For more than 50 years, Josh McDowell has focused on serving and equipping churches, pastors, families and people everywhere in raising generations of purpose-driven Christians who know what they believe, why it is true, and how to live out their Christian faith.
Josh was at Headquarters this past week and I had the opportunity to interview him for Life Threads, asking him questions that I hope willencourage you in your ministry.
What is the biggest mindset change in apologetics (defense of the faith) over the past couple decades?
JOSH: I would say the greatest change is that about seven or eight years ago the mindset shifted back to where people started to realize that they have to know why they believe what they believe. When post modernism came along … people started thinking that it didn’t really matter what was true just as long as you believed. If you believed it, it made it true. That thought is starting to run it’s course. That’s why I wrote the book In Search of Certainty. Is there truth and if there is truth (and a lot of older people don’t understand this) can we really know it? And that is a very key question.
So it’s back to being a critical study today. More and more young people (and I think it’s because of the internet) are wanting something that is solid and real and that will ground their faith. I believe the church is starting to respond to it. You’re seeing a lot more apologists coming along – young apologists. There for 15 … 20 years you didn’t see that.
You have to realize that all mentalities follow the culture. They don’t normally change the culture. Mentalities are changed by the culture.
We hear a lot about young people today reacting to experience rather than fact – how do we address this?
The difference between adults and youth today is this – adults think: “if it is true, it will work.” Young people think: “if it works, it is true.”
Diametrically the opposite, but I think both are biblical.
To know truth – 2 Timothy 2:15: – Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
To experience truth – John 13:35 – By this shall all men know that ye are My disciples, if ye have love one to another.
We here at Awana work with youth, but we also have curriculum for very young children. How can we start young children thinking apologetically?
JOSH: Very easy. Teach them. Young kids can grasp a lot more than what we think they can. I’ve done a number of books for 5 – 10 year olds and if presented right they can learn so much faster than adults. I think what we need to do is teach them and I think Awana is doing this. We teach what we need to know about Jesus concurrently with teaching why we believe it. That’s the conviction. A conviction is knowing what you believe, why you believe it and experiencing it in your life. The younger you start the better.
How do we challenge older kids (say, those in upper elementary and up) to think?
JOSH: I taught my kids to think and I think you can do it the same way in Awana. I raised my kids differently than most parents. I raised them interactively and I very seldom ever answered my kids’ questions. Because if I did it was Daddy’s answer. I came back with questions that caused them to come up with the answer.
“Daddy, what does the Bible say about Jesus?”
“Let’s find out what the Bible says. Who does that verse say Jesus is?”
Now they are learning the why of their faith because they’re learning to think logically.
I was always interactive with them. I would pose situations/circumstances and ask them how they would work their way of them. What do you think of this and this? How would you conclude this?
Now a lot of parents get upset with this because I don’t have the ability to communicate it right. I believe we should raise our children by negotiating with them. That irritates some people. But almost every time my kids said “Well, what time do I need to be in from the party at school or whatever. I would almost never give a time, but would ask them “What time do you think would be a good time for you, a responsible time for you?”
“I think 11:30″
“You know I was thinking more 10:30, 10:45. Then I would ask they thought it should be 11:30 and I would listen. Then I would say, “I think it should be 10:30 because of these reasons. But how about if we say 11:00?” What I was doing was causing them to think through conclusions, to analyze things through. They learned that if they wanted to get something from Dad or do something they really had to have some good arguments.
We spoon feed our kids. When my son was in his first year at Biola, he came to me and said, “Dad, I really don’t know if I want to be a Christian. I really don’t know if it’s true or not.” And he thought I was going to try to convince him that the Bible is true. All I said was, “Son, that’s wonderful! That’s great!”
When Sean tells the story he says, “I was sitting there thinking, Dad, are you hearing what I am saying? I’m saying I don’t even know if it’s true and you’re saying it’s great and wonderful. How can you say that?”
I said, “Son, it has to be your faith. You can’t run on my faith. You can’t run on my convictions. It has to be your convictions. Son, let me give you two pieces of wisdom from a wise dad.
1. “Seek the truth. If you seek the truth without bias or prejudice, you will discover the truth. What could make a father more happy?”
2. (He would say this is the best wisdom I ever gave him.) “Don’t reject something because it’s the faith of your father – reject it because it’s not true.” Out of that my son developed his faith, his convictions and his beliefs and is now one of the most outspoken and intelligent people in America. But that was the result of all those years of interaction where he learned to speak logically and I challenged him to apply that to the truth of Christianity.
What is your favorite verse?
JOSH: Romans 1:16 – For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.
Any final word for leaders?
JOSH: Strive for excellence, build relationships and make the gospel clear.
Which you all do. Don’t get tired of repetition. Make it fresh everyday.