Dec 17

Church challenges with apologetics

Recently an attendee I met at a conference ordered the complete set of curriculum for Apologetics for Tweens. He has worked diligently at a local university to provide apologetics training and discussion for college students for nearly a decade. At the same time, he has been persistently reaching out in his own church to develop some apologetics programs for the youth.

Unfortunately, as I have personally experienced at my own church for over a decade, it is hard sledding to gain traction and implement apologetics. After all that time I have coordinated an apologetics conference with 150 attendees from our church and now provide a weekly apologetics addendum for the 22 adult Sunday School classes in our church. The feedback has been tremendous. At least that is some progress for a decade of efforts.

But back to the story. Our new curriculum recipient has had similar challenges. Here’s what he said: “I am in the midst of promoting the idea of training up our youth to my church. I am surprised at the tacit resistance which I suspect is the unspoken, ‘We’ve always done it this way’ thing; this response vs. the mountain of evidence supporting training up our youth as given in the Bible.”

Then he asked for Biblical reference instructions about apologetics. I forwarded him 1 Pet. 3:15 “…always be prepared to give an answer…for the reason… of your hope in Christ.” And Jude 1:3 – “…contend for the faith…” and Paul in 2 Cor. 10:5– “…demolish arguments…against the knowledge of God….” In Acts 17:2 Paul “reasoned” with the Jews in the synagogues. In Matt. 22:37 Jesus updated the command about loving the Lord and added “with our mind”.

He then asked for church references that use the curriculum which is hard to do since it is so new. I explained that I was the best reference since I had been teaching fifth graders in our church for 13 years using my curriculum. And there are a couple early testimonials on my web site home page but the one that is a church is just getting started.

Next he asked for suggestions on how to persuade the church leaders of the need for apologetics. I provided this lengthy list of suggestions below:

Lifeway and Barna studies show that 70% of Christian youth drop out of the church by age 22 due mainly to intellectual doubt, science concerns and feelings that the Bible is not relevant to their lives. Ask the church leader, “What are we doing about this issue?” Certainly, doing things the same way will only yield the same results.

Also, Josh McDowell, in one of his comprehensive studies, showed the following:

– 70% of youth aged 18-26 do not believe there is such a thing as objective truth. This opens the gate to relativism and belief in whatever works for you, and the possibility that all beliefs could be true.

– By high school, 84% of Christian youth have developed doubts about Christianity (40% of middle school and 44% of high school students).

– After age 12, only 7-10% will accept Christ. So we need to teach as early as possible.

What is the church doing to address these important issues?

Another idea is to go to various parents and grandparents in the congregation and present the same evidence and ask if they see it as a problem and would support a solution. Then take that support to the pastor and elders as congregational concerns and you are the messenger and potential solution provider. That way it makes it congregational desires and not so much yours.

Also, take the same stats to the youth pastor and see if you can get their similar support, then go to the senior pastor.

Another key area is missions. Many churches including my own have made missions a major priority. But how can you evangelize when you do not understand the key questions, criticisms and concerns about Christianity and appropriate reasonable answers? I do not believe we can be successful in missions without a basic understanding of apologetics fundamentals for nonbelievers, atheists and those of other key religions.

Here are a couple other things that I have done that have had some measure of success at my church:

– convince the pastor and elders to host a one day conference on apologetics and get SES TEAM to come in for presentations. Usually the only cost is expense reimbursement and optional honorarium.

– convince the pastor to allow you to write an apologetics addendum for each weekly scriptural lesson that the adult bible study groups teach (this assumes they all are on the same program of lessons). I am currently doing this now and have very positive reviews from the teachers and the congregation class members.

– volunteer yourself to be a Sunday School teacher for juniors or seniors, or find an apologetics colleague to help you and begin teaching whatever grades are available (looks like he is working on that). Be sure to get email addresses of the parents, write up your scripture lessons each week then email them to the parents and ask for feedback and questions, and print hard copies for handouts to the youth. Then ask them to talk with their parents about each lesson. If you get feedback from the parents, it will help your case to present to the pastor and elders.

– Get my curriculum into the church for 5-8th graders

Well, he began by purchasing my curriculum and has two churches in mind to discuss it with and try to gain interest. Let us all pray for God’s guidance and support in these important initiatives and thank him for his heart for Christ and desire to impact minds and hearts for Christ similarly.

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