Here is a stark reality: if we do not consciously equip young Christians with a biblical worldview, they will unconsciously absorb the ideas of today’s culture. (pg. 76)
Those who know my story will know that I came out of the 90s/2000s American youth group culture that was characterized by apostasy en masse. It wasn’t until my early 20s, when I started studying apologetics from the inside of a jail cell that I came to my senses about Christianity. One book in particular that stands out among those that helped me return to Christianity was More than a Carpenter by Josh McDowell, which was later updated by his son, Sean McDowell. So, when I saw that Sean had co-written a book specifically about “Preparing Young Christians for a Challenging World,” and was looking for reviewers, I volunteered with enthusiasm.
The book is entitled, So The Next Generation Will Know: Preparing Young Christians for a Challenging World. The authors are Sean McDowell and former cold-case homicide detective and youth pastor, J. Warner Wallace, of the apologetics ministry, Cold Case Christianity. It is divided into two sections, “Section 1: Do you love me?” and “Section 2: Will you show me?” each with four chapters that are well researched and cited.
The first section gives insight to the unique characteristics of Generation Z (those born in America between 2000 and 2015). The way that McDowell and Wallace describes them is a breath of fresh air. In a time when social media seems to be tearing generations apart, their love for the younger generation really shines through. Gen Z are natives to the digital world and like to fact-check everything, so we really need to pay attention if we want to reach them, keep them, and equip them for the vital role they will be playing in Church History.
The second section zooms in on this weighty responsibility that we have to the youth. My favorite was chapter 6, “Love Trains: Resisting the Desire to Entertain Rather Than Train.” The authors encourage us to take on a missiology that trains and challenges the young, rather than making a simplified comfy Christianity that does not hold for long after high school. They also give pedagogical tips, such as “Two ‘Whys’ For Every ‘What,'” meaning every time we tell them what the Bible says, we should also tell them 1. why the claim is true and 2. why it matters.
I am especially impressed with some of J. Warner’s transparency in recalling things that he could have done better in ministry. It takes a big man to admit these kinds of mistakes and learn from them. Here are some samples of what I’m talking about:
At each of these events, we managed to slip in a Christian message at the end of the day, but if I’m honest, that wasn’t our true focus. Far more time was spent entertaining our students (and their friends) than teaching or training them as Christian believers. (pp. 115–116)
One honest father once told me, “If your youth group can keep my kids from using drugs and having sex, I would consider it a win!” That rather candid sentiment may be more common than you think. In my first year on the job, many of the topics I engaged with my group were entirely about appropriate behavior. But that obviously didn’t stop Joey from slipping into narcