Well, it’s hard to imagine a better way to start your day than with a Fish Bowl discussion on Hell with Andy Root. This was tricky note taking and I’m not sure how I did, but basically, I’m just going to include a series of questions and comments. Andy’s contributions are in blue and the comments made by youthworkers in the room are in purple. Note that the comments are kind of all over the place sometimes because people come into the circle to say a specific thing and they say it even if the conversation has shifted since they stood up to join the discussion circle. So some of the comments in purple will not directly relate to the comment above it in blue.
How does hell explicitly or implicitly play into your ministries to youth?
“Our life isn’t just about what happens afte we die, so we don’t talk a lot about hell in our ministry. But we do talk to our kids about what it would mean to bring hell to earth.”
“The reality of hell makes the stakes so much higher when we’re dealing with evangelism.”
Do you feel pressure that if you don’t share the Gospel that the eternal destiny of young people is at stake?
“I am much more motivated by the promise of God’s restoration and grace than I am about the threat of hell.”
“What I find is that young people don’t really believe in hell.”
Do young people think about hell?
“I tell them that if they don’t believe in Jesus Christ as their personal savior, they are going to hell.”
“There’s not enough emphasis placed on hell.”
“But kids ask, ‘how can a good God send people to hell?”
“Yes, but he’s not sending people to hell. People who go to hell make a choice.”
How much free will is involved? What about kids in India who may never have the chance to hear the Gospel? Are they making a choice?
“It’s all about how you will glorify God. Either you glorify God by his justice when you go to hell or you glorify God by his grace when you go to heaven.”
Does going to hell glorify God? How can we glorify God?
“John Piper said, ‘God is glorified the most when we are satisfied in him.”
“We glorify God just by being on earth and being his creation.”
What is hell? Maybe hell is simply not being in communion with God. Does hell have to be a place of torture?
“Jesus talks about hell twice as much as he talks about heaven.”
“My ideas of hell are starting to shift and change. There are clear times when Jesus talks of hell, but could Jesus have been talking about something in context–like maybe an actual place in the area where he was preaching? Maybe hell is really just the removal of God’s spirit.”
“Every kid that’s been through middle school or high school understands rejection. Maybe we can use this as a way to help them understand our rejection of God.”
“If you are a Christian and you honestly believe there’s a literal hell and you don’t tell me about it, you must hate me.”
“If you don’t talk about hell, it makes it seem like it’s not real to the kids.”
“I feel like the real problem is that ids don’t think about what happens to them when they die.”
“You cannot understand God’s mercy without first understanding God’s judgment.”
So, what is judgment?
“Matthew 25 is a good example. Jesus separates the sheep and the goats. You are judged on the things you do not do.”
But isn’t it interesting that the “sheep” did n’t even know they were doing the right thing? Isn’t judgment based on God’s love? When you love someone and they sin against you, it brings more judgment. Isn’t God’s wrath and anger based in God’s very love?
How do mercy and judgement come together?
We kind of have a dualism thing going on. We have a God who is an SOB in the Old Testament and merciful and loving in the New Testament. How do we deal with this?
“I have kids memorize three verses to teach them about overcoming and to remove their doubt. Revalation 3:5; 1 John 5:5 and 1 John 5:13.”
“What about Universal Restoration?”
“We need to share different views about hell with our youth.”
“I used to believe that if you didn’t confess Jesus as Lord, you’re going to hell. But can’t God’s grace go as far as hell?”
If God’s grace is true, does hell even exist? Does it glorify God to send people to hell? Does it glorify God to send children from other countries who may not know about Jesus to hell?
How does the incarnation of Christ and the Cross set terms for how we think of hell? Is the cross a real manifestation of hell?
Here’s how your kids will respond: God’s got to be a [jerk] to send people to hell. And it will always be hard to convince any culture that God will send people to hell for sins like white lies, stealing, etc.
“God’s love changes how we are judged. There has to be restoration.”
“There are kids in our groups who earnestly desire to follow Jesus, but they come up against obstacles.”
“Is the confession of Jesus cruicified one of a God who will find us in Hell? Did not Jesus go even to hell?”
How does this change how we talk about reconciliation?
“Well…aren’t some kids experiencing hell right now?”
“If Jesus can go to hell and get someone after they die–then send all the missionaries home. Why bother?”
Another way of looking at evangelism is to go and preach what is true.
And with this, time was up and the session was over.