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About this series
Not Beyond Reach
How to Share Jesus with the Young, the Deconstructed, and the Non-Religious
Are you – as a parent or grandparent – concerned about the spiritual health of your kids? Do you sense they’re drifting from the Christian faith they grew up with? Or have they perhaps already outright rejected it? In this series, guest teacher Aaron Pierce – from an international missions organization called Steiger – has some hope and direction for us. He’ll unpack a sequence of intentional conversations you can use to better understand and reconnect with your kids, and lead them to Jesus. Learn why today’s young people are prime to hear the saving message of the Gospel and how you can share it with them.More from this series
CHIP: Well, thanks so much, Dave. I don’t know that I have been more excited about a program or a series in a very, very long time. My heart beats for and cares so deeply for the next generation. It is so challenging to be a young person, to know and walk with Jesus Christ and to really make a difference, to be a genuine follower.
And I want you to know that I have a good friend, his name is Aaron Pierce. He leads along with a great team, Steiger Ministry. We have known each other directly or indirectly for almost twenty years. And the difference between he and I is that he’s a young man. I think he’s about forty now. And I am an older man. And God has something that He put on both of our hearts around hope for the next generation. And I have watched this ministry connect with the global youth and see people that many of us would think there is no hope, they are so far from God, there’s absolutely no way.
And I have watched this ministry grow and multiply into about a hundred cities around the world and what I have watched is God’s hand on a young man and a ministry that really understands the paradigm, the philosophy, the way, if you will, to reach irreligious people. The global youth that are far, far from God. And so, Aaron, welcome to the program.
AARON: Thank you, Chip. It’s so exciting, such an honor to do this with you and I’m just excited to see what God is going to do with all of this.
CHIP: Well, people don’t know your story and it’s an amazing one that in the sovereignty of God, He has done some great things in your life. But I just want to jump right out of the gate and ask you: Why are you so passionate about today’s global youth? And what is it that is this drive in your heart, this hope that you have for what is happening all around the world?
AARON: Well, Chip, I think it’s because we all see millions, literally millions and millions of young people all over the world and also those right here in our own country that are being destroyed by the lies of the world. You know, we have this global youth culture, young people all over the planet that are influenced by similar voices. They’re listening to the same music, following the same social media, influencers, playing the same video games. And all of this is not just entertaining, it’s shaping a worldview.
And 2 Corinthians 4:4 says the god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers. and the god of this age is something called secular humanism and this idea that God has been replaced, man is at the center, and there is no outside authority to which I have to submit myself. Nobody can tell me what to do. It’s the era of my truth. And all identity and purpose and morality, these things that are so fundamental to life, these are now self-constructed, they are not things that I discover in God, they are things that I define.
And so, it’s this era where we think we are finding liberation and freedom, but the truth is the consequences are actually devastating. So, we have this global youth culture that is confused and sexually broken and anxious and depressed and lonely. Loneliness being an epidemic globally today. And so, we have these things. And it makes sense when you consider the worldview, because if you’re the source of truth, you’re going to end up confused. And if there are no rules, then you’re going to end up broken. If there’s no anchor in the storm, then you’re going to end up anxious and depressed and if it’s all about you, you’re going to end up lonely.
And so, this is the cry of a generation, this culture and generation that is overwhelmed with loneliness, anxiety, and depression. And here’s what breaks my heart. Here’s what fuels my motivation is they are not looking to the Church for answers. Even though we have the ultimate answers to these things, right? Jesus brings truth to the confused. He brings healing to the sexually broken. He brings the ultimate relationship with the Creator. And He brings peace that transcends understanding. We have the answers to the cry of a generation.
CHIP: And, Aaron, I think to be fair, many of the youth would say, “I don’t see that. I didn’t see that growing up in church, you know, I went to a Christian school or my parents dropped me off at church or I went to a youth group and it didn’t seem real, it wasn’t authentic. I feel like, you know, I went away to school or I got out on my own and a lot of things that people said were terrible and wrong and, you know, I met people that were supposed to be the bad people and they were actually really nice and very concerned.”
And so, something is deeply broken, not just in this generation, but I think we at the Church have to recognize, and we as parents and grandparents have kind of taken this “us” and “them.” “What’s wrong with them?” “They went away to school and now they think this or believe this or vote this way or that way.” And we have got this polarization and I think one of the reasons I want people to hear the message that you have that is proven, I mean, it’s, you all have done this with the people that are the farthest from God. And, yet, when they saw and heard and connected to the love of Christ, in the way that you all have presented it, it’s made all the difference in the world.
