Every couple of months I pass out a blank 3×5 and ask my middle school & high school students to write down their answer(s) to the question at hand. The question is always different, but has a common theme. (Just to name a few, we’ve asked “When do you feel closest or furthest from God?”… “What are you thankful for?”… “What is like a cavity on your faith?”) The students are instructed to keep their name off the card so they can go all out and really answer the question with the freedom of anonymity. Once they are finished, they fold it up and drop it in a medium sized bucket. I call up all my leaders and we pull out one card at a time, read it verbatim, and discuss. We chat amongst ourselves but also make the students feel comfortable jumping in if they feel like they won’t give away their anonymity.
We’ve learned so much about our students. First, their handwriting is terrible, they can’t spell, and are not opposed to dropping a dirty word or two in their answer! Ha. Ha. Yes, we read the dirty words sometimes.
The important things we’ve learned has to do with the obvious, yes there is a huge range in faith and maturity… but the main thing I have learned is that there is an underlying lack of “Why?”. What I mean is this: there are a ton of kids that know how to give the “right” and/or “Godly” answer, but they can’t explain it well. In short, their answers reflect a poor understanding of apologetics. We’ve been blessed to see miracles first hand… to have “crying on the floor” Holy Spirit nights… to feel compassion for our brothers and sisters in need and do something about it… but when it comes to forming an academic reason for their faith, the most come answer is “Just ‘cuz”.
Reconciling the Heart for Christ and the Logical Mind
Recently, I had a conversation with Brad Bailey, Senior Pastor of the Westside Vineyard. He said to me,
Brad hit the nail on the head, and the students’ 3×5 card answers confirmed it! Many students struggle with reconciling their heart for Christ and their logical mind. Unfortunately, students have a notion that they must stand up and defend the biblical creation account in science class. I never want to hear of a student falling away from Jesus because their science teacher or professor made them look ridiculous. Our culture is very good at making people of faith feel dumb when it comes to the big questions. So, as their pastor I knew I had to do something.
I went through the cards and compiled some questions that touched on this issue. Then I gave the questions to the students and asked them to mark which ones they’d like to dive into during a monthly series. Fifteen questions were posed… most students were interested in eight or so… but after counting up individual interest for each question, they were equal. So, we covered all fifteen questions!
- What is the origin of the Universe?
- How old is the Earth?
- What is the origin of life?
- What really is evolution anyway?
- Did we evolve from apes and monkeys?
- Fossils prove evolution, right?
- Does God exist?
- Doesn’t evil disprove the existence of God?
- If God does exist, why is there evil?
- Wasn’t Jesus really just a great prophet & teacher?
- How can we trust the authenticity of the scriptures?
- Did Jesus actually get crucified or did he escape beforehand?
- Did Jesus die on the cross, or did he act dead until they put him in the tomb?
- Did Jesus come back to life?
- I believe in Jesus, but I also believe in science… is that even possible?
Whoa! Tough questions right? I needed to study, pray, dig deep, and check my heart. So, I took a month and pondered these questions through the lense of our mission. You know… to turn the hearts and minds of people back to their true father so they may be a loving & loved sibling in HIS family. That’s what is important, not being right! It is more important to win a brother or sister than to win an argument.
So then, why do we want our students to know how to respond to these questions?
Dealing with the “Cavities” in Our Faith
I have found that like not dealing with cavities on our teeth, a “cavity” on our faith can rot the whole thing. We need to give an academic response to these big questions so our youth can find the decay and reverse it. The reversal must take place before they are destroyed by someone who loves to tear down one’s faith through science.