J. Warner Wallace’s surprising advice to stop apostasy among young Christians

J. Warner Wallace has posted his recommended plan to halt the exodus of young Christians from Christianity during college.

It’s all up at Cold Case Christianity.


In my last post, I summarized the studies and publications that describe the flight of young people from the Church. A compelling cumulative circumstantial case can be made to support the fact that young college aged Christians are walking away from Christianity in record numbers. What can we do about it? What can be done? Whenever people ask me this question, I always say the same thing. STOP TEACHING YOUNG CHRISTIANS. Just stop it. Whatever Christendom is doing in its effort to teach it’s young, the effort appears to largely be a failure. In fact, Ken Ham (in his book, Already Gone:Why Your Kids Will Quit Church and What You Can Do To Stop It) found that young Christians who faithfully attended Bible classes were actually more likely to question the authority of Scripture, more likely to defend the legality of abortion, same-sex marriage, and premarital sex, and more likely to leave the church! What’s going on here? I think I know. It’s time to stop teaching our young people; it’s time to start training them.

There’s a difference between teaching and training. Training is teaching in preparation for a battle. Boxers train for upcoming fights. In fact, boxers are sometimes known to get fat and lazy until the next fight is scheduled. Once the date has been signed, fighters begin to train in earnest. Why? Because they know that they are going to eventually get in the ring and face an aggressive opponent. We train when we know we are about to encounter a battle. Imagine for a moment that you are enrolled in an algebra class. If the teacher assured you that you would never, ever be required to take a test, and that you would pass the class regardless of your level of understanding, how hard do you think you would study? How deeply do you think you would come to understand the material? How committed do you think you would be to the material?

[…]Years ago, as a youth pastor, I started taking annual trips to Salt Lake City and Berkeley. Why? I was scheduling theological and philosophical battles to help prepare my young Christians for the larger looming battle they would someday face on their own. If you want to teach your young people theology, there is no better method than to put them in direct contact with people who believe in a very sophisticated heresy. Mormons use the same terminology as Christians but deny the basic tenants of our faith. In order to dialogue with Mormons effectively, we first have to understand what we believe. When we train young people in preparation for an evangelism trip to Salt Lake City, we give meaning and purpose to the content of our teaching. In a similar way, our evangelistic trips to Berkeley (where we contact notable atheist speakers and atheist groups on campus) require us to prepare ourselves to answer the myriad of atheistic objections we will inevitably encounter. Once again, the content of our teaching in preparation for this trip takes on purpose and meaning when we know the level of our understanding will eventually be tested.

Read the whole thing. Wallace has experience working with young people, and lecturing on apologetics here at home and abroad. He understands young people because he has had to deal with them. Even if you don’t agree with them, it’s an interesting view. Would the church really turn away from being inward-focused and rooted in blind faith and emotional singing, and re-invent their approach so that it takes the other side seriously?

By the way, this is something I like to use in my mentoring of young people and in courting women as well. If I am trying to choose someone to work on, my first questions are always about what they do for a living, what they’ve studied, who in their lives is a non-Christian. I am always looking for people who have some opposition to Christianity in their lives, because it’s those people who have a motivation to learn. I am always surprised how naive pastors and worship leaders and youth pastors are about the opposition to Christianity in the world. They seem to be in their own little happy bubbles, never coming out to deal with people who disagree with them. I think the problem is that they often think that Christianity is not about truth but about feelings, and so no work needs to be done to defend any truth claims.

5 thoughts on “J. Warner Wallace’s surprising advice to stop apostasy among young Christians”

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  2. “They seem to be in their own little happy bubbles, never coming out to deal with people who disagree with them.” This is so spot on: I even see this is the strongest Bible churches, God bless my brothers and sisters. I ask them when was the last time they witnessed to someone, and they always look at me funny, like what’s that? My goodness, the cults (Mormons, JW’s, etc) take witnessing more seriously! So do atheists. They enter a Christian site and try to put a pebble in our shoes. And, I don’t know how one can witness without truth-based apologetics.


  3. There’s nothing like going toe-to-toe with a room (or forum) full of atheists to teach you a thing or two about apologetics and get you out of your comfort zone. For most non-believers “Jesus loves you” just doesn’t cut it. Neither does “you have to have faith” or “God has a plan for your life”. They want rational, logical arguments backed by science. They want to know that you understand their point of view and that you have a good grasp of the theory of evolution (because, to them, evolution has done away with the need for God).

    I spent two years debating daily with atheists on an online forum. I learned so much during that time, including how to engage atheists and agnostics as well as people of other beliefs, and how to handle trolls who are just there to cause trouble. I would recommend it to anyone who wants to revitalize their faith. You’ll get plenty of cuts and bruises in the process, but it’s worth it.


    1. I second this – highly. I have been doing this as well, and I might add that it is worthwhile to keep a journal on a daily basis with lessons learned. I am filling out a ppt presentation for future use with the back-and-forth “chess moves” of my interactions and it is really solidifying my apologetics approach, my attitude, and my faith.


  4. I’ve been listening to Wallace for a few years now and he has a knack for aiming his efforts towards the HS and college age kids. I really like his contrast in teaching and training. I started implementing this at my congregation. While we can’t afford a trip to Salt Lake City or Berkeley :) I do expose them to direct quotes, youtube clips, etc. of what they’ll face in the real world. It’s easy to get comfy behind the church walls.


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