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Why Student Apologetics? – Part 2 of 6 – Identify the need.

Is the often-cited youth exodus real or just business as usual for another generation? The data suggests the former.

Back in 2002, the Southern Baptist Council on Family Life did a survey that said 88% of their young people left the church. Now the survey goes on to say a handful come back, but the bottom line is they leave.

Soul Searching, written in 2005 by Christian Smith and Melinda Lundquist Denton, presented the results of an exhaustive study of approximately 3,300 teenagers between 13 and 17 years of age. Their results were equally disheartening; of those students that claim to be Christian, they “were often woefully unable to express what they believe or why it is important to them.”[1] The cited article goes on to say this is “due to churches failing rather badly in religiously engaging and educating youth.” This study, the National Survey of Youth and Religion, has been funded through 2015.

A 2009 study by Jossey-Bass of youth active in high school drop out of church at an alarming 90% rate. Lifeway Research did a similar study in 2011, and they found that 70% leave the church between the ages of 17 and 19.

David Kinnaman who is now the head of Barna Research, authored You Lost Me, a book that should be mandatory reading for any youth pastor. Kinnaman examines not only the data but the reasons behind the data. Why are they leaving?

While each study cited presents its own reasons, they do tend to fall into six general categories:

  1. The church is overprotective. Don’t believe me? How about the vilification of the Harry Potter series by some churches? Some students are told to avoid certain movies, music and the like because it’s evil. It may well be, but we should teach how to apply discernment to what we consume. Kinnaman states “An overprotected generation has been sold the lie that Christian living means material blessing, automatic protection, and bulletproof safety. Two millennia of Christian martyrs beg to differ…”[2] As the adage goes, we are in the world but not of it.
  2. The church is shallow. “If there was a message it was simple; I wasn’t getting a deeper understanding of my faith. So I left.”[3] Many students echo the findings of Kinnaman[4]:
    1. Church is boring.
    2. Faith is not relevant to my career or my interests.
    3. My church does not prepare me for real life.
    4. My church does not help me find my purpose.
    5. The Bible is not taught clearly of often enough.
    6. God seems missing from my experience of church.
  3. The church is anti-science. Students often feel the antagonism of the church toward science (real or perceived) force them into an either/or decision. It should be an “and” decision as both science and faith are intertwined. The teleological argument for a purposefully designed universe needs modern science on which to base its claims.
  4. The church is repressive, especially as it related to sexuality. Students need clear teaching on issues facing them regarding sexuality.
  5. The church is exclusive. Some churches encourage its students to avoid coming to events held at other churches. While there may be legitimate concerns, often it’s more about “turf.”
  6. The church discourages doubt. Thou shalt not doubt. Thankfully, this didn’t make the list. Yet it remains gospel in some churches. Students are reluctant to ask tough questions because of how they will be viewed by their peers or teachers. Doubt should be encouraged to the point no student is afraid to ask. If doubt remains when they leave their home, they will be more likely to fall prey to arguments against their faith.

So now that the problem has been identified, what is the solution? Apologetics play a central role in addressing the solution and we will begin with how to introduce apologetics into a student curriculum next week.

[1], accessed 1/10/17.

[2] David Kinnaman, You Lost Me, pg. 105

[3] Direct quote from a student who left her former youth group.

[4] Kinnaman, pg. 116

Why Student Apologetics? Part 1 of 6

I’ve been involved with student ministry in varying capacities since accepting Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior in 1998. In those almost 20 years, I’ve seen many students walk away from their faith. It always bothered me. Why did they leave? Were our games boring? Pizza cold? Oh, and what about the messages? Truth is, the competition for our student’s attention has become more intense with the 30-second sound bites, instant access to data via the internet and later, smartphones and a world that has become increasingly secular and hostile toward Christianity.

Don’t believe me? Most of my career was spent dealing with data.  I was a IBM DB2 specialist for most of my career. I started working in the DB2 software development organization, and eventually ended up selling it.

Data is kind of the crown jewel of any business. Whether you’re a bank, grocery store, retail store or pollster, you always ask “What does our data tell us?”

