One day, after a rehearsal that hadn't pleased Elman, the couple was leaving Carnegie Hall by the backstage entrance when they were approached by two tourists looking for the hall's entrance. Seeing his violin case, they asked, "How do you get to Carnegie Hall?" Without looking up and continuing on his way, Elman simply replied, "Practice."1Of course this is an old joke that has many iterations, but there is something that we can learn from this old canard. We value practice as one of the primary ways to develop skill and prepare for important occasions. One would never imagine putting a musician on stage in front of a packed house at Carnegie Hall without them first practicing. No one plays as a major league baseball player without spending many hours in the batting cages.
However, how do we help our kids practice and strengthen their faith before we send them out to face college professors or others who would seek to tear down their beliefs? College is a crucial time for young Christians as they are establishing themselves and their beliefs away from their parents and the comfort of familiar surroundings. This is when young people will begin to examine much of what they've accepted as true. Yet, if the church has never taught them to think critically or how to respond to difficult questions or objections, how will they be prepared to face highly educated opponents? It would be like asking them to pinch hit for the World Series without ever playing in the minor leagues.
Steven Kozak recently wrote a prescient article asking "Are Christian Students Living Within A Christian Worldview?" He states:
The Church has done an excellent job of providing an assurance of salvation, but had not provided her with any intellectual resources to help her defend the impending onslaught of alternative theories and ideologies that are taught in college classrooms. Personal worship? Check. Pretty good moral compass? Check. Hopes of going to heaven someday? Check. A clear understanding of why the gospel is needed in our world, and how to engage our world for the Kingdom of God, hmmmmmm?2Kozak notes that "Colleges all over the world are content on teaching every system of philosophy and morality possible, and yet excluding the most influential and dominate system of beliefs in the history of the world."3 Without proper preparation and instruction, many young people will never know the incredibly strong intellectual and rational history that undergirds their faith. They will never know that those seemingly convincing objections to God's existence pale in comparison to the Christian evidence of the universe's need for a Creator, its incredible design, the reliability of reason, the need for a moral lawgiver, and many others.
Tomorrow I will lead a group of Christians in a trip to U.C. Berkeley where they will become immersed in a climate completely unchristian. They will engage with atheists, visit a Unitarian Universalist church, visit a Hare Krishna Temple, and interact with secular students on the UC Berkeley campus. Throughout these five days, they may be challenged and stretched, but they will also better understand the reasons people have both for and against Christianity. They will get trained to talk about issues of faith in a loving, intelligent way. And they will know what it's like to engage others without being tongue-tied.
If your church, school, or youth group would like to find out more about these Apologetics Missions Trips, please get in touch with me here. Come Reason Ministries will work with you to plan an event that will be as transformative as it is faith-building. Just click here and we will send you more information.
2. Kozak, Steven. "Are Christian Students Living Within A Christian Worldview?" Stevenkozak.com. Steven Kozak, 1 Nov. 2014. Web. 13 Mar. 2015. http://www.stevenkozak.com/content.cfm?page_content=blogs_include.cfm&friendly_name=Students-Living-A-Christian-Worldview.
3. Kozak, 2014.
Photo courtesy Josh Hallett and licensed via the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0) License.