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Come Reason's Apologetics Notes blog will highlight various news stories or current events and seek to explore them from a thoughtful Christian perspective. Less formal and shorter than the Web site articles, we hope to give readers points to reflect on concerning topics of the day.

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Showing posts with label missions trip. Show all posts
Showing posts with label missions trip. Show all posts

Thursday, April 09, 2015

Report from Berkeley: God is Changing Hearts and Minds

Last month, I was privileged to take a group of students on an Apologetics Missions Trip to Berkeley, CA. This is one of the different Apologetics Missions I've taken on in the last few years. We've engaged with Mormons in Utah, with Muslims in Dearborn, MI, and with atheists and skeptics on campus at U.C. Berkeley. Each time, the trip participants come back more equipped and strengthened in their own faith as well as trained to more powerfully share the gospel with an unbelieving world.

But don't take my word for it.  You can listen to some of the students explain the trip in these short videos we've just produced. In the first video, entitled "Apologetics Missions Trips: Making an Impact," several of the attendees tell of how this trip changed them and their relationship with Christ. In the second, entitled "Marissa's Story: Turning an Atheist Towards God" you will hear how one conversation made a Berkeley student rethink his dismissal of God.

Apologetics Missions Trips: Making an Impact

Marissa's Story: Turning an Atheist Towards God

These stories are just a sample of the great feedback we receive from students and churches who have traveled on an Apologetics Missions Trip. To find out more about how your group can participate in such an event, contact us here. And if you'd like to support these trips and other events like it, just click here to donate securely to Come Reason.

Image courtesy brainchildvn on Flickr. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Atheists Disbelieving of Impostor Christianity

I'm in the middle of leading a group on an Apologetics Missions Trip to Berkeley, CA. One of the things we do on these trips is to invite prominent atheist speakers to come and address our students. They will speak on a topic and then we have a time of Q &A so the students can probe the atheist worldview and see how well it can support itself a cohesive theory.

We've had a couple of different speakers present so far on this trip. Both gentlemen said they had been raised in traditional Christian homes and both said they left Christianity because it simply didn't make sense to them. The first speaker was raised a Southern Baptist, but at the age of twenty lost his Christian faith. Most of the reasons he offered for this were personal; he had built up an arsenal of ways to argue with Mormons or Muslims about why those faiths were untrue and engaged in these types of personal debates throughout high school. When a woman confronted him and told him that Hinduism was a much older faith than Christianity, he first went into debate mode. Just as he was getting ready to tell her she was wrong, he stopped, realizing that he didn't really know if Christianity or Hinduism was the older faith. This caused immense doubt in him about Christianity; he was stating facts that he didn't know and in his mind Christianity became just as fake as all those other faiths.

The Christianity he described turning away from was foreign to me. For example, he said that he felt closer to people as an atheist, stating "I no longer looked at people and thought, 'You're going to hell,' or 'you're part of my group.'" That isn't what Christianity is. It isn't about being in the right club or if you can take down someone else's beliefs. It is first and foremost recognizing that you are a sinner who needs to reconcile yourself to a holy God.

Our second speaker told us of how he was raised in Christianity by church-planting parents. He volunteered, started urban youth programs, and even went to seminary. Yet, he said that he never felt he had any type of personal relationship with Christ. In fact, the idea seemed foolish to him. He saw Christianity as being a good person and treating others with kindness. He fought for civil rights of African Americans during the civil rights movement in the 1960's, and he objected to the killing in the Viet nam war. But when he discovered that family members who taught him that "Jesus loves the little children, black and yellow, brown and white" were also themselves racists, he decided that he could be good without the need for what he called "the extra layer" of religion.

As you can see, he too missed the central aspect of Christianity. He thought being a Christian was being good and treating other well. He never talked of his own sin or his need to reconcile himself to his creator.

I find it interesting that both atheists reviled an impostor Christianity. I can understand their discontent; if Christianity is only keeping rules or winning arguments it would make sense that it feels fraudulent or superfluous. But that isn't what Jesus taught. His focus was always on how to reconcile human beings to the God who loves them. People will by nature choose their passions over God's holiness, yet God still seeks to bring them back to Himself while still remaining holy! A completely holy God cannot let any sin go unjudged. That's why Jesus came to die for us, so that the judgment of our sin may be met and we can still enter into that relationship with God.