Well data has an interesting characteristic. Data in and of itself is neither true nor false. It is just a fact. Now one could argue that data can be false and you’d be correct. But if you sold 5 widgets and said you sold 10, then the data would be falsely mispresented. Five sold widgets are just a fact, in this example.

So data is important. In the part 2 of “Why student apologetics?” we’ll be digging into some data that shows a youth exodus from the church that some pastors and youth leaders still deny.

I will be presenting four key processes on how to address this youth exodus. And yes, apologetics plays a critical role in equipping students to better grow in their faith, remain strong in their faith and learn how to share and defend what they believe.

In summary, those four key processes are 1.) Identify the need for apologetics in student ministry, 2.) Introduce apologetics to the church at large, 3.) Include apologetics as part of a regular student curriculum and 4.) Instill apologetics as part of the church culture.

In our next installment we’ll look at the data regarding the youth exodus and identify the need for apologetics as a means to counter the exodus.

“I never knew you.”

A good friend, Mike, recently asked about my thoughts on these verses. Here is my response.

Matthew 7:21 – “Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter.

The key to this verse is “those who actually do the will.” We must be doers, and not just proclaimers, of faith (“Faith without works is dead.” – see my commentary of the two uses of “works.” One is born of duty and one is born of love for Jesus and what he has done for us). We see this same principle elsewhere in Scripture, particularly James 2, which is a warning against prejudice (James 2:1 – …how can you claim to have faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ if you favor some people over others? and also James 2:17 – So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless).

This appears contradictory to other teachings where we are justified by faith and not according to what we have done. This is where we really need two definitions to convey the idea of “works.” These verses in apparent contraction can be found in Genesis 15:6; Deuteronomy 9:4-6; Matthew 9:11-13; John 8:4-11; Romans 3:22-24, 4:4-5, 16, 5:2, 8, 17, 9:10-12, 10:3-13, 11:6; 1 Corinthians 15:10; Galatians 3:1-3, 7, 9-12, 21-26; Ephesians 1:5-12, 2:8-9; and Titus 3:4-7.

The Bible tells us clearly that we are not good enough to provide for our own salvation (Romans 3:23). Our Holy God cannot abide in our sinful presence or lawlessness (James 2:10) and we then require a Savior (Romans 8:3-4 and Titus 3:4-7).

While these two doctrines may appear contradictory, they are in fact complimentary. First, we are saved by grace alone (we don’t deserve it) (Ephesians 2:8-9 and Titus 3:4-7), but saving faith alone is never enough if you believe James 2:26 – Just as the body is dead without breath, (other manuscripts use the term “without spirit”) so also faith is dead without good works. Note here I am intending this definition of works to be works born out of our agape love for God, not obligation. I’ve heard a good analogy that while many counterfeiters may make exceptionally good counterfeit currency, closer examination will reveal they are not true currency. Similarly, true faith can be discerned by examining fruit (Matthew 7:16-20).

We may not be able to determine if one’s fruit is born out of a desire to serve a Holy God out of love or merely as a means to gain the favor or acceptance of others.

Matthew 7:22 – On judgment day many will say to me, ‘Lord! Lord! We prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.’

The question here is this; did the people actually do the things they were speaking of? We have a clue in Luke 6:46-47 – “So why do you keep calling me ‘Lord, Lord!’ when you don’t do what I say? I will show you what it’s like when someone comes to me, listens to my teaching, and then follows it (emphasis mine). I would argue that they never did prophesy or cast out demons, etc. Their intent was to deceive by claiming to have done these things. Even if they did successfully prophesize about a person or event, it was probably only a lucky guess that they had done it correctly.

Sadly, many people who claim to be a Christian can tell you they attended membership classes at church, got baptized, tithe to the church and helped out at the ministry fair for the community. This is the type of works-based mentality that some will engage in to merely impress others with their “Christianityism”. Titus 1:16 – They profess to know God, but deny him by their works. They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work. Note here the adjective qualifying the second occurrence of “work” in this passage; “good.” This is evidence of the two types of works that can be found in scripture. Unlike the first occurrence of “works” in this verse, “good works” are the works born out of a love for God and it is through these “good works” that our treasure is stored in heaven (Matthew 6:20 – Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal.).

