Teaching Kids to Defend Their Faith
"Chad" (he chose to remain anonymous) is a
15-year-old evangelist. Not the kind of evangelist that preaches at revivals,
but the kind that continually makes his unchurched, spiritually clueless friends
consider Christianity as a viable option. He?s especially good at reaching the
Punk/Hard Core crowd (here designated "freaks"). Most Sundays several
of these guys and girls from his web of friendships are attending the youth
group. Many more go with him to Christian metal core concerts.
How is he able to turn people from hating both
Christianity and Christians to coming to church and worshiping God? How does he
approach defending his faith before a group of people who not only need to
understand that Christianity is true, but to first need to discover that their
preconceived ideas of Christianity are false? To find the answers, I both talked
to him extensively and observed him in action. Here are some hints from a
successful teen evangelist that youth pastors could pass on to their students:
Don?t look down on them. Some
Christians stereotype all counter-cultural freaks/alternatives as rebellious
drug addicts and drop-outs. That?s not been my experience. Sure, some are into
drugs, but is that worse in God?s eyes than some preps who are filled with
pride and exclude those who can?t afford Ambercrombie and Fitch? The
"freaks" I know are some of the most accepting people I?ve seen.
Some are committed Christians. Some are brilliant academically. If you want to
reach unchurched people, you can?t put them into boxes. When they sense that
you?re looking down on them they don?t want anything you?re selling. And
by the way, I?m not a missionary who dresses like "freaks" to reach
"freaks." I fit in better with the "freaks" than the preps.
I am a "freak."
- Try to find something in their arguments that you
agree with. If a schoolmate starts foaming
at the mouth about how he can?t stand all these Christian hypocrites and
those lousy Churches that condemn people, I may respond, "I know
exactly what you mean! It really ticks me off when Christians do stuff like
that. Sometimes Christians look down on me because I wear weird clothes and?"
So we rave together a little while until the guy thinks, "Hey, this guy
thinks a lot like I do. But he?s a Christian, right?" This disarms
him by helping him realize that not all Christians are like the stereotypical
ones he has in his mind.
- Listen. Some
Christians think that when they hear someone either cutting down Christianity
or spouting spiritual nonsense, they have the responsibility to rise to the
occasion by setting the people straight. It?s as if the gospel is somehow in
jeopardy and needs to be defended. The result? The poor Pagan receives a
barrage of haughty counter-arguments by Christians that only serve to
reinforce to him that Christianity isn?t for him. What went wrong? Although
the truth was presented, it wasn?t presented in love. Rather than thinking
primarily of how I can set this person straight, I concentrate on listening. I
may ask questions about his experiences and/or religious beliefs that help me
find out why he doesn?t like Christianity. I?ll say, "heck, tell me
about what you believe and if you can prove my religion wrong, I really want
to know." But usually his unbelief has nothing to do with his unanswered
questions. So I listen some more.
- Don?t get defensive. Some
of my non-Christian friends complain that whenever they present their opinions
to Christians, the Christians get all defensive and think they have to destroy
all their arguments. It?s a major turn-off to them. After listening to
someone criticize Christianity, rather than present my case, I simply told him
I was glad that we shared an interest in discussing spiritual things. He
responded, "I can?t believe that you
didn?t put me down like all the other Christians."
- Remember that our ultimate goal is not to win an
argument. Most of my lost friends aren?t
avoiding church because of some rational argument. Actually, either television
their music or personal experience convinced them that Christians are jerks
and air heads who exist to look down on people who don?t believe like they
do. So my ultimate goal is to confuse them with kindness. That makes them
positively curious about my faith and the Christian meetings I attend. At
school, I invite people who are considered "freaks" or nerds or the
wrong color or whatever to eat lunch at our table. When you do nice stuff like
that, some of their arguments all of the sudden don?t seem so important to
- Don?t think you have to solve all the problems in
one conversation. It?s unrealistic to
think that if you can answer all his objections in one conversation that he
will fall on his knees and cry out, "Now I believe! I repent and give
my life to Jesus as Lord!" It took Thomas three years with Jesus
before he said, "My Lord and my God!" My goal is that by the
end of a first conversation he?ll be thinking, "He?s a nice guy
that seems to like hanging out with me. Maybe all Christians aren?t jerks
after all. I?d like to talk to him again."
- Take them to Christian events that appeal to their
group. I love my church youth group. But
whenever my friends from the "freak" culture visit, they can?t see
past the almost exclusively jock/prep crowd. The freaks assume that this is
the same group that cuts them down at school. Sure, that?s judgmental on the
part of the freaks, but remember, they?re not Christians yet. I?ve found
that it?s better to take them to local Christian concerts that play Hard
Core, Emo and Punk styles. They feel at home with the alternative crowd and
the music, respect the band members that share from their hearts, and often
want to talk to me about spiritual things on the way to the Waffle House
(local hangout) afterwards. I take friends to church after they come to know
God and grow a little.
- Know your stuff on the big issues. Dad
tells me that years ago students debated the resurrection of Jesus and stuff
like that. But today those big questions will probably come later for a lost
person. The initial roadblocks are questions like, "Why are Christians
so judgmental?" "If God loves me, why does my family suck?"
"If I were to become a Christian, would I have to give up hard core music
and dress like Preps?" "Are all churches boring?" Although
they may not ask these specific questions, these may be the very ones that
blind them to Jesus. By taking them to Christian concerts like "Living
Sacrifice" and "Zao," I forever answer the question,
"Can Christians Rock?" My musical preference is generally
harder than theirs, which blows their minds and frees them from the legalistic
ideas they have of Christianity. You may disagree with me on how I respond to
these issues, but you?ve got to come up with some response. These questions
- Don?t be afraid to say "I don?t know."
Some Christian students, when confronted with a question they can?t answer,
just talk louder. My non-Christian friends hate that. I?ve learned to say, "That?s
a good point. I?ve never really thought of that before. I?ll have to think
about that one before we talk again." It?s called honesty. But it
also makes it easier for him to say at some point,
"You?ve got a good point there Chad."
- Know your stuff. When
I don?t know the answer to something, I either think it through, go to a
wiser Christian for input or read up on it. I?ve read the little book by
Josh McDowell called More Than a Carpenter. Although it gave me a good
foundation, you need to keep going deeper.
"Chad" lives in metro Atlanta, loves going to
metal core Christian concerts, studying the Bible, going on mission trips and
hanging out with friends at the Waffle House.
Author Steve Miller leads Global Youth Ministry in
association with Reach Out Youth Solutions, providing resources such as lesson
plans and illustrations and articles for youth workers at www.reach-out.org
. Check out the series entitled "Making a Mark That's Hard to
Erase" if you want to train and motivate your students in evangelism
skills. It's in the Legacy Lessons section.
Used by permission, Group Magazine, Copyright
2000, Group Publishing, Inc., Box 481, Loveland, CO 80539. Check out Group's Web
site at www.grouppublishing.com .
For an in-depth look at ministry to fringe kids, pick up
one or both of Scott Larson's books published by Group - At Risk: Bringing
Hope to Hurting Teenagers and Risk in Our Midst: Empowering Teenagers to
Love the Unlovable. Scott directs Straight Ahead Ministries and is a widely
respected expert on reaching at-risk kids. To order, call Group at
1-800-447-1070 or go to their online bookstore at www.grouppublishing.com
Our own Barry St. Clair has written a great work book
called Taking Your Campus for Christ, available to purchase online through "Our
Resources." Students can either use it for self-study or be taken
through it as a group.