According to George Barna, this current generation of teenagers—nicknamed “Gen Z”—is the first “post-Christian” generation in U.S. history.
So, as we seek to equip our teenagers to reach their non-Christian friends, we need to teach them apologetics. What is apologetics? According to the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry (carm.org): “Apologetics is the branch of Christianity that deals with the defense and establishment of the Christian faith.”
WHY STREET APOLOGETICS?
STREET apologetics is a term I use to describe helpful insights I learned while doing evangelism on the streets. Teenagers (and adults!) can use these strategies on any “streets” they walk on—social media conversations, the halls of their schools, and of course, actual streets!
It’s also a simple acrostic that spells out “street”:
Stay dependent on the Spirit.
Trust in the truth.
Remember to ask – admire – admit.
Engage them by using four questions.
Explain the Gospel no matter what.
Treat them with kindness.
Each of these six points will help your teenagers learn to effectively navigate the sometimes difficult conversations that happen when they engage their peers with the Gospel.
STAY DEPENDENT ON THE SPIRIT.
“‘…do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.’” Matthew 10:19-20
It’s so important for teenagers to learn what it means to lean fully on the Spirit of God, who will give them the wisdom to know what to say and the power to say it boldly, as they share their faith. The Holy Spirit can fill them with divine power to be his witnesses (Acts 1:8) anytime, anywhere, to anyone.
TRUST IN THE TRUTH OF GOD’S WORD AND THE RESURRECTION OF CHRIST.
The Bible was written by 40 men from three different continents and a variety of backgrounds (kings, shepherds, fishermen, scholars, and more) over a period of 1,500 years, yet there are no unexplainable errors or contradictions. It continually proves to be historically, geographically, and archeologically accurate. The only way this could have happened is if the Holy Spirit guided the writers and the process, and that it’s the actual Word of God!
The evidence of Jesus’s resurrection also substantiates Christainity. As Paul wrote:
“For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, He appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep.” 1 Corinthians 15:3-6
More than 500 people encountered Jesus in physical form after His well- documented and horrific execution at the hands of Roman soldiers. Many of these witnesses were willing to suffer torture and death because they refused to deny what they saw. As someone once said, people may die for what they think to be the truth, but nobody will die for what they know to be a lie.
REMEMBER TO ASK – ADMIRE – ADMIT.
Ask great questions. Follow Jesus’s lead, and learn how to ask great questions that can easily be turned to spiritual subjects (think: Jesus and the woman at the well in John 4).
Admire what you can about their faith. As Paul did in Acts 17 with the pagan philosophers of Athens, find something you can admire about what they believe. This doesn’t mean you agree with their belief system, but establish common ground by appreciating what they have right.
Admit that you need Jesus too. This is when you share your story—the story of how Jesus redeemed you from a wasted life and continues to do so!
ENGAGE THEM USING 4 QUESTIONS.
In the words of my good friend Bill Jack of Worldview Academy, good questions are like a “crowbar” not a “sledgehammer,” which is what Gospel-sharing can feel like to the recipient if you don’t take time to find out where they’re coming from.
Bill also talks about four key questions you can ask to help you dig deeper and find out not just what people believe but also why they believe it.
- What do you mean by that?
- How do you know that to be true?
- What difference has it made in your life?
- What if you’re wrong?
I’ve found these questions especially helpful. Master them, and have your teenagers master them. It will enable them to manage the conversation well and get the other person thinking through their own belief system.
You may be thinking: “What if they ask a question and my teenagers don’t know the answer?“ Simple. Have students say: “I don’t know, but I’ll find out.” Then they can set up another meeting to continue the conversation.
EXPLAIN THE GOSPEL NO MATTER WHAT.
“For I am not ashamed of the Gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes…” Romans 1:16
The Gospel is like a grenade. It doesn’t matter who throws it—it’s gonna blow up. Why? Because it has intrinsic power! Because “it is the power God that brings salvation to everyone who believes….”
It doesn’t matter if the messenger is the apologist Lee Strobel or a 12-year-old girl. The power is in the message.
So, no matter where the conversation goes, share the Gospel.
If they mock you, share the Gospel.
If they tear your arguments apart, share the Gospel.
If they totally reject everything you say, share the Gospel.
It contains the very power of God.
TREAT THEM WITH KINDNESS.
“But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because He is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.’” Luke 6:35
If they are mean to you, be kind to them. Train your teenagers to do the same. There’s something about a teenager who’s full of the fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control; Galatians 5:22-23) that’s hard to argue with.
This is ”STREET Apologetics.” May God use it to, well, take your teenagers to the streets in your own community! For additional, practical ideas about how to engage people from 13 different religions and worldviews, click here. And then start sharing the Gospel! The best place to learn apologetics is on the streets.