I quoted Pascal in yesterday's post where he said, "it is equally dangerous for man to know God without knowing his own wretchedness, and to know his own wretchedness without knowing the Redeemer who can free him from it." As you can see from my experiences above, he was right. Apologetics without the cross helps no one.

Friday, March 13, 2015

It's Imperative that Christians Train for Their Faith!

Mischa Elman was a celebrated violinist who emigrated from Russia to New York and spent many years providing captivating music. His wife tells this great story of Elman's quip after the orchestra was making too many mistakes:
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."1
Of 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?2
Kozak 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.


1. Carnegie Hall. "History FAQ." Carnegie Hall. Carnegie Hall Corporation, 2015. Web. 13 Mar. 2015.
2. Kozak, Steven. "Are Christian Students Living Within A Christian Worldview?" Steven Kozak, 1 Nov. 2014. Web. 13 Mar. 2015.
3. Kozak, 2014.
Photo courtesy Josh Hallett and licensed via the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0) License.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Ann Coulter is Wrong-People are More than Numbers

I finally had the chance to read the column Ann Coulter wrote about Kent Brantly, the African Missionary doctor who contracted the deadly Ebola virus while treating others in Liberia. Entitled "Ebola Doc's Condition Downgraded to 'Idiotic'," Coulter's piece is not only confused, but also mean-spirited. However, I want to use Coulter's disparagement of Christian missionary efforts as an opportunity for Christians to learn something: how judging Christian efforts by worldly standards is mistaken. Coulter thinks her reprimand is clever, but she fails to recognize the value of human life and discounts the power of God.

Devaluing Human Life

Coulter's article, aside from the emotionally poisonous words, tries to make the argument that Christian missions should be approached from a utilitarian perspective. She complains about how the cost of treating the now infected doctor and his nurse "has cost a Christian charity much more than any services he rendered" and then asks "why do we have to deal with this at all?"1 The answer is simple and something that is largely forgotten in this day and age: Christianity values human dignity. Because humans are made in the image of God, Christianity has always taught that alleviating suffering at cost to oneself is a noble and worthwhile pursuit in and of itself. In Jesus' parable of the Good Samaritan, it is an enemy of Israel that provides comfort and healing to the victim on the street. The Samaritan even pays the poor man's caretaker's bill and tells the innkeeper "whatever more you spend, I will repay you."2

Throughout the history of Christianity, Christians have sought to model their Master's words. The Romans thought Christians were crazy for picking up indigent children who had been abandoned on the Tiber. In an agrarian society, a healthy child is an asset, another hand to help work the farm. An indigent child is a liability. It means another mouth to feed and more overall suffering in times of drought or famine, not to mention the additional work. However, Christians recognized the image of God that was reflected in each life and could not do otherwise than serve them.3 As I've previously written, missionaries such as Father Damien purposely risked themselves to serve in a leper colony, with death as a result.

Coulter has seemingly bought into the concept that human suffering can be somehow quantified into dollars and cents. By advancing such an idea, Coulter herself demonstrates how cheaply our society's view on human life really is. While her facts are a confused (when Brantly went to Liberia, it was not yet a country infected; It was only after he was stationed there that the outbreak began and he chose to stay and treat the victims), she still wants to measure the alleviation of human suffering by cost. That cannot be done. Christian missionaries demonstrate how invaluable human life is in such selfless acts. If suffering becomes only a bottom-line game, then we've lost our humanity altogether.

Underestimating the Power of God

The other major error Coulter makes in taking a utilitarian approach to missionary efforts is she simply doesn't understand how God works. In her article, she accuses missionaries of being "tired of fighting the culture war in the U.S... So they slink off to Third World countries, away from American culture to do good works, forgetting that the first rule of life on a riverbank is that any good that one attempts downstream is quickly overtaken by what happens upstream. "I don't know how Coulter can read the minds of so many Christian missionaries to ascribe such motives, but she feels that it is more prudent to be missionaries here in America. She writes:
If Dr. Brantly had practiced at Cedars-Sinai hospital in Los Angeles and turned one single Hollywood power-broker to Christ, he would have done more good for the entire world than anything he could accomplish in a century spent in Liberia. Ebola kills only the body; the virus of spiritual bankruptcy and moral decadence spread by so many Hollywood movies infects the world.

