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FIRST-PERSON: We must prepare the next generation to defend the faith

ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP)–I have a confession: I failed as a parent to prepare my children to defend their Christian faith. My failure is especially embarrassing because I’m a Christian apologist.

Since apologetics is a rational defense of the Christian faith, I travel around North America and sometimes outside it sharing the remarkable historical, scientific and philosophical evidence supporting the truth of the Christian faith. I equip Christians with evidence so they may have a strengthened faith they can share confidently with others. Through lectures and public debates I also challenge seekers of truth to give the evidence a fair look and become a Christ follower.

Yet, I never equipped my own children. There were two reasons why. I’m not discounting a bit of laziness on my part, but my wife and I have always wanted the faith of our children to be their own and not ours. And we made the huge mistake of assuming their youth pastors would occasionally touch on Christian evidences. I was shocked about two years ago when I asked both of my children how often they had received teaching related to Christian apologetics during their Sunday School classes and youth group meetings. Answer: Never. Not once? Zero. Zilch. Nada.

This void was even more alarming when I realized that our family had been members of several churches during their lifetimes. So, it wasn’t the neglect of a single youth leader. What were their leaders teaching? Admittedly, they didn’t remember much. They played video games, other games, did fun things, had nice periods of worship, and received Bible lessons that, for the most part, they didn’t recall.

Did their youth pastors drop the ball on preparing them adequately to withstand the attacks on their faith they would experience when they went off to college? Yes. But the buck stops with Dad. I failed and I admit I’m embarrassed because, of all people, the children of an apologist should know the evidence.

Let’s take a moment and look at the situation in which our children find themselves. This will help us to see why it’s important to equip them with both evidences and answers to the difficult questions. University campuses are growing increasingly hostile toward evangelical students. A 2007 report by two Jewish researchers found a strong bias against evangelical students at secular universities.[1] More than 1,200 faculty members from 712 colleges and universities were interviewed pertaining to their feelings toward various religious followers. The results were alarming. Three percent of American faculty members admitted having negative or unfavorable feelings toward Jews while 33 percent admitted having them toward Muslims. But 53 percent admitted having negative or unfavorable feelings toward evangelical Christians. The researchers concluded, “Conservative Christians have for some time been concerned about their children’s campus environment. These data certainly legitimize their concerns.”

But it didn’t stop there. To their shock, these Jewish researches likewise discovered that a significant number of American faculty members want Muslims to play a greater role in the American political process while wanting evangelicals to stay out of it. But why? After all, generally speaking, most Muslims are pro-life, against homosexual marriage and women’s rights, at least as they are enjoyed by American women. To me, this suggests we are in much more than a cultural war between political conservatives and liberals. It goes beyond secularism and the religious. On many of our college campuses, it is a war against evangelical Christianity.

I personally have had numerous students from all over North America inform me that professors, on the first day of class, said their objective was to rid Christian students of their faith by the end of the semester. That’s right. The professor openly stated in class that his or her objective was to rid Christian students of their faith within the next hundred days. Can you imagine what would happen if those same professors had instead asked how many of his or her students were Muslims … or Jews? They would have been labeled “Islamaphobe” or “anti-Semite” and would soon have joined a number of others in the job market. But faculty members often get a pass if they’re a “Christophobe.”

Some good news is that a large number of Christian college students have a strong interest in apologetics, which is now a necessary component for nourishing students for a healthy faith and continuous growth in a vibrant walk with Christ. Some of these students will become church planters, missionaries, pastors, youth pastors and seminary professors. However, if we neglect familiarizing our college students with apologetics now, will we find far fewer members in SBC churches 20 years from now? From where will our next generation of church leaders come?

The North American Mission Board has created free apologetics resources. At
4truth.net, viewers have access to nearly 200 articles and can listen to more than a dozen interviews with leading scholars and scientists. Most of the articles are available in five languages. We recently posted a five-part video series with discussion questions for use by groups and individuals on the topic of the historical evidence for Jesus’ resurrection. NAMB also has a certification program in apologetics.

Church planters, pastors, and BCM leaders can benefit from nearly a year’s supply of free PowerPoint presentations on apologetics topics we have created for them. [Please contact your state director of evangelism or director of missions for information on how to obtain these.]
Michael Licona is the apologetics coordinator at the North American Mission Board.

    About the Author

  • Mike Licona