day and all of a sudden I realized, wow I know how to talk backwards, and I’ve been doing it ever since.
Shane Pruitt: It’s impressive, man. Almost as impressive as killing three bears with your bare hand. Yeah, awesome dude.
Clayton King: I’m actually looking at … one of the bear rugs is hanging on my wall right now. I hope that’s not offensive to any guests. I just feel like a bear is ahead of me on the food chain, so they have a fighting chance. You know what I’m saying?
Shane Pruitt: Yeah, no doubt. Hey man. Well the topic we’re going to talk about today, Clayton, is gospel invitations and the next generation. So as we jump into that, just briefly share with the listeners about what we need to know about the next generation and Clayton, I ask that question to everyone on this podcast and I love to hear all the different answers. So what do we need to know, big picture, briefly, about the next generation?
Clayton King: Okay, so I love big picture. I’m a bottom line kind of guy. Two things I would say about the next generation. I have two teenage sons, just had lunch with one of them and I also have been in youth ministry for 33 years. Here are the two big things. Number one, this generation is no different than any generation that’s ever come before it. And number two, this generation is completely different than every generation that’s ever come before it.
Clayton King: I think if you’re going to do effective ministry to the next gen, you’ve got to keep those two things in mind, because in one sense nothing has changed with the human condition. People were still created in the image of God, born as image bearers, broken, fallen in their sin. They’re wired for connection. They need human interaction. They need to know that God loves them. They need to repent of their sins. They need to be saved.
Clayton King: Those things haven’t changed, but at the same time, this generation, they’re digital natives. They grew up with iPads and iPhones. They grew up watching screens. They don’t talk on the telephone. They don’t like to watch TV shows on the actual television. They know everything about everything and sometimes very little about anything because their attention spans oftentimes are so short. So I think that we have to be able to be in the words of Jesus, if I could borrow his imagery, “Wise as serpents, harmless as doves.” Understanding that the same message still applies to this generation, but our methods has to be a mixture of old and new, cutting edge and classic.
Shane Pruitt: Man, that’s such a great word Clayton, and you’re so right. My 13 year old daughter, she does not watch TV, but she watches YouTube constantly and it’s so weird to me. She will watch videos of other teenagers playing video games. It blows my mind.
Shane Pruitt: I remember whenever I was a teenager, my dad would be like, “Hey, get off that super Nintendo and go outside.” Now I tell her, “Hey, get off a YouTube watching other people play video games and play your own video games.”
Clayton King: Yeah. That sounds insane. Yeah, my kids will sit on the couch with me and my wife while we’re watching a TV show and they’ll watch YouTube videos sitting beside us on the couch while we were watching TV.
Shane Pruitt: Yeah, no doubt. And so, hey Clayton, speaking of that, things that have never changed, things that are changing. Let’s talk about gospel invitations, altar calls, response times, etc. whatever you want to call them. For the pastors, student pastors, next gen leaders that are listening and maybe they’re theologically wrestling with doing response times or altar calls, what wisdom would you give them?
Clayton King: Well, Shane, I’m so glad when you first asked me to talk about this topic, literally my heart rate went up because this is my zone. This is where I live. Here’s the wisdom I would give. Give invitations, invite people to give their lives to Jesus, specifically this generation of students. There are a couple of reasons, I’m going to try to be real brief with this, that people don’t give invitations.
Clayton King: I’m talking about student pastors, even senior pastors and even the itinerant speakers. You know, I was in the itinerant world and I still live in that world, even though I’m a pastor now as well. There are really several reasons why people shy away from invitations. Number one, they’ve never seen it done well. They’ve seen invitations that were manipulative or shallow. They’ve seen invitations that were meaningless or generic, and that kind of turns people off.
Clayton King: Another reason that people don’t give invitations is because they have a theological reason why they don’t. And hey, we can have that conversation in a healthy way because maybe their own tribe believes, well why give an invitation if God’s just going to save whoever God’s going to save.
Clayton King: I think the third reason why some people don’t give invitations is because they’ve never seen it done well and they’ve never been trained how to do it biblically. So I would say take those three reasons and if we could just compartmentalize them, maybe slide those to the side and let’s look at a proper, good, biblical, healthy way to invite the next gen to begin a relationship with Jesus. We don’t throw out the baby with the bath water. Recently I received a speeding ticket, my fault, haven’t had one in years.
Clayton King: I’m not going to stop driving my truck because I made a mistake and got a speeding ticket. I drove, I broke the law, I got in trouble. Well, now I’m going to correct that behavior. I look at invitations that way. Just because some people have done them incorrectly or because you’ve never seen one done properly or biblically doesn’t mean that you throw out the theology of inviting students to repent of their sins and come to faith in Christ.
