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When Kids Ask Hard Questions: Jeff Myers

Family Life Today / Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine
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November 13, 2023 5:15 am

When Kids Ask Hard Questions: Jeff Myers

Family Life Today / Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine

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November 13, 2023 5:15 am

When kids pose tough questions about a complex world—what's it look like to parent well? Author and Summit Ministries president Jeff Myers helps parents set the stage for authentic faith that goes the distance.

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Learn more about Summit Basecamp; Speak with clarity and wisdom on the important issues facing Christians today

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Family Life Today
Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine
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Stu Epperson

Being a pastor and preaching almost weekly for 30 years, I noticed 2010, 2012, preaching totally changed.

I saw people on their phones, and I'm hoping they're taking notes. But a 20-year-old, maybe a college kid, came up one time and he said this. He goes, hey, I checked what you were saying while you were preaching, and you know there's other opinions on that. And I went, I know, I've studied those other opinions. In real time, while you're preaching, by the time you're done with that sermon, they can already decide it. I don't agree, and I think he's wrong, and I don't even think that truth is even truth. That's a different world that you're speaking into than when I started the church in 1990.

It's really different. Welcome to Family Life Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I'm Shelby Abbott, and your hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson.

You can find us at This is Family Life Today. So we got to talk today about truth in this world.

We got Dr. Jeff Meyers with us. As the president of Summit Ministries, this is sort of the world you live in, right? We have a world where 75% of millennials say what I think works for me and what is best for my life is the only truth I can know. Wow. And up to 90% of Americans are saying, if you want to find truth, the best place to look is inside of yourself.

Wait, wait, wait. So 90% of Americans are saying you can find truth within. You find it within yourself. Now, we're from Colorado. Our little town where our ministry is located is Manitou Springs. It's a little hippie town right at the foot of Pike's Peak. It is on the edge of Pike National Forest. When you hike in Pike National Forest, you can get a lot more lost than you realize. You take a compass with you and the compass, if you use it properly, points you toward a truth that is outside of yourself. Imagine somebody going out of the wilderness with a compass and saying, you know, I just always make sure the red noodle points toward me and that way I know where I am.

Those people are probably still out there. They'll never be rescued because if truth is inside of you, the first reaction you have is this is so great. I am sovereign over my own life. The next immediate reaction is, oh, no, I am sovereign over my own life.

That means everything that is wrong with me is my fault and no one can help me. So we have a whole generation that has become infatuated with the idea that we speak our truth rather than seek the truth. And it has led to a whole lot of misery. Well, Jeff, tell us a little bit about Summit Ministries, what you do. And I'd love to know, how did you get into this? Because we're going to dive into the world we live in and how this applies.

But give us the foundation. Why do you do what you do and what do you do? Well, Summit Ministries equips and supports the rising generation to embrace God's truth and to champion a biblical worldview. Young adults headed off to the university today, you've seen these trends for a long time. 70 percent of them who grew up in church will no longer even be attending church by the time they reach their mid 20s. They have decided by then that a biblical worldview is simply not plausible.

There are a lot of reasons for that and hope we can get into them, but they've decided that. Well, our mission at Summit is to prepare them so that when they go off to a college or university, they get stronger in their biblical worldview rather than weaker over time. They become leaders more than they otherwise would have.

And then this is exactly what we're seeing. We can, in the course of a two week long training program, move young adults who are coming into us. About one percent of young adults have a biblical worldview in this culture. By the time they leave, 94 percent have a biblical worldview. And even one year, five years, 10 years later, 85 percent of them have a biblical worldview. And we can define what all that means. But essentially, they have decided, I believe that the Bible is true and that it applies to every area of life.

And I'm going to stick with it rather than abandon it. Yeah, every parent listening right now, I mean, they're leaning in going, wait, wait, I've got a toddler, I've got a middle schooler, a high schooler. This is the world that they're struggling to raise their children in. I mean, how do they get their child involved in your ministry? For the two week programs that I mentioned, we're looking for 16 to 22 year olds. So these are young people who are in preparing for the college years or in those college years. When they come for two weeks, they have the opportunity to learn from major Christian thought leaders.