So were these people ever “born-again” believers?

Matthew 7:23 – But I will reply, ‘I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God’s laws.’

According to verse 23, the answer is an emphatic “NO!” Jesus told us He never knew them. This is evidence that while they may have claimed to done things in Jesus’ name, it was in name only; there was no repentant heart or surrender to Jesus as their Lord and Savior.

Answer the Christian: Why do people suffer for a sin Adam committed long ago?

  1. God chose Adam (and Eve) as His “spiritual representative,” and we now have Adam’s sin imputed to us through his sinful act of disobedience to God in the Garden of Eden. In this view, known as federal headship, it should be noted that this does not mean actual sin has passed to us by way of Adam, but only through his actions is God holding us accountable. In much the same way, Christ’s subsequent righteousness can be seen as imputed to us. An example of this would be a wealthy industrial leader that had many productive factories, and through his financial missteps and bad decisions, was now bankrupt and forced to close the factories. The workers were not responsible for his bad decisions that produced this result, but they bore the consequences and lost their jobs.
  2. We are Adam and Eve’s progeny. In describing this nature, Augustine writes, “The seminal nature was there from which we were to be propagated; and this being vitiated by sin, and bound by the chain of death, and justly condemned, man could not be born in any other state. And thus, from the bad use of free will, there originated a whole train of evil…” We could not, according to Augustine, escape sin, for we were born into it. Further, John Calvin reminds us that “by the corruption into which he [Adam] himself fell, he infected his whole seed.”
    The Bible also gives us reasonable proof of this claim of inheritance, found in Hebrews 7:9–10: “Even Levi, who receives tithes, paid tithes through Abraham, so to speak, for he was still in the loins of his father when Melchizedek met him.” In this verse, Levi is the son of Jacob, who is the son of Isaac, who is the son of Abraham. It established in this account; Levi was “still in the loins of his father” although his father was not yet born.
  3. Not only are we descendants of Adam and Eve in a physical sense, but a claim can be made that we have also inherited their soul and by default, their sin nature. In defining traducianism, Millard Erickson writes, “We receive our souls by transmission from our parents, just as we do our physical natures.” The sin nature of Adam and Eve has been passed on to us through our soul.
  4. People no longer have to suffer for a sin committed by Adam and Eve long ago. In an analogy, consider a couple that generations ago inherited the family fortune and proceeded to squander it away. While the current family may be living in poverty because of the actions of a great-great-grandparent, they are not directly responsible for what happened decades earlier. They are, however, still paying the price, living in poverty. But suppose a benevolent person comes along and tells them, “I will restore all you lost. All you have to do is receive the gift I am giving you.” In much the same way, that is what Jesus Christ has done for us. We can break the chain of the sin of Adam and Eve by accepting the free gift of the Last Adam, who was without sin.

Baptism Defined and How It Applies to Salvation

While at Summit Colorado this summer, I engaged in a discussion with a bright young student on the issue of baptism. The discussion centered around two question, the first of which had to do with the definition of baptism and whether it always implied a water baptism by full immersion. The second question was regarding baptism as a requirement for salvation. While not exhaustive, this should help clarify those questions.

Baptism defined:Attendees-Photo

The root of baptism in Greek is “bapt” and there are many cognates of the word found in Scripture. In brief, it can mean immersion, washing or sprinkling, trouble (Jesus referring to a “baptism” he must undergo in Luke 12:50, suggesting a difficulty or trouble), a pouring out, this one often associated with the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

Strong’s Greek 907 – baptidzo, baptize (Matt. 3:6, Mark 1:5, Luke 3:7, John 1:25, Acts 2:38, Rom. 6:3) means dip, submerge, but specifically of ceremonial dipping. A cognate of this word (baptizontes) appears in Matthew 28:19

Strong’s Greek 908 – baptisma, baptism (Matt. 3:7, Mark 1:4, Luke 12:50, Acts 1:22, Eph. 4:5, Col. 2:12) means the rite or ceremony of baptism.