Clayton King: I think the most important element though of this issue is that we are actually proclaiming the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ in a compelling and winsome and interesting way that is true to scripture and true to who Jesus was. If we preach the gospel and we talk about our brokenness and our sin, our need for repentance, the command from scripture that we believe in our heart, that God raised Jesus from the dead and confess with our mouth that Jesus is Lord.
Clayton King: And then we give them the opportunity to actually ask Jesus to take control of their life. We need to trust the sovereignty of God. Whether you’re a Calvinist or not, we can trust that the sovereignty of God is bigger than our understanding of it. And if we properly proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ, we have to trust that the Holy Spirit is going to draw people.
Clayton King: I always go back to the story of the Ethiopian eunuch. When he was, by God’s grace, brought into close contact with Philip, the evangelist. He’s reading the Scripture, the Spirit of God is calling him to salvation, and what does he say to Philip? When Philip says, “Do you understand what you’re reading?” The Ethiopian says, “How can I understand unless someone explains to me?” And that’s the job of the youth pastor, the student leader, the senior pastor, the evangelist.
Clayton King: We get the great ability, the great honor, to explain the gospel, but the gospel has not been properly or completely explained until we’ve explained how to believe it, and how to receive it. That’s where the invitation comes in. And so I am a big advocate. I put all my cards on the table. If we’re teaching and preaching the gospel, we need to be telling people how to actually get saved and be born again. It’s not rocket science. We just have to trust that the gospel does the work. The gospel is the power of God for salvation and we leave the results up to God.
Shane Pruitt: Man, such a great word, Clayton. So in that line, in light of the next generation, do you think the next generation, do they still respond to invitations? And in that, what invitations have you seen working really well with the next generation?
Clayton King: Well, I can tell you without question, they’re still responding. Just two weeks ago, I spoke in Macon, Georgia at the Georgia Baptist, what we used to call YEC, Youth Evangelism Conference. It’s called the MOVE conference. This is just two weeks ago and we saw, I believe it was over 600 students publicly respond to the gospel.
Shane Pruitt: Amazing.
Clayton King: That is, these are teenagers.
Shane Pruitt: Incredible.
Clayton King: They stood to their feet, eyes open, lights on, everyone looking, and they gave their lives to Jesus. Now I’ll tell you, I think there’s more than one way to skin this cat, to borrow an old phrase. So I think so much of how a person extends the invitation is a result of their personality and their spiritual giftings.
Clayton King: There’s more than one size. It’s not a one size fits all approach. I will say though, in my experience with a handful of guys I know, that are still proclaiming the gospel boldly and giving public invitations for people to repent of sin and be saved, what I’m seeing in this generation is that the more bold the proclamation of the gospel and the more bold and clear the invitation, the more students respond to it.
Clayton King: This generation … they’re not easily fooled. I hate to use the phrase, seeker sensitive because that’s so 25 years ago and it comes with baggage. But the approach to proclaiming the gospel to teenagers doesn’t have to be as soft as I think some of us were trained in seminary and Bible college and undergrad.
Clayton King: I think the more bold we are, the more we talk about the hope of the gospel, the love that God the father has for us in his son, Jesus Christ, drawn by the Holy Spirit, and clear, bold invitations that call for an answer and a response right here, right now, that’s working. And everywhere I’m going, it’s working. We’re going to have 2,200 students this weekend at our Crossroads Conference in Gatlinburg and I’m going to give a bold invitation on Saturday morning and I believe we’re going to see hundreds of kids respond.
Clayton King: One thing I think that is a roadblock for some folks, they’re scared that students won’t know what they’re getting into. And I have a response to that. I have several responses. First of all, did you know what you were getting into when you got saved? I sure didn’t.
Shane Pruitt: No …
Clayton King: I knew enough to know I didn’t want to go to hell, and I wanted Jesus to be my friend and my master. I still don’t have a clue what God has in store for me. The bible actually says, “Our minds cannot conceive of the things that God has prepared for those that love him.” So let’s not use that as an excuse to not give bold invitations. No student knows everything they’re getting into when they give their life to Jesus.
Clayton King: The second thing is a lot of folks will say, “Well what happens to them after they get saved?” That’s where the local church, the local body of Christ, gets the great joy and the great responsibility of partnering with the Holy Spirit to build mechanisms and systems and processes and procedures. At NewSpring, what we call is just family.
Clayton King: We have a church family, where when someone comes to Christ, whether they are 12 or 90 years old, they’re going to be involved in, invite into a family, a seat at the table where they’re going to have spiritual brothers and sisters and spiritual fathers and mothers. So I think the more bold we can be with an invitation at this stage with this generation, the more we’re going to see them respond because it’s so clear what they’re actually committing to.
Shane Pruitt: Clayton man, I completely agree. And I know you’ve probably seen this as well. I’ve been around some faithful brothers who preach the word of God, they’ll exit Gita text well. They’ll preach boldly and confidently and then when it comes to that response time or the invitation time, you almost see they all lose their confidence and they’ll start stumbling all over themselves. And maybe it’s the pressure we put on ourselves of like, Oh man, I really want somebody to respond or, or I don’t want to say anything wrong or mislead somebody theologically, or I don’t want to do the invitation badly and abuse it like I’ve seen in the past.
Shane Pruitt: But man, what you said is spot on. Listeners, I pray that you write that just simple statement down, preach boldly, preach confidently, give an invitation boldly and confidently, man that is solid gold. Thank you for sharing that. Hey, Clayton, in that same line, just real briefly, can you give us one area where we maybe do invitations in a way with the best intentions, but we still may do it in a way that sets us up for failure, or the person responding for failure in the long run?
Clayton King: Yeah, briefly to it, I think the biggest mistake we can make other than not giving an invitation, is giving a generic invitation that is confusing and unclear and preachers are … I am guilty of this. Sometimes our ego can secretly be tied to how many people respond. And so we have to be careful that we don’t give all-inclusive general invitations that confuse the people who are responding.
Clayton King: So when I preach the gospel and I give an invitation, if I’m specifically aiming for the hearts of people that may not know Christ, then I’m going to say multiple times in my message. I’m not asking you to rededicate. I’m not talking about recommitment, I’m talking about repentance and salvation. You get 30 or 35 minutes to explain it. So the way that we use that time sets us up to win or lose at the invitation, and I have learned to be very clear and very precise to say biblical words like you are giving your life to Christ, you are repenting of your sin, you are being born again.
Clayton King: You are crossing over from death to life using biblical language during the invitation. That’s a very tender moment for a person when they’re coming to faith in Christ for the first time. And so I think that we trust the word of God by using the Bible’s own language to describe what they’re doing. So I would rather not give an invitation than to give one that’s generic and all-inclusive because those can be meaningless. And in the future, the enemy can use that to confuse people about when and where they actually began their relationship with Jesus.
Shane Pruitt: Yes, so true. A clear gospel proclamation, a clear gospel invitation is what I wrote down right when you were saying that, that’s awesome man. I love it, Clayton. All right. So hey, we always close this time together in Next Gen On Mission podcasts with basically saying the same thing. So an on-mission charge, the heart behind this podcast is to see the next generation realize they are the now generation, not the future of the church, but the church right now, we have a mission now. So give us one closing thought on this and one practical next step to move forward in being on-mission. Being the church now.
Clayton King: Well, I’m living in a house. My wife and I have two teenage boys. They’re 17 and they’re 14, they love Jesus. They love the church, they love the gospel. And my boys do not … we have trained them. You are not the church of tomorrow. You are the church of today. The most practical thing I can say to anyone listening right now is work where you are.
Clayton King: Your mission field is where ever you find yourself standing right now. So if you’re a lot at Starbucks, share the love of Jesus with somebody. If you’re a lot at the grocery store, share the love of Jesus with someone. If you’re sitting in chemistry class and you’re trying to remember the answer to an equation, you pray to God, you get an opportunity to share the love of Jesus with someone right there. You don’t have to go on a mission trip, your own mission right now.
Shane Pruitt: Incredible. Clayton, thank you so much my friend. This has been awesome, man. It feels like a wealth of just knowledge and almost like seminary class in a very short time, so thank you so much. Love it. Hey, how can people connect with you?
Clayton King: Just go to Claytonking.com, that’s our website. We also have a very large presence on social media. If you just search my name Clayton King on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, our ministry will pop up on there. We have dozens and dozens, I’d even say hundreds of free resources from blogs to podcasts to books and bible studies, and my wife also has a great podcast as well. It’s called Overcoming Monday, and that’s a really great place to connect with us.
Shane Pruitt: Awesome. Thank you, brother. Thank you for listening to the Next Gen On Mission podcast. If you have questions on reaching the next generation, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, and we’ll try to address those in future podcasts. Thank you for hanging out with us today. We’ll talk to you again soon.