If he had provided health care for the uninsured editors, writers, videographers and pundits in Gotham and managed to open one set of eyes, he would have done more good than marinating himself in medieval diseases of the Third World. 
Here, Coulter completely ignores 1 Corinthians 12:14 that the body of Christ has many members and each is called to a different role. Paul instructs the church "The eye cannot say to the hand, 'I have no need of you,' nor again the head to the feet, 'I have no need of you.' On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable."4

My calling is apologetics. It involves interacting with people, discussing ideas, and possibly changing minds, which Coulter sees as essential. But that doesn't mean all should be so called. Brantly had always felt the call to Africa, even as a kid according to his mother.5 He did the thing that God had laid up on his heart, and that is the more important thing. Mother Theresa did likewise.

If God is in control, then we have faith that He may work it out for His good. And, while it may be that Brantly could make a movie mogul like Christians a bit more by providing him with medical services in New York, it is also possible that by contracting Ebola movie studios would be interested in making a movie of Brantly's life and heroism. It may even be possible that such a move would have a greater effect on the population of the country than Coulter assumes her path would take. It isn't like Chariots of Fire, Lilies of the Field, and even Molokai don't show such a result.

For Christians, pragmatism is not the primary model for action: obedience is. It is not to us to merely count the number of people we may touch, but to trust God and follow His will for our lives. That doesn't mean we don't take any kind of results into account, but it does mean that ministry efforts cannot be reduced to numbers.

I know Coulter is politically and not spiritually motivated. But even in this area, it has been proven that Christian missionaries are THE factor responsible for stable democracies forming across the African nation. Perhaps Coulter should look at the history of Christian missionary efforts a bit more carefully before she lambasts it so. People are not numbers; by her criticism, Coulter is in danger of becoming the very thing she says she stands against.


1. Coulter, Ann. "Ebola Doc's Condition Downgraded to 'Idiotic'." AnnCoulter.Com. 6 August, 2014. Online. "
2. Luke 10:25-37. English Standard Version. Crossway. Accessed online.
3. See my article "How will children be valued if Christianity is lost?" for several supporting cases.
4. 1 Corinthians 12:21-23. English Standard Version. Crossway. Accessed online.
5. Associated Press. "Mother: Doctor with Ebola sought to be missionary." LIN Television Corporation. 28 July, 2014. Online.
Photo courtesy Kyle Cassidy and licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Afghanistan Across the Street

Missions work can be exciting and exotic. Visiting foreign lands and experiencing different cultures emphasizes some of the differences people have even though we all have much in common, like the love of family, the desire to prosper, and the need for worship. Different cultures have different worldviews.

The phrase "mission opportunities" frequently triggers thoughts of faithful souls braving cultures unfamiliar with Christianity. The Joshua Project defined any nation that has less than a 2% Christian as an unreached people group.1 Nations like Afghanistan, Iran, and Somalia fit this category.

Christless Counties in Utah

You wouldn't have to go as far as Africa or the 10/40 window to find an unreached people group, though. This week I have taken a group of students to Sanpete County in Utah to witness to Mormons. Sanpete County has a population of almost 28,000 people and according to Tri-Grace ministries less than 1% of the people who live here are Christian, and Sanpete County isn't the only county in Utah where that's true.2 That means in the Unite States of America there are several large geographic areas that contain unreached people groups.

My experience in talking with people this week has proven that out. All the Mormons I talk with not only don't know any Christians, they completely misunderstand Christianity. They are convinced that Jesus taught eternal marriage and that we all existed as spirit children in a pre-mortal state. They believe that Christian ministers, being paid, must be in ministry for the money. They think that the Book of Mormon is comparable with the Bible and they think that Jesus taught one must perform certain works in order to be in the presence of God. Mormons I've talked with don't say "we were married in Salt Lake"or "we were married in Manti."They say "we were sealed in Manti."

This grieves my heart. One high school student who lives here told me today that when they were studying Martin Luther in her class as student exclaimed with amazement, "Martin Luther believed that you can get to heaven by faith alone?"The teacher affirmed her incredulity by answering, "I know, right?"The basic concepts of Christianity were as foreign to them as Arabic.

