Several years ago, I enjoyed the privilege of sitting on a panel at an apologetics conference in West Monroe Louisiana. The best panels work like a conversation among people who enjoy talking to each other. Questions come from the audience and the panelists both add their own insight and make room for others to expand on their answers. A good panel increasingly invites the personalities of the contributing speakers into the dialogue as the night progresses. This was a good panel.
As the end of our allotted time neared, a woman came to the microphone who brought back a tone of seriousness to the event. She asked us all, “How do I raise my young children in this culture? What do I say to them, what do I teach them when they will be forced to grow up in a world increasingly hostile to the teachings of Christianity? How do I protect them?” The question struck me in my core. The other panelists encouraged her to ground her children in the reasonable nature of our beliefs and prepare them to face future challenges to their faith. I had nothing to add on that front. Greg Koukl and Bob Stewart handled it perfectly. But the fear in her voice, the deep fear of the world around called out to another part of me. I began, “I don’t want to answer this as Jay Watts, the pro-life apologetics guy from Life Training Institute if that is ok. If you would grant me just a moment, I would like to answer this question as just Jay Watts a fellow Christian and brother in Christ.” She consented, and what follows is as best as I can remember what I said:
“I understand how unnerving and scary this culture can be. How corrosive it can be to faith, and how the challenge of raising children toward Christ can feel overwhelming. As I listened to your question, I thought about how I would talk to my own children about this.
Here is my answer. We don’t run away from the world. We aren’t afraid of the world. We reject the world. We reject it because Christ is better than the world. In every way, Christ is better than this world and this culture. If you see him, I mean really see him clearly, that truth is impossible for a reasonable person to deny. His mercy, his strength, his courage, his honesty, everything about him is better than the coarse stupidity and vanity that so often defines our times. Don’t be afraid of the attractions of the world. Make it your goal to help your children see Jesus clearly.
As someone who once lived as a pure child of this culture, who bought into every lie it told about me and my fellow human beings, I promise those attractions are ultimately empty and hollow and degrading. Teach your children to reject it, not fear it. Reject it, not hide from it. Jesus is better. Once I saw him clearly for the first time in my life, I rejected the world and all its trappings to begin a life devoted to him. Trust if we help our children see what I saw, not a world I feared but a Lord I loved, they will make the same decision.”
I’ve been thinking about that discussion lately. My goal when I left the secular world of business to pursue opportunities in ministry was to find a life build around talking about Jesus. In the past year, the internet became a more and more unforgiving landscape of anger and fear and judgement. Speaking opportunities, writing opportunities, and partnerships with other organizations kept me busy behind the scenes, but I struggled to answer a different question. How do I reengage the online world, an important part of modern ministry?
This moment on this panel continued to come back to me. It is time to go back to the very basics of my faith and build from there. Reject the things of this world and think of all the ways that Jesus is better. If we are going to start blogging again, start recording videos again, start podcasting again, we’ll start where it all started for me. My desire to build a life talking about Jesus and how my love for him drives me toward defending the idea that all human beings ought to be treated with dignity and respect. We can do that here at the MHM website.
As Paul wrote in Philippians 3:8, “More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them mere rubbish, so that I may gain Christ” Or to borrow from Tina Turner, he is simply the best, better than all the rest.
Great article a Jay. I love your panel response. “We don’t run away from the world. We aren’t afraid of the world. We reject the world. We reject it because Christ is better than the world.” Well said, and the right perspective for parents and for all Christians. Thank you for this!
Hope you and your family are well!