So we're bringing in the top Christian apologists, but also philosophers, economists. We look at all the different subject areas they'll be studying in their university. We don't just look at one or two. We don't just look at theology. And that's what's so interesting to a lot of the students.

Oh, wait a second. You mean a biblical Christian faith applies when I go to my history class? It applies when I go to my political science class or sociology class or psychology class. And the answer is yes. And if you can figure out how you're engaged in the conversation, you're on a level playing field with your professor, because your professor has beliefs, but your professor is just a person, just a person who has ideas. Just because you don't know how to answer them immediately doesn't mean you have to automatically accept what they say. So the students develop this sense of calmness, a desire to look, go back into the Christian tradition, but also especially, most importantly, back into scripture to understand the times in which they live.

We have a lot of courses, obviously, for all the way down to kindergarten, teaching biblical worldview to Christian school kids and homeschool co-ops. But that key time period, you've raised kids, so you know. There are certain times of life. There's a moment where they're like, I don't know what's going to happen next.

I'm a little nervous about this. And they're just open. There's an openness to truth. It happens in different places. It happens used to people usually when they're getting into their career. It happens when people are ending their career.

It happens when a marriage ends or, you know, when a marriage begins. But that time when you're just leaving high school thinking, I don't know what my purpose is, and I'm not sure what to do next, and I'm open. I'm open to truth. I remember I was a freshman at the University of Kentucky, and it was the first time I was exposed to Summit Ministries.

I can't remember if it was a video, but somewhere I was in some study that they were playing some of the material. And I remember thinking, this is so exciting, brand new in my faith. I had not grown up in a Christian home, but I thought, this is something to stand on, a foundation of Christ. And I felt like I can be proud to walk in class because I have answers.

And I think that's what happens. Kids today are feeling like, I'm the answer. I can come up with my own answer. To know that there's biblical truth that they can stand on that is an absolute, that's like a bad word these days. It's an absolute truth.

They're like, no, it can't be. But I love this ministry. And today we're talking about your book, Truth Changes Everything. And I love the subtitle, How People of Faith Can Transform the World in Times of Crisis. You're passionate about this.

We all feel it. Where'd that come from? I attended a Summit Ministries program when I was in graduating high school. I did not want to do it. I thought it would be fine to go to Colorado for two weeks.

Thought that would be great. But I had grown up in Detroit, Michigan. It was rough. We were three miles from the chaos.

We saw all kinds of things. I remember cowering under my bed at the sound of a gunshot in the streets, a drug dealer outside my school when I was seven. So my parents decided to move back to their roots to Kansas and Oklahoma, which meant moving from a large city to a small town, big church to a little church. So in this little country church, I knew the people loved me.

They were wonderful people. But then I got involved in the high school debate team and we would spend Fridays and Saturdays at debate tournaments. Oh, what do you think about Frederick Nietzsche? We had to talk about all these nerdy things. I go back to church and ask, hey, what do Christians think about Frederick Nietzsche? And they're like, Fred who?

We never heard of that guy. You run the car dealership or, you know. And it was easy for me to conclude in my arrogant teenage state that because the Christians I knew didn't have answers, therefore Christianity did not have answers. So I decided I would very quietly when I graduated high school, I would graduate from church. You think a lot of kids are thinking that today?

70 percent, I believe. So it's an issue of plausibility. You know, if you kind of imagine what you actually see in the world is sort of in a box and just it's all framed. Christianity is outside of that box for most of these kids.

Now, you can say, oh, but you need to think of it as plausible. It's like it's on a channel that they can't get. They don't even see it. And that's where I was. I was thinking, I love these people. I know they love me.

I really want to love Jesus, but I need to know. Well, all this stuff is happening in my culture. You know, on the debate team, we're looking at international politics. We're looking at domestic politics. We're looking at issues of sexuality and all these different things.

And when the church is silent on those topics, young adults conclude that Christianity has nothing to say about them. And that's where I was. So my parents arranged for me to attend a two-week Summit Ministries program. Were they worried about you? Did you voice some of your skepticism to them? You said it was a secret. I wanted to not be rude about it.

I didn't want to hurt anybody's feelings, but I just didn't think that a Christian worldview was plausible. I think my parents picked up on it. They heard about the two-week Summit Ministries program. A scholarship was available and my father loves scholarships.