So, tell me a little bit about your story and your journey. I find when people listen to messages, Aaron, it’s in a context. And I trust you. I know you. I have watched your life. I have been connected. I want you to share a little bit about: What were the influences? Where did you grow up? How did you grow up that created this sense of real hope and has caused you and your team to go all around the world and see God work in places that I think, I think most people right now think it’s a lost cause?
AARON: Yeah. So, I was actually born and raised in Amsterdam, in the Netherlands. And we lived, my family lived in a small little apartment in the center of the city near the infamous Red Light District. And my parents were there, they were American missionaries serving in Amsterdam. And they had a heart to reach young people of Amsterdam that would not walk into a church.
And when you think about a city like Amsterdam, I mean, that pretty much describes all young people, right? They see these big, beautiful cathedrals and they are essentially museums. They are dead and empty on Sunday. And so, that becomes the view of God, right? it’s an, just, irrelevant relic of the past. And so, that was a lot of the perspective that they were dealing with in Amsterdam.
And so, what my dad did is he would take a small group of people and they would go to the nightclubs and the bars and they would, late at night, and they would befriend people and they would share Jesus with them. And then they would write the names of everyone that they met and they would go out into the forest late at night and they would pray over these people and say, “God, would You give us a breakthrough in this city?” And that was the foundation where God really broke their heart for the people and then in prayer, God gave them a strategy, a way to reach these people.
And so, my dad who is the founder of our organization, Steiger, he felt led by the Lord to start a musical band. This was in the eighties, in Amsterdam. And this was the height of the punk rock movement. That was the social movement of the time. It was what’s shaping culture. And so, my dad felt led to start a band as a way to use the stage to communicate the message of the cross in secular places.
And it was based on the biblical idea that Paul said he preached Christ and Him crucified so that people would not be convinced by human wisdom but by God’s power. And that the message of the cross is where God’s power is. And when you lift it up in relevant ways in secular places, God moves.
And so, they did this and right from the beginning, God’s favor was on this band and they started to get opportunities to play in these bars and clubs where they were already known, because they had been there relationally. And they understood the cry of the heart of the people there and so they could communicate the gospel clearly in that context. And suddenly they saw many people coming to Jesus in that environment. And it was almost overwhelming.
And so, what they did is they had a Bible study on a big red boat behind the central train station in Amsterdam. And the address of this boat was Pier 14. And the Dutch word for “pier” is “steiger.” And it became this ministry that was reaching and discipling young people of Amsterdam that would not walk into a church. And that was the beginning. And that was, that was the environment that I got to grow up in, which was an incredible environment because I saw that God was real and that He had the power to transform lives.
A quick story, my dad, the band started to get opportunities to go outside of Amsterdam, so they went to communist Poland and the Soviet Union and eventually all over the world. And they began to share the message in these secular places and people were reached and Christians were inspired and it sparked a movement called Steiger. And I got to experience that. My dad would take me and my brother, my brother Ben who is also a part of the mission, and he would take us as young kids on tour with him and we would be in some nightclub in eastern Europe somewhere and at some point he would bring us on stage and he would say to the crowd, he would say, “These are my sons. I love them. There’s nothing I wouldn’t do for them. Everything that I have is theirs. And if someone tried to hurt them, I would protect them with my life.” And then he would say, “And that is how God feels about you.” And he would equate a father’s love for his children with God’s love for them. And then share the gospel and in that context, I saw tough people with tears in their eyes praying to receive Jesus.
And when you experience something like that as a kid, I mean, it ruins you in the best possible way because you see that this is not just religious activity, but that God is real and He can transform lives. So, that was, like, foundational to my call and it was also the birth of this global missions organization called Steiger that is all about mobilizing followers of Jesus to reach young people who would not walk into a church.
CHIP: Well, let me kind of talk back a few things that you shared, because the roots started with not, “Here’s a new method. Here’s what we are going to do. Here’s pamphlet to share with someone.” It started out of brokenness. It reminds me of Nehemiah, where when it seemed so impossible, He wept and He fasted and He prayed and He recognized that in and of himself, there is absolutely no way.