Strong’s Greek 909 – baptismois, washings (Heb. 9:10) means dipping or ceremonial washing.

Strong’s Greek 910 – baptistas, baptist (Matt. 3:1, 14:2, Luke 7:20, 9:19) is a noun indicating a formal title. Used in scripture only with John the Baptizer.

Baptism as a requirement for salvation:

Baptism in the ANE (Ancient Near East) often was associated with someone converting from one religion to another. This idea leads some to believe that baptism is a requirement for salvation, but the Word clearly contradicts this idea. Admittedly, there are some verses that would suggest baptism as a requirement for salvation. John 3:5 is often cited where Jesus tells Nicodemus he must be “born of water” to enter the kingdom of God. This “born of water” can have multiple meanings:

  1. The water of the amniotic sack surrounding a baby in the womb.
  2. The ritual baptism of repentance practiced by Jews as part of their faith.
  3. The immersion of a new believer in Christ (our traditional view of baptism).
  4. A spiritual washing of the soul (cf. Deut. 30:6, Jer 31:31-34, Ezek. 11:18-20), signifying a new birth that cleanses and renews.

The first meaning is clearly not intended because it is physically impossible for a grown person to re-enter the womb, miracles notwithstanding. While the second may be possible, it is unlikely that Jesus intended this as He came to proclaim a New Kingdom, not the one the Jews were in at the time. Also important to note that even if Jesus intended this definition, He followed the “born of water” with a requirement to also be “born of the Spirit.” The third is also not likely as this form of baptism did not yet exist and it was only after Jesus’ death that this became a common practice.

That leaves us with the last option, of which Nicodemus would have been familiar. This option was the option Jesus was advocating. Further, in looking at the Greek, the word “and” is the Greek word kai, and can be translated either “and” or “even.” If it’s translated “even,” it casts a whole different light on the issue and supports the idea that “born of water even the Spirit” means the spiritual regeneration that comes from repentance. “Water” and “Spirit” are often synonymous in the Old Testament.

Acts 2:38 is also used by those that claim baptism is a requirement for salvation. This also fails the context test when studying the Greek. Here the word “for” is examined and found to have several possible definitions including “in order to be,” “because of, as the result of,” or “with regard to.” Most scholars agree the proper interpretation of this passage should read “because of” or “Repent, and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ because of the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Also, both John 3:5 and Acts 2:38 must align with other scriptures that clearly fail to demonstrate water baptism as a requirement for salvation.

The Bible tells us that salvation is by faith alone (see John 3:16, Ephesians 2:8-9, Titus 3:5 to name a few verses in support of this). If baptism is a requirement for salvation, Paul is remiss in his failure to insist on it in multiple verses throughout his writings.

Lastly, baptism as a requirement for salvation is contrary to the nature of God. Consider two examples.

The first is the thief on the cross we read about in Luke 23:32-43 with Jesus saying to him “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.” Clearly the thief was not baptized, yet he would enter the Kingdom with Jesus. Some would argue the thief died under the OT law (before the NT) but this logic fails when we consider the salvation of the apostle Paul on the road to Damascus.

Second is an objection that contradicts the idea that God is love. Consider a scenario whereby a person truly receives Christ as their Lord and Savior, say perhaps on a Saturday night service and has plans to be baptized the next day in church. They are killed in a car accident on the way home that evening, never making it to church the next day. Would a loving God consign that person to hell for failure to complete the act of receiving Jesus? This is completely contrary to His nature.

For a further discussion of this issue, I recommend D. A. Carson’s commentary, The Gospel According to John.

A Review of Relational Apologetics by Mike Sherrard

downloadAs I began this book, I had high expectations due to the title. Apologists can be somewhat aloof and non-relational, which can be detrimental to sharing the knowledge they possess. I’ve long believed that often times we, as apologists, miss the last part of 1 Peter 3:15 that we are to be prepared to give an answer with gentleness and respect. This implies we first and foremost engage in our craft relationally.