Making No Assumptions

Of course, it's easier to approach the people of Utah. I didn't have to learn a new language, eat strange foods, or figure out what cultural triggers are insulting. I can talk sports or child-rearing with the folks here just as I do my neighbors. And that is my point. No Christian should assume that just because you share a common bond with a neighbor or acquaintance you should never assume they know even the basics about the Gospel. Even those who use Christian phrases may not know what the gospel truly is.

I am very proud of these kids that took a week out of their summer to come to Utah and begin to reach these unreached people. They are amazing. I hope to lead many more trips out here during the year. If you or your church is interested, please contact me to discuss what's involved. It's the least we can do for those who are as desperately lost as those who live on the other side of the world.


1 "Definitions." The Joshua Project. Web. Accessed 6/28/2014.
2 "Field Demographics.” Tri-Grace Ministries. Web. Accessed 6/28/2014

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Changing Lives Through Apologetics Missions Trips

As you're reading this, I will have already hit the road, leading a group of students from Harvest Christian Fellowship to Utah for one of our Apologetics Missions Trips. You may wonder what exactly an Apologetics Missions trip is. Basically, it's a way to train Christians on how to discuss and defend their faith while witnessing to those who need to hear the Gospel.

The idea is simple: take Christians out of their familiar environment and place them in a location where the vast majority of people do not believe as they do. This helps the students see what the world is like from a non-Christian viewpoint; it takes them out of their bubble and out of their comfort zones. Then, we teach them how to respectfully and graciously interact with others on campus or our on the streets and we set them loose.

We've taken such trips since 2010, going to such diverse areas as UC Berkeley, Salt Lake City, and Dearborn Michigan (a predominately Muslim community). The results are astounding. Kids learn not only to support their own worldview, but they see how atheists or those with different faiths are not equipped to answer the hard questions themselves. We don't pull punches on these trips, either. For Berkeley, we brought in Richard Carrier to address the kids, as well as a couple of notable atheists. In Michigan, we brought in a Muslim apologist. In Salt Lake, we went to the center of Mormonism at the Temple Square and interacted with the missionaries assigned there.

In each outing, I've seen our students become more confident and more assured that the Christianity they hold is true, it not only holds its own against these different worldviews, it offers a much better explanation of how the world works. These kids now know how to answer questions on matters like moral absolutes, the Trinity, the exclusive claims of Christianity and so much more.

Another amazing aspect of the trips is the ongoing witnessing opportunities the kids have. Students will continue conversations they started by e-mail after they return home. I've talked with kids who have continued to witness to those they've met for over a month afterward! The ministry opportunities are great.

This year, we are heading to Manti where thousands of Mormons come to witness the Manti Miracle Pageant, which reenacts the trek of Mormons for Missouri to Utah. We will be on the streets each night, talking with Mormons and asking them if they believe that joseph Smith was a prophet and why. Check back here as I provide daily update.

If you or your church is interested in participating in an Apologetics Missions Trip, just drop me a note at and I'll be sure to get back to you. To support such trips, please click the donation button at the bottom of this post.For now, I will leave you with a letter I received from Skyler, a young girl who participated in our Dearborn trip last year. She writes:
Hey Lenny,

I thought you might find it interesting to hear an update on what positive outcomes have come from last year's trip to Dearborn. I have made good friends with two different Muslim girls whom I met there. I have an opportunity to go back to Dearborn next month with Ministry to Muslims. While I am there I am planning to hang out with my Muslim friends that I met there last year on our trip.

Aside from that, through the connection of some of the Christians we met in Dearborn I have made more connections to various ministries in the Arab world and have now received a brand new opportunity to go to Lebanon, which I am prayerfully pursuing. Please be encouraged in your ministry, and know that God is truly using it in mighty ways.

Last year's mission trip to Dearborn has completely changed my life in the most glorious of ways! I am praying that God will continue to use these trips to positively affect the Kingdom in many more ways.


Monday, July 18, 2011

Your Burning in the Bosom Might Require a Tape Measure

Last week, I had the privilege to lead a group of 34 students to Salt Lake City, Utah for an Apologetics Missions Trip. These trips are designed to help students interact with those who don’t hold to their religious views, to ground them in the theological truths of the Bible, and to teach them how to witness more effectively. It’s one thing to read a book or listen to a lecture on witnessing to the cults; it’s a far different thing to take it out of the classroom and actually do it.