The second what I heard was long before there was a band or people coming to Jesus, it was friendship. It was real relationships. And it took effort and it didn’t sound like it was an easy time of the day. Like bars don’t get going until ten, eleven, midnight, one in the morning. And it wasn’t just a relationship where, “Oh, I met you and now I’m going to, hey, would you like to come to Jesus? This is what He did.” There is this sense of genuine, deep, authentic care.
And then Fast forward with me, because now you have teams in about a hundred cities all across the globe. Help me understand a little bit about what it looks like for Steiger today.
AARON: Yeah. And, actually, we are at a hundred, but we are already active in about a hundred and fifty cities around the world. And it’s just a move of God. And I define “a move of God” as something that we can’t take credit for. He is doing it. And so, fundamentally, our heart is to train the Church, because we love the Church and we want to see the Church reach this culture that is all around them. And then we want to mobilize the next generation of Christian leaders to fuel an evangelism and discipleship movement that is youth and young adult led. And then out of that to establish long-term missionary teams that are specialists at reaching the global youth culture of their city.
And so, what these city teams and these catalytic ministries that we develop do is, I mean, you described it fundamentally. First it starts by desperately seeking God, where He breaks our heart for the lost and He fuels it with His power. We can’t do it in our own strength, but then we need to go where people are. The big paradigm shift in reaching a secular culture, in reaching this generation is we have got to adopt a missionary mindset. And that means going where they are and developing relationships with people who are far from God, who don’t see the world like we do, and really understanding them so that we can communicate boldly, but also relevantly the gospel message in a language that they can understand. And then recognizing that those that we encounter, those that meet Jesus, the pathway from that place to when they walk into a church is longer than it used to be. And so, we create models of discipleship relationships that walk people into the church.
So, fundamentally, what we are doing – we love to use creative gifts to go to secular places, share the gospel through music and art, but other creative ways as well. And it’s all about: how can I communicate the message of the cross in secular places where young people are that would not walk into a church and then create these discipleship places that foster a journey that walks them into a relationship with God and walks them into the church.
So, we are doing this in cities all over the world in various ways. But fundamentally it’s just a move of God that He is doing.
CHIP: Aaron, I think to be fair, I think there’s a lot of our listeners right now who are thinking, You know, this sounds really radical and out there. I just want to have a conversation with my granddaughter because I don’t get, I really don’t get that she just doesn’t believe in God anymore. Or doesn’t have any interest in church. Give me some pictures of sort of what has happened, but then why do you think it has happened?
AARON: Well, I think, you know, part of it is you look at the U.S. context that we are in, for example. And we have this rich history of, in many ways, a Christian nation, of where most people identified as a Christian, had a positive view of the Church, they saw the Bible as a good, moral guide. And so, it was in that context that a lot of our amazing evangelists and missions from the past would engage culture. And it was Billy Graham could fill stadiums and speak about what the Bible says and it drew people and it connected. And many people were reached.
Well, the problem is that culture shifted and largely due to the influence of the global youth culture and the religiously unaffiliated being the fastest growing religious group in our country. And with that is not only a change in affiliation, meaning, like, Gen Z is about fifty percent religiously unaffiliated today. But it’s not just affiliation, it’s attitude as well. Their attitude has changed from predominately positive and in an environment to where you could invite them to come to a Christian event, to increasingly apathetic at best if not outright hostile at worst.
And a lot of it has to do with just, you know, cultural, political, us-versus-them stuff that gets in the way. But the problem with that is that they are less likely to come to our events, they are less likely to engage in the kind of models of evangelism that we have used in the past. And so, the paradigm shift is we have got to go to them. And so, it’s really not that different. It’s just going where people are, whether it’s a band that uses music or people that, like, I, we have so many stories of people that are engaging people in places like, you know, bars or just community groups, or hobbies. And the spheres of influence that you have in your world where you’ll interact with people who won’t walk into a church, but yet, they are hungry for connection, they are hungry for belonging. And so, there’s an opportunity to go to people, build authentic relationships in their environment and then use that as a way to start spiritual conversations that leads them to Jesus.
So, we have seen this in all kinds of environments from, yeah, the extreme, you know, parades and clubs and bars, but also at work or at a neighborhood group or at a soccer field where my kids are playing. Like, there’s all kinds of environments where you can interact with people that won’t walk into a church today who are far from God. And being there in order to develop a relationship with them, to really understand them, know them, and what is going on in their heart. And what you find is as you do that, people begin to open up. People are very hungry to have conversations that are meaningful and deep. And so, it starts by being present.”
