There was a time in my life when I questioned everything. I questioned the existence of God. I questioned the reality of heaven and eternal life. I questioned what it meant to be saved. I had many, many questions. And my dad had to listen to each and every one of them.
Sometimes he would give me answers as soon as I made an inquiry. Other times he would give me a quizzical glance and say, “I don’t know how to answer that. Give me a day to find something for you.” That was my introduction to apologetics.
After I became a follower of Jesus, the questions did not stop. Actually, they increased. My questions became deeper and more focused. I began to see the life-changing ramifications of some of the answers to my questions. I began learning what it meant to live out the Christian life in a fallen world. That was my introduction to the idea that apologetics does not end when salvation begins.
I have been pursuing apologetics ever since. Through that pursuit, I had an opportunity to listen to Sean McDowell, a speaker, author, and nationally known apologist at Alex McFarland’s Truth for a New Generation in 2013 and heard McDowell speak about relational apologetics. It made such an impact that when I recently had a chance to interview him two years later, I focused specifically on that idea. The result is my latest article in the January 2016 issue of the AFA Journal.
During the interview, I asked McDowell how apologetics fits into the home. He conveyed several important ideas parents and grandparents should keep in mind if they hope to pass their faith on to their children.
Passing faith on to young children
It is clichéd to say children are like sponges. They soak up everything they see and hear. But there is much truth in that adage. They do not have the ability to articulate everything they learn, but it does impact them in very real, tangible ways. That is why presenting the person of Jesus to them, even at a very young age, is very important. But McDowell said that what we say is secondary to what we do as parents of young children.
He said, “The most important thing for any parent of a young child to do is to invest in his or her spouse. Make sure your spouse knows you love and support him or her. Make certain your children see that you are investing in your spouse. Second to that is investing in your children. Start small. Look for little opportunities to have conversations. You want to model biblical truth so they see you living it, doing it. Their faith journey will begin with small steps, but it will be small steps you help them take.”
Passing faith on to teens
According to the book Families and Faith by Vern Bengston, one of the largest studies on faith transmissions, the single most important factor for children adopting the faith of their parents is a warm relationship with their fathers.
McDowell was quick to point out, “This does not mean a strong relationship with mom is not important. But the study does specifically mention fathers. But the bigger picture we have to see is that if we want to pass on the faith, it has to be done in the context of relationship, love, and care.”
So many parents are afraid of their children asking a question they do not know the answer to, but McDowell said apologetics and passing on one’s faith is about more than knowing the right answers. He said, “Look at Deuteronomy 6:4-9. It says to speak of God in conversations, in the everyday interactions of life. That only takes place in relationships.”
Utilizing solid resources
Even families with great relationships can use great resources. The problem is knowing what resources can be trusted to help children and grandchildren build a solid, biblical worldview. McDowell said, “If you have a child or grandchild between 16 and 23, one of the best things you can do is send him or her to Summit Ministries. If I could only recommend one thing, that would be it. Hands down.”
Summit Ministries host conferences in Colorado, California, and Tennessee. It also invites students to come for Summit Semesters where they are taught by some of the top Christian scholars in America. Summit Ministries offers a plethora of other opportunities to help teens and young adults build a strong biblical worldview.
Every parent and grandparent desires for the young in their families to come to faith early and pursue Jesus for the rest of their lives. Pursuing those children in the context of a healthy, loving relationship and taking advantage of the great tools available can help make that desire a reality.