The Internet has created new challenges for faith, especially with youths of a much younger age, says a best-selling evangelical author scheduled to be the keynote speaker for the Mailbox Club’s annual Harvest Dreams dinner later this month.
Churches are having to battle skepticism at a “younger and younger age” each year, says Josh McDowell.
“Kids have more access to information at a much earlier age and it poses challenges to the Christian faith,” McDowell says. “There is a pervasive skepticism due to the Internet.”
Such skepticism used to arise when a youth went to college. McDowell’s ministry has emphasized maintaining and kindling college and university students’ Christian faith. He had become accustomed to seeing college students, even ones raised in Christian homes, struggle to maintain their faith in the face of being away from home for the first time, encountering new ideas, meeting people who are vocal unbelievers. Several of McDowell’s books and his ministry have worked to arm college students against skepticism, but they just keep getting younger.
“It used to be 18,” he says. “Now it’s 12 years old when we have to reach them.”
People peripherally familiar with McDowell’s half century of ministry, his travels to 115 countries, including the U.S., where it is estimated he has given 23,000 talks to more than 10 million young people, his dozens of books such as “More than a Carpenter” and “Don’t Check Your Brains at the Door,” may be surprised to learn that McDowell understands such skepticism because he was once such a skeptic.
In his youth, McDowell was a self-described agnostic who, according to his biographical information, “believed that Christianity was worthless. After being challenged to intellectually examine the claims of Christianity, Josh discovered compelling and overwhelming evidence for the reliability of the Christian faith. After believing in Jesus Christ, Josh’s life changed dramatically as he experienced the power of God’s love.”
His discovery changed his career plans from work in the law to the seminary. But he honed an attorney’s skills in providing skeptics with evidence of God, Jesus and Christian faith. He began teaching young people ways they could not only maintain their faith but convincingly debate those who would challenge their faith in a manner that has proven successful in winning others to Christianity.
Young people are often not taught how to defend their faith, McDowell says in a recent phone interview with The Times.
“Christians need tools for faith,” he says. “Too often, Christians do not have convictions. They have beliefs. Teens can tell you everything they believe but can they give you reasons why they believe it?”
In the past year, the Mailbox Club has been
developing Venture Clubs in churches here and across the nation. The first one started at Bemiss United Methodist Church in Lowndes County and the Mailbox Club has been developing chapters at churches across the nation ever since. The idea behind the Venture Clubs is to provide young people with evidence for their beliefs.
John-Mark Eager, whose parents founded the Mailbox Club, says Venture Clubs hope to create a new relationship with youths, in addition to the international organization’s mailed literature.
Based in Valdosta, the Mailbox Club annually sends printed Christian lessons in dozens of languages to millions of children in nations throughout the globe. The Harvest Dreams dinner raises money so the Mailbox Club can continue its ministry both near and far, from Bemiss United Methodist Church’s Venture Club to mailed literature to other countries.
McDowell expressed excitement as Eager explained the Venture Club’s mission. McDowell emphasized, too, that the most important job a parent has is discussing what children learn in programs such as the Venture Club.
“The smartest thing you can do as a parent is interact and discuss these things with your children,” McDowell says.
The Mailbox Club’s Harvest Dreams Dinner, featuring speaker Josh McDowell, is scheduled for 6:30-8:30 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 19, James H. Rainwater Conference Center, 1 Meeting Place. Seats are still available. Reservations, more information: Contact the Mailbox Club, 404 Eager Road, Valdosta, Ga. 31602; or call (229) 244-6812; or visit www.mailboxclub.org.