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.

Nov 11

Concerns About Christian Doubt Evident at NRBTV Conference

Last weekend I traveled to Murfreesboro, TN to attend a one day apologetics conference sponsored by NRBTV called “Defending Truth”. It featured notable Christian apologists Ravi Zacharias, Frank Turek and J. Warner Wallace. There were about 1100 attendees who waited patiently in a two block line to pass police security scanning on a drizzly Saturday morning.

Myself and a colleague facilitated a Ratio Christi table and spoke with at least a hundred attendees in meaningful conversations while handing out loads of brochures and answering questions. The conference attendee profile was primarily parents and grandparents and some of their youth. There was clear consistency about the reasons they were there. They were concerned that their sons and daughters were developing or might develop doubts about Christianity and they didn’t know how to deal with it. They heard that Christian apologetics might be the answer.

The interest at our table periodically could only be described as a furor. There was a near feverish pitch about the demeanor and behavior of attendees and an air of desperation. They wanted answers and solutions to help their children cope with the secular attacks and criticisms on Christianity and the parents and grandparents were frustrated about what to do. We added several college students as new members to our Ratio Christi Tennessee apologetics club and two new faculty advisors who are professors at UT-Knoxville.

Indeed Christian apologetics can help address doubt in many cases. It is a long stated fact that apologetics does not win people to Christ. The Holy Spirit does that. But if the issues relate to intellectual doubt and unanswered questions, skepticism and concerns about science and the Bible, apologetics is the answer.

One ongoing conversation of interest was with a lady named Shannon. Her parents convinced her to come because she was raised Christian but has a lot of issues with Christianity. She was all over the map with a dozen different questions: why is Christianity so exclusive, she looked at all the evidence and is not convinced, what about the age of the earth and science, why are we so against LGBTQ (she thought she heard a speaker say some offensive things about it), she considered belief an involuntary action, and so on. She came back to our table at least half a dozen times, usually after every speaker. Cumulatively I’m sure we spoke with her over an hour. But she listened a lot and seemed to really think our answers were special. She called us the “island in the middle of a river” compared to others she interacted with. One time she was asking a question and her parents stepped in to answer. She said, “No, go away. I only want to talk to these people.” She had enough of standard “have faith” answers and wanted a real answer. I’m not sure where that is all going but I assured her that God will provide enough knowledge for her salvation if she continues to seek but that she would have to make a decision because belief is not involuntary.

On another note, several Tweens curriculum were sold right off the table displays and perhaps half of all conversations we had were regarding how to help youth in the tweens age group. It was very common for attendees to say nothing was available until they found “Apologetics for Tweens”. In fact, my heart melted when one attendee reviewed the material then immediately purchased and was so excited she was holding the book pressed close to her chest as though it was her Bible. She said she was very happy she found this material and was excited to use it and help her home school students. She literally walked away with a bounce in her step and air of excitement. I found out later when I met her husband that they were just married recently and still on their honeymoon. Imagine that! They invested time on their honeymoon to go to a weekend apologetics conference at a church. That says it all about the perceived importance of these issues. Other Tweens sales were made to a Sunday school teacher and youth pastor. Many, many more took about a hundred business cards and all 50 of my brochures.

Does this sound like nothing more than mild interest and gathering information from a couple vendors while at a conference? Or is it something deeper and urgent and critical? Do you really want to take the risk that your kids will be fine and never develop doubts about Christianity? Download some of our free samples and email or phone me with your questions at tjgconsult@aol.com or 770-597-2654.

Oct 20

Major interest in apologetics for younger kids!

Last week I attended the National Conference for Christian Apologetics. Our organization, Ratio Christi, had a prominent table for interactions with attendees and partners.

In addition to the usual traffic, it amazed and excited me to see the requests for apologetics material to help teach middle school and even younger age youth. I hung out by our table several times for about 20 minutes each over a two day period. At least two dozen people came directly up to the table and picked up one of my sample Apologetics for Tweens curriculum and said, “This is exactly what I have been looking for but there is nothing available.” I kid you not. Senior pastors of small churches, youth pastors, Sunday School teachers, parents and grandparents and home school teachers. They were either looking for curriculum to use themselves or to recommend to their church.

Why all the fuss? As I have experienced myself during thirteen years teaching apologetics and scripture to fifth graders and presenting to middle school and high school groups, the need for apologetics teaching has moved downstream to even elementary school. The kids are smarter now than ever before and with the pervasive influence of the internet and accelerating secular attacks, questions about Christianity and other religions form far earlier than ever before.

Now I would not go so far as to say that many 10-11 year old Christian youth have serious doubts about Christianity yet. But they definitely have volumes of questions. If we do not give them good Christian answers to their questions, the secular world will. Then by high school the answers given turn into serious doubts. At that point it is necessary to turn their opinions and doubts around and that is much harder than providing foundational Christian answers earlier.

Research shows that by high school 84% of Christian youth have doubts. Most doubts have to do with intellectual issues like apparent conflicts between science and the Bible, such as with evolution, creation, the Big Bang, truth and other religions. Frequently the doubts become stronger and lead to 70% of Christian youth dropping out of the church by age 22.

Apologetics for Tweens is not the comprehensive answer to this problem. But it is the only curriculum available for 10-14 year olds that provides weekly scriptural and apologetics lessons in brief, straightforward language suitable for teaching use by even those who lack apologetics training. It is designed specifically for Sunday School teachers, home school teachers, youth pastors, parents and grandparents.

Do you really want to take the risk that your kids will be fine and never develop doubts about Christianity? Download some of our free samples and email or phone me with your questions at tjgconsult@aol.com or 770-597-2654.

Sep 15

Coming Soon: Apologetics for Tweens!

After years of hard work, the Apologetics for Tweens curriculum is nearly ready for purchase and download!

Check out the covers, here:

More details to come!