One destination on our trip is the Temple Square in Salt Lake. This is the focal point of the LDS faith, with the Temple being the most iconic element of Mormonism. When we arrived at Temple Square, we had the students break into groups of two or three and then disperse to discuss beliefs with the Mormon Missionaries who are all too eager to engage visitors. In my time, a friend and I were able to engage with two different sets of Mormon Sisters – women in their early twenties who are on their mission, representing the LDS faith. The Sisters showed us the various buildings (the Tabernacle, Joseph Smith memorial, Church History Museum, and such) and along the way we began talking about Mormonism.

Now, the main “proof” of the validity of Mormonism for the overwhelming majority of Mormons is what has commonly become known as the “burning in the bosom.” Taken from a passage at the end of the Book of Mormon (Moroni 10:4), Moroni instructs the reader

And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.

Time and time again, as we talked with Mormons, they ultimately retreated to this passage as the unshakable measure of proof that the Book of Mormon is God’s word and that Joseph Smith was His prophet. “The Holy Ghost has confirmed these facts to me, and how can you get a higher authority than the Holy Ghost?” was the questions I received. They would then ask, “Have you read the Book of Mormon and prayed sincerely for God to reveal whether it’s true?”

I responded, “Yes, I have read the Book of Mormon, and I have prayed. However God revealed to me quite clearly that this was not His word. So, what do we do now?” At this, the missionaries were a bit taken aback. They suggested that I must not have prayed sincerely enough. I countered with an analogy.

“Look, suppose I was a house builder with 10 years of experience. I may look down on that two by four and say, ‘That’s a 92-1/4” stud. My experience gives me the ability to eyeball those and tell.’ You may come up and say, ‘Well, I have 10 years of experience, too! I can eyeball that board and tell you it’s a full eight feet long!’ We each have had an experience, and we each believe sincerely that we’re right. But out experiences are in contradiction to one another. How do we solve the issue?” The answer is obvious, of course. You measure the board! We appeal to an objective standard. You can place the board against an eight foot wall being framed and if it fits within the opening, it is 92-1/4” and if it is the same as the height of the entire wall, it’s a full 96”.

This appeal to an objective standard is common-sensical and is how Mormons would settle any other question – except the question of the Book of Mormon. The personal experience in proving it to be true trumps everything, including archaeological evidence (there are no traces of any of the civilizations that the Book of Mormonism mentions1), the factual evidence (The Book of Abraham has been proven to be the Egyptian book of the dead2), DNA evidence (the American Natives are not Semitic in origin3), and the contradictory nature of Joseph Smith’s teachings when compared to the Bible.

In my discussion, the missionaries simply refused to acknowledge my point. “But you must pray!” they told me. “The Holy Ghost is the ultimate authority!” So, they basically said that their personal experience trumps all, even the facts when they are presented. I again asked how we can reconcile this stand-off. They had no further answer and bit me good-bye.

This to me is sad. These girls have so much of themselves invested into their belief system, that they cannot even make room for admitting there is more than one way to find the truth! I’ll keep praying for them. I also hope that we as Christians don’t fall into that same trap. 1 Peter 3:15 says we’d better be able to give reasons for why we believe as we do. To do anything else would result in building a house of faith where the walls are eventually going to collapse.


1. See “The Lost Book of Mormon Geography” at
2.Joseph Smith’s papyri was rediscovered in 1967 and, now that we can translate Egyptian hieroglyphics, its plain to see this is true.
3.See “Who Are the Lamanites?” at
Image courtesy Flickr user redjar.Typhoon at en.wikipedia [CC BY-SA 2.0], from Wikimedia Commons

Friday, October 08, 2010

Berkeley Apologetics Missions Trip - Day 1

Here are some highlights from our first day talking with Berkeley students.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Apologetics Missions Trip - Videos

In preparation for our upcoming Apologetics Missions Trip to U.C. Berkeley, we had Brett Kunkle come out and pretend to be an atheist at our last Come Reason class.  Brett did a great job, as always and demonstrated how necessary it is to be prepared to defend your faith with gentleness and respect. (1 Peter 3:15)

This is why we're taking a group of people on the trip--to train them and help them be better equipped to do just that. Here are some videos to show you what you can expect on the trip. If you would like to go, there are still some spots left.  Download this flyer and turn it in!

The Berkeley Mission: Conversational Surveys

The Berkeley Mission: Atheist Dialogs

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