Mike Sherrard gets it. His book flows from identifying who we are, what we do, what we know and where we should go. At times, it is not an easy read and I would be inclined to give it four stars because of that fact. That was until I got to chapter fourteen.

Mike’s first words in this chapter is “Will you go?” The name of our ministry is I Will Go Ministries, based on Isaiah 6:8, so naturally, I was drawn more closely to the topic of the chapter. In this chapter, Mike encourages us to go. He models his call after the acts of the apostle Paul in Acts 17. Paul went. He eventually found his way to Athens, the heart of intelligentsia in the ANE. “Many came to believe” was the result of Paul’s reasoning with them where he met them as he went. Mike continues in the remaining chapters addressing the importance of going to the home and the church. How do you “go” to your home and the church? Read the book. Because of the wisdom and excellent manner in which Mike presents the arguments that we must go to defend the faith, and not merely wait for opportunities, this book is a must read for anyone interested in reaching those with shaky faith or even no faith. Buy the book. Five stars.

Meanwhile, at Summit…

It was a divine appointment. The staff were told that they must wait until the students had eaten before they went through the serving line. So, today about 20 minutes after the start of lunch I went into the dining hall to get lunch. I sat across the table from a young man attending Summit who had just completed his first year at the university.

Summit advertises (loosely) that they make world leaders. When you see where their graduates serve, it becomes clear this is not an empty claim. The student I enjoyed spending an hour with at lunch is clearly one of these world leaders in the making.

Gunner shared an account of a required class at his university called “First Year Experience.” It was a required course (more about that later) which sought to help students navigate their way through their first year of college. Gunner was not so kind when he said it was nothing more than indoctrination. The first warning sign came with a questionnaire the students were required to fill out which was reminiscent of the scene in God’s Not Dead, where the professor encourages (requires?) the students to fill out a blank piece of paper with the words “God is dead.” This questionnaire asked the students various worldview questions and Gunner dutifully filled it out with his answers as someone coming from a Christian worldview. Sadly, he found out that several questions regarding sexuality and other similar topics did not allow for “no” answers and his grade was reduced accordingly. When he challenged the professor, she told him he could pick up his grade later.

It got worse. Next on the schedule was how to reduce stress in a college environment. This was done by inviting a guru to come in and teach transcendental meditation while chanting a few names of the various Hindu gods. Gunner was outgunned (pun intended) again when he asked when they would have a Christian come in to speak. No plans to bring in a Christian. No plans to bring in anyone else, for that matter.

It got worse. But in the interest of time, let me share what this young man did. While most of us may have been inclined to suck it up and move on, this was not an option for Gunner. Another professor, his English professor, had a writing assignment where the student could write on the topic of his or her choice. With his professor’s encouragement and permission, Gunner wrote on why the “First Year Experience” class should 1.) Be modified to become less biased toward one particular worldview and 2.) No longer be a required course for underclassmen. His professor told him if he did a good job on the paper, she would present it to the board. When his paper was returned, he received a grade of 105%.

It got better. Because of Gunner’s boldness and tenacity, upon the presentation of his paper to the university’s governing board, the content of the course was changed and it was no longer a required course. May every one of us have the conviction and boldness to change the world like Gunner. Amen.

Why apologetics is an important spiritual discipline for the church.

Here is an article by Dr. Alex McFarland that articulates the case for apologetics in the church. He states “Christian thinker G. K. Chesterton observed in 1933 that while it is important to win the unsaved to Christianity, leaders must increasingly endeavor to “convert the Christians to Christianity. Chesterton’s remark was a timeless reminder that the church must be ever dedicated in its duty to pass on biblical truth to rising generations.” The entire article can be read here.


We have finally made the switch to our new site and have shuttered our old site. While all of the information has not been added to this site, we expect to have this completed by the end of summer. We’ll have all of our resources and article on this new site by then. Thank you for your patience as we’ve made this switch!

Our new WordPress website!

Welcome to the new I Will Go Ministries website, the ministry home of Dan and Leonora Britton. Dan is a Christian apologist/teacher and Leonora is a pastor/teacher.


Dan and Leonora Britton

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.

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