by Lee Weeks
Most teenagers today who make professions of faith in Christ still do not believe that Christianity is the one true religion, according to an international Christian apologist and youth ministry expert.
"Seventy-five percent of all kids coming to Christ today are not coming to Jesus because He is the way, the truth and the life," said Josh McDowell. "They are coming to Christ because He is the best thing that's come along so far, that they've filtered through their experience. And as soon as something that seems better to them comes along, they're gone."
Speaking during an evangelism and church planting conference in early October, co-sponsored by the North American Mission Board and Bellevue Baptist Church in Memphis, Tenn., McDowell said the greatest challenge facing the evangelical church in the twenty-first century is communicating the truth of the gospel in a culture where all truth claims are perceived as equal.
Citing a 1999 survey showing that 65 percent of evangelical teenagers believe there is no way to determine which religion is true, McDowell said the prevailing cultural mindset defines truth according to "personal perspective" and "personal experience."
McDowell assessed the challenges of student evangelism in the new millennium by describing a cultural viewpoint in vogue today that "truth is not there to be discovered, truth is there to be created....
(Today's teens) don't even understand your world," McDowell said, addressing an audience where most in attendance were at least 30 years old. "They don't even understand your language."
For example, McDowell said, many evangelical teenagers today say the Bible is true and historically accurate because they believe it-but this belief system is based on their personal opinion, not the concept that there is an objective standard of truth outside of one's self.
McDowell blamed the propagation of Darwinism in the public schools for society's rejection of absolute truth. "If there is no Creator God, then there is no external truth and all you have left is man," he said. "If there is no Creator God in which dwells truth apart from yourself, then all truth is created, all truth is personal."
Today's generation, he asserted, has replaced John 3:16-the message of salvation-as the most-quoted Bible verse with Matthew 7:1, "Judge not lest you be judged"-a verse, he said, that actually teaches one to judge according to God's standard as evidenced by His character and nature.
A society void of the concept of absolute truth universally acknowledged for all people for all time, McDowell said, stands increasingly vulnerable to the barbaric displays like that of Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold in April, 1999, at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado.
"What they did in killing those kids and that teacher was morally right-according to their own personal value system," McDowell said. He said a 1999 survey which showed that 52 percent of "evangelical church kids say the only intellectual way to live is to make the best decisions you can based on your feelings at the moment," is exactly what Harris and Klebold did.
Dismissing the popular notion that "high-risk" teenagers are the results of broken homes shattered by divorce, McDowell cited a Columbia University study released five months after the massacre at Columbine. The study showed that even in two-parent homes children are 68 percent more likely to get involved with drugs and violence when there is a "fair-to-poor relationship" with the father. Harris and Klebold were raised in two-parent families, McDowell noted.
The answer for reaching the teen culture with the truth of the gospel remains the same now as in the days of the New Testament, when the concept of tolerance was propagated throughout Rome in an effort to keep peace, according to the speaker. "You will not reach this culture if you cannot impart your life," McDowell said.
"Today's culture will not care how much you know until they know how much you care," he said. "I believe a personal testimony of the reality of Jesus Christ alive in his or her life is one of the top attractions to consider truth as truth."
"All over the world, every culture I've been to, they want to hear a daddy's heart and they want it from a daddy who loves them," he said.