Don't we all? So I attended the two-week program. I walked right in the front door of this antique hotel where the programs were held and still are held to this day in little hippie Manitou Springs, Colorado. I saw David Noble there and I said, I hope you have a lot of answers because I have a lot of questions. And he said at Summit, we aren't afraid of questions.

Let that sink in for a moment. What that does for a kid, number one, it calms you down right away. It's OK to have questions. Second, it gives you a sense of confidence. These people are not afraid of my questions. Third, it allows you to realize I need to grow.

If I'm going to actually ask these questions, I need to be honest in finding the answers. And it was through that program that I came to faith in Jesus Christ. Wow. It changed the trajectory of my entire life.

And now I have the privilege of leading that program and watching that happen with thousands and thousands of young people every year. Wow. How many years ago? Forty years ago.

Wow. Do you remember what was it that turned the light on for you? I mean, I guess a lot of things.

But was there something you can pinpoint? Finding people who weren't afraid of my questions, but who would seek for answers. Introducing me to people like C.S.

Lewis and Carl Henry and people who were thinking about creation versus evolution, those kinds of topics. That really helped me. But I think there was something more. It's hard for me to put a finger on exactly what this is. But it was a sense that truth and relationship came together because I know a lot of people, they believed what they believed was true and they pounded it.

Yeah. Then I had other people who are like, you know what, it's all just agree to disagree. And it just felt so wishy washy.

I was never into that. When I saw truth and relationship come together, these people not only are seeking the truth, but they're people who really care. That's what made the difference. Now, you know, when you said when you got there, they said, we welcome your questions. We like questions.

We're not afraid of them. Here's what I thought. How do we as parents do the same thing with our kids? Because our kids, you know, in our home are you and they're me.

I did the same thing. You know, Jeff, when I got to college, grew up in a single parent home and my mom took me to church almost every week. The day I left for college, I'm done, not going. And it wasn't what was partly moral. I didn't want to live that moral lifestyle. But I would tell you today, it was I didn't believe it. I thought these people don't really they're not thinkers.

And I'm not saying I'm the greatest thinker in the world, but I thought I'm smarter than all of them. The evidence isn't there. So I left the church, never went again. And then even after Ann and I got married and we came on staff with a Christian organization that we work for now, CREW, one year in, I woke up one day and said, what have we done with our lives?

I don't even know if this is true. Maybe this is all a hoax. And she looked at me and said, you better get answers. You know, so when my kids, you know, when I had three sons, when they hit middle school ages and started asking hard questions, I'm like, let's go. These are great questions.

I'm laying in bed worrying like, oh, no. And Dave's like, these are such good questions. I'm so glad you're asking those questions. Yeah, but I think a lot of parents are afraid of those questions or they just sort of crawl in a hole and they just pretend that their sons and daughters aren't asking them.

What should a parent do? Recognize the questions are being asked by your kids. They are. Whether they're asking them aloud of you, they are asking them. And these big questions I'm referring to are everything from what is actually real, how do we know, all the way to am I loved?

Is there anyone who loves me for who I am and not just what I can do for them to what should I do with my life? And they're not finding answers in the culture. Seventy five percent of young adults today say they do not have a sense of purpose that gives meaning to their lives. Fifty percent regularly struggle with anxiety and depression. Coming off of COVID, we've noticed a really dramatic increase in the spiritual warfare for the minds and hearts of the students we work with.

Dramatic. So the questions are being asked. What can we do as parents? I think that's really the heart of your question. We have to create an environment where our kids feel safe to talk about these big things. A child will usually not bring up something if they think you'll be disappointed. You've got to create an environment where you say, look, I know there are all sorts of questions that you have. There may be things that you're even afraid to talk with me about because you aren't sure how I'm going to react.

I just want you to know I'm going to do my best to be the sort of person you can trust to talk to about these things. And then, you know, kids are different. I have four children, some of them you just say, how was your day, and you'll get an entire dissertation.

Others, you're like, how's your day? It's fine. You have to draw out every word. So I learned to ask questions like, I don't understand. Don't ever underestimate the power of playing dumb. I don't understand.

Can you help me understand? Hey, listen, this is something I heard about on the news. Do any of your teachers talk about this at school?

What do they say? Or I know that I heard the song, it seems like it's really popular right now, and I just don't understand it at all. It's not the kind of song I really grew up liking.

You know, can you help me understand why people like this or this this video game or or whatever it is? I was desperate as a dad to find those kinds of things. At one point, I said to my kids, hey, I need new songs for my running playlist. You know, I'm getting tired of the songs I've got on there. Do you have any songs that you think would be good for a running playlist that you guys are listening to these days? And one of them's like, you mean slow songs?

Yeah, thanks. But they gave me all their songs that I could run and listen to the cultural influences of my children. And it opened up new ways to talk. Maybe for a lot, music is one way.

What are the videos? Why is everybody watching TikTok? I don't understand. You know, that kind of thing really helps them because then your child's like, you know what? My parent doesn't know anything.

I've got to I've got to help bring them into the 21st century here a little bit. And that creates a balance and a quality that allows conversations to take place. The second thing is you can't be a shockable person. You can't freak out. You cannot freak out. You can expect in these times at some point your child's going to say, I think I'm actually a girl in a boy's body or something like that. You cannot freak out.

You have to ask, tell me what happened that causes you to see yourself the way you do those sorts of things. When parents can do that, which is terribly difficult because you have so much at stake in this child being safe and turning out OK, that if it doesn't look like it's OK, it's nerve wracking. And even when they share their views and their beliefs to not harp in like, are you kidding me? You know, that's what I contend to do.

It just shuts them down immediately and they'll never open up again. And so even if you do freak out to come back and say, I'm really sorry, I freaked out. Like, I don't want to do that.

I want to understand who you are, what you're feeling, what you're going through. Because kids, they want a relationship with their parents, but they probably feel like, will you love me if you know all of my doubts and fears? Yeah. Yeah. I think sometimes parents are afraid to dialogue on especially theology and worldview, because even when you were talking to earlier, Jeff, I thought there are parents going, I want to go to summit. Right.

You know, I don't want just my kids to go. I don't know the answers to these questions. So I think sometimes we're hesitant because we're like, if they bring up something difficult, I do not know the answer. I don't know the Bible very good. I don't have a bit. I don't know what a biblical worldview is.

Is that true as well? And can you help a parent right now? What is a biblical worldview?

Where could a parent start? When I use the term worldview, and I know it's controversial, I'm referring to a pattern of ideas, of beliefs, of convictions, of habits that flow from that idea. If you start with the idea, is there a God?

Okay. Some people would say there is a God or there isn't a God, but what you believe about God will affect what you believe about reality itself. I know it sounds crazy, but there are people in this country, probably half who believe in God, think that God is a cosmic force, not a person. So reality doesn't really exist the way we think it does.

That's what they hold to. These people are influencing popular culture. What you believe about God affects what you believe about reality, which affects what you believe about what's right and wrong, which affects what you believe about the value of life, which affects what you believe about what makes a healthy person, what makes a healthy society. Political structures, legal structures, and so forth. So you look for patterns. If you're in athletics, you're looking for patterns all the time. What are the patterns of play that we will use to try to obtain victory? What are the patterns of play our opponents use to try to obtain victory and how do we counteract those in business?

Same thing. Get into a business. You're looking for patterns. What leads to success for people in this field? But the same thing is true in ideas, and that's what I mean by a biblical worldview. Now I know that makes it sound a lot more complicated than it really is. Most of the books I'm writing these days are for the parents and the adult caregivers, pastors, youth pastors, teachers, and so forth.

So they know how to give an account of biblical truth, but you do not have to know all the answers and you do not want to be making them up. It's so much better. Now think about earlier, we were talking about how do you get that conversation going with your kids? How better to get the conversation going than to say, I don't know. Let's look into it. Let's talk about it.

Let's see if we can come up with some answers. Let's say their resource, the place they go, is YouTube. I've been watching this guy on YouTube and this is what he says.

How do you refute that if you don't believe that has a biblical viewpoint? I wanted my children to grow up with discernment. That means they can't just look to me to determine whether something is better or worse. Yeah. You know, I wanted them to develop that.

So I would ask questions like, what did they say in the video? What do you think about that? What do you think that is based on? Where did that come from?

What do you think is best? How would you look at this from a biblical perspective? And usually on that last question that it's really confusing.

I don't know. I mean, the Bible is 66 different books written over the course of 1500 years by 40 different authors. How am I supposed to know what the Bible's answer is to this question? Then you can start to dig in a little bit.

And Summit Ministries, you know, our website, we have all these resources that are available there for you to help you figure out how to find answers to those questions. But you, first of all, have to discern. So if someone says, oh, you know, I think socialism is great. I would vote for a socialist for president. Well, what is socialism? According to Karl Marx, it's the abolition of private property.

What does he mean? The best way to have a good society is everybody. You divide up everything.

Why would you do that? Well, because he believed that only the material world exists. There's no God, there's no Jesus, there's no Holy Spirit, there's no heaven, there's no hell. There's only the material world. If only the material world exists and we are equal as human beings, then it isn't fair.

Any one person who has something more than anyone else stole it. But unless you understand that core assumption, you can't understand how to deal with that worldview, which is dominant in the culture. The same thing would be true about issues of sexuality, transgenderism, and so forth all make assumptions about the world that they do not prove and for which there is not evidence.

But the messaging is so powerful that it makes it seem as if this has to be true and anybody who disagrees is not thinking well. If your son or daughter, teenage, college, whatever age says, I don't believe. I know you raised me, mom and dad, to believe in Jesus. I thought I did. I just don't anymore.

How does a parent respond? I'm Shelby Abbott and you've been listening to Dave and Ann Wilson with Dr. Jeff Myers on Family Life Today. Wow. I really want to hear how Jeff responds to that and we're going to get to his answer in just a second. But first, Dr. Jeff Myers has written a book called Truth Changes Everything, how people of faith can transform the world in times of crisis. You know, we're living in a society where many people believe that truth is subjective and unknowable. And Dr. Myers in this book explores how individuals in the past who embraced and championed absolute truth, they actually made a significant positive impact in the various aspects of their life and in the communities that they were in.

And it offered hope in turbulent times. So you can pick up a copy of Dr. Myers' book, Truth Changes Everything at You can get our link in the show notes or you can give us a call at 800-358-6329.

That's 800-F as in family, L as in life, and then the word today. And Dr. Myers is the president of an organization called Summit Ministries. They're doing a great job at helping students understand not only their faith, but also apologetics.

You can check them out by finding more and clicking our link in the show notes. OK, so I had this scenario happen to a friend of mine who had a son come home for Christmas his freshman year of college and say that he didn't believe anymore to his parents. My friend, what would Dr. Myers say to that? Let's listen.

So I'm putting myself in the position of that parent. I first want to say thank you for talking with me about this. I can't imagine how difficult it must have been to think that we would have this conversation because you probably knew that I would be disappointed. I want you to know that I love you and that I'm glad that you're in a search for truth. Let's not stop the search until we find truth.

If you examine biblical doctrine and apologetics closely, and you're convinced on the evidence that this is not true, that would be much better because that's where I want to be as well. I want to be sure. I want to be sure. So what are some of the big questions that have led you to where you are? And then I make a list. So I do this with my students all the time. In some ministries, we tell them, bring your questions with you. Some of them literally do.

Like, they're so nerdy. I got 46 questions I want to ask, but that's what we want. Will you write them out? Will you be willing to let me find some answers alongside of you?

Just because somebody's got a camera and can make a YouTube video, that's great. And it may sound good, but how do we know that's really true? So let's do some of this search for truth together.

When our kids are asking difficult questions or pushing back on what we've taught them, how can we advance and engage with them rather than retreat? It's an important question. And Dave and Ann Wilson are going to be with Dr. Jeff Myers again tomorrow to talk about just that and so much more. We hope you'll join us. On behalf of Dave and Ann Wilson, I'm Shelby Abbott. We'll see you back next time for another edition of Family Life Today. Family Life Today is a donor-supported production of Family Life, a crew ministry helping you pursue the relationships that matter most.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-11-13 07:16:12 / 2023-11-13 07:27:52 / 12

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