My wife recently shared this post on her Facebook from the “ToSaveALife” blog: The #1 Reason Why Students Leave the Church Could Surprise You. This 15 (or so) minute audio interview with Dr. Kara Powell of the Fuller Youth Institute and professor at Fuller Theological Seminary has some fascinating insights into why teens leave the church. I highly recommend anyone who is involved in apologetics take the time to read the post and listen to the interview. Here are the two of the top reasons Dr. Fuller cites:
- Lack of intergenerational worship and relationship
- Unexpressed or unexplored doubt
I must confess, the first reason surprised me. Dr. Fuller has some excellent tips for parents, youth pastors, and those involved in youth ministry on how to get teens more involved with intergenerational worship and relationships.
The second reason wasn’t as much of a surprise. I think anyone who is honest must admit that they have struggled with doubt in their faith journey. For me personally, this was very much the case. Several years ago, I was challenged by an atheist in an online forum. I realized I had no answers for why I believed what I believed about God and Christianity. In short, I had doubts. But I didn’t let my doubts drive me away from my faith, instead they became the catalyst for me to seek answers. This is what lead me to the world of apologetics and Christian case making (as J.Warner Wallace calls it).
Dr. Fuller has two recommendations to help with the problem of doubt. She says that leaders should raise tough questions on purpose and that we should not be afraid to tell teens “I don’t know, but…” She expands on this by saying, “Maybe you don’t have a ready answer, that’s okay! Discover the answer together or get back to them.”
Those are excellent suggestions; however, I personally think it is better to be ready with answers to those tough questions. Those who are active in apologetics know “our” favorite verse: 1 Peter 3:15, “but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect” (ESV). Clearly, none of us knows it all. And being honest with a teenager who is asking tough questions by telling them, “I don’t know, but I’ll find out and get back to you” is admirable.
But wouldn’t it be better to say, “That’s a really tough question, and I have an answer for you”? There may be a teenager out there who is counting on you for answers! After all, isn’t that why we “do” apologetics?