CHIP: Tell us a little bit about why you refocused some of your energy on America when most of the ministry really was launched around the world?
AARON: We started in Europe, in classic post-Christian Europe. That was literally the environment I grew up in and this mission was started. And we were doing all this work around the world and then we started to see our, the where we came from, the U.S., going from this nominal Christian nation to a post-Christian nation and many of my friends and pastors feeling, they feel the weight of it, they feel the problem, the decline, but aren’t sure what to do about it.
And there can almost be a sense of hopeless resignation that this is just where it’s going. And I guess my passion is saying, “I have seen God move in these contexts and I want to not only give tools and models and approaches, but I want to give hope that this generation absolutely can be reached, that it’s not too late, and that in fact, people even though they seem so hostile and closed, they are actually quite hungry and open.
If we don’t have hope that this generation can be reached, then we are not going to act. And so, I want to, I want to instill hope and say, “Yes, I have seen God do this! The God that is moving around the world is the same God here and He can move in this place too.”
And to provide practical understanding of the culture that we are in and the influences and the philosophies of the global youth culture and post-Christian culture. And then, like you mentioned, starting with Nehemiah 1:4, having a greater heart and a brokenness for this generation that drives us to our knees in desperate prayer, because that’s the foundation for any action.
And then let’s talk about tools and strategies for engaging in spiritual conversations. And so that believers will be inspired, to reach this culture and that fundamentally, the ultimate goal is that there are people today, young people today, that will not walk into a church but they are going to encounter a follower of Jesus whose heart is broken, who has been praying desperately, who will share Jesus through a spiritual conversation that will lead them to encounter the living God and to transform their lives. That’s the ultimate goal and I believe that that is going to happen.
CHIP: Well, Aaron, it’s great to have you with us and I just have to take a moment because there are some people who have been praying for or supporting Living on the Edge for ten, fifteen, twenty years or more and we go way back. I didn’t know that. But I just want to say thank you to those people that have prayed for us and allowed, whether it’s a radio broadcast or creating small group resources or some things we do with pastors globally. You were one of those people – what was it? – fifteen, twenty years ago, that actually I didn’t know you knew me, but we kind of got connected.
And tell us just a little bit about that, because I want the Living on the Edge listeners and supporters and prayer partners to know that you really are one of those examples of what we have prayed about: a person that we got to be of some help to at one season of your life. And then He has used some of what we have done to bring about a ministry that is really discipling people here and around the world.
AARON: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, Chip, I have told you this, but you played a key discipleship role in my life, even if I didn’t know you. And as a young man just starting out in ministry, the board that I’m a part of an organization sent me to a conference. I heard you speak and I just loved it.
And so, then I just started to follow you and listen to your podcast and your teaching. I got my brother into it. We were telling everyone about it. And it just played a fundamental role in our discipleship journey. I remember, I mean, I bought the book The Knowledge of the Holy because you’re like, “I read this every day!” I’m like, “Okay, if Chip does it, I’m doing it.” And it really played a fundamental role in the foundation for me and as a leader and truly so much of what I teach and so much of the fundamentals of what we are about, a lot of that is traced back to the teaching that I got from you, Chip. And so, it’s exciting, because I think this is the beauty of the body of Christ, right?
Like, that God used you and to equip me and many others. And then we go on to do what God has called us to do. And then it has the disciples who make disciples who make disciples impact. And so, I think it’s a clear example of that and I’m so excited about this partnership, because I believe it’s a great example of the beauty of the body of Christ, right? Where we can accomplish something together that we could not accomplish alone, all for God’s glory. So, I’m super excited to see what God is going to do with this.
CHIP: Me too, Aaron. I just have to say to our listeners, you do not want to miss the next couple weeks. There is hope. My dream is that we stop complaining in coffee shops and whining and blaming somebody or something and say, “You know something? God is going to work, and I want Him to use me. So, Aaron, can’t wait to listen to you the next couple weeks. Very, very excited about the new book that’s out. And you all will hear more about that in the days ahead. Hey, great to have you on the program. Keep pressing ahead, my brother.
AARON: Thanks, Chip.