Outbreak! Creating a Contagious Youth Ministry Through Viral Evangelism. By Greg Stier. Chicago: Moody Press, 2002. 265 pp. Cloth. $19.99.
Written by Greg Stier, the co-founder and president of Dare 2 Share Ministries, Outbreak! provides a fresh and insightful look at evangelism in the context of youth ministry. In eleven chapters Stier elucidates the process of youth group evangelism with an eye-opening illustration of the infectious habits of a virus.
The first chapter, entitled “Bad Monkey!” describes the infection of the gospel. Stier notes that there are three elements of vital evangelism: a carrier that is courageous (p. 30); a sneeze that is infectious (p. 32); and a virus that is contagious (p. 35). His first chapter uncovers his purpose: “to unleash the virus in your youth group” (p. 37).
In chapters two, three, and four, Stier talks about the gospel going forth, the problems that it entails, and how to create a contagious youth ministry. Stier writes, “In the same way, when we present the gospel story to the postmodern culture, we must realize that it is when we get to the ‘proof’ that some will accept it and many will reject it” (p. 42). He attributes much of this resistance to the “have it your way” (p. 41) theology prevalent in many of our churches today. Instead of the church impacting its surroundings, Stier notes that: “our culture is impacting the church” (p. 41).
Although Stier paints a grim picture for the salvation of the lost in our postmodern culture, he illustrates the historical pattern for revival in chapter three. He writes, “Whatever the reason, in the history of revival God inevitably raises up an army of teenaged carriers to spread the message” (p. 57). Regardless of your perspective on historical revival, you may question the examples provided by Stier, and for good reason. Chapters five, “Increasing the Velocity of the Virus,” and six, “Don’t Take Your Antibiotics!” are meant to aid youth workers in causing an outbreak. Chapter five gives seven “Outbreak Indicators,” which provide examples, from the Book of Acts, of conditions that are conducive for the outbreak of the gospel. Chapter six dispels numerous excuses for not evangelizing. They range from “we don’t want those kind of kids in our youth group” (p. 146) to “evangelism is not my gift” (p. 154). Stier creatively encourages and motivates youth leaders to infect their youth groups with a desire to evangelize the lost.
Chapter seven deals with the doctrine of salvation. Stier correctly remarks, “When the pure message of God’s grace is doctored in any way, the results are less than optimal. Many gospel presentations are delivered with vagueness and confusion instead of with clarity and power” (p. 161).
He then deals with the ill effects of legalism and Arminianism. Concerning Arminianism, Stier quips, “It is the ‘Daddy may leave you someday’ strain. It is the message of grace that leaves the back door unlocked just in case you or the Father wants to get out. It is the message that says that salvation is only eternal if you stay faithful and keep serving” (p. 167). Stier correctly notes that in a world saturated with broken relationships, dysfunctional fathers, and suicide, the Arminian gospel does not provide peace, but more heartache. He notes, “When we share a message infected with the ‘Daddy may leave you someday’ strain, we are taking away the unshakeable assurance that flows from an unconditional love” (p. 170). It is refreshing to read a book with such insight on youth ministry and a clear proclamation of the gospel.
Chapters eight through eleven provide tools for infecting postmodern teenagers with the age-old virus of the gospel. The topics covered are postmodern students (chapter 8), infectious invitations (chapter 9), dealing with dead Christians (chapter 10), and putting it all together (chapter 11). These final chapters make it abundantly clear to the reader that Stier understands the workings of the postmodern teenage mind.
There are some inconsistencies that the astute youth minister should note. In chapter seven, Stier clearly explains, “Simple faith in Jesus Christ is the only prerequisite to salvation given in the whole book of John. Nothing more, nothing less. Some people think that way of salvation is too easy…It is so easy that a child can do it, and it is so difficult a religious person can choke on it” (p. 175). However, in a section concerning Phil 1:6, he writes, “The process of ‘infection’ begins at salvation and doesn’t stop until the ‘victim’ is completely under Christ’s control…The gospel message is efficient. It transforms everyone and everything it touches” (p. 29). Although he correctly notes in chapter seven that Rev 3:20 is commonly misused in evangelism (pp. 175-76) he unfortunately seems to let the context of Phil 1:6 elude his discussion.
Also, concerning the decision of a handicapped boy named Doug, Stier writes, “They preached about the person of Jesus Christ and the purpose that He offers to those who follow Him…That week he dedicated his life to follow Jesus Christ and keep others out of hell” (p. 46). Though Stier did not make it clear if Doug was making a decision of discipleship or salvation, Doug evidently later understood the gospel. While evangelizing, Doug told a group of kids, “I hope you trust in Christ as your Savior!” (p. 48). Thus while there are several hiccups in his presentation, the gospel presented is otherwise always clear and easy to follow.
In Outbreak! Stier has provided the church with a sound tool for turning an ingrown youth ministry into one that is infectious, prompting Josh McDowell to write, “This book is infectious!” Nonetheless, beware! After reading this book, your youth group may never be the same.
Director of Publications
Grace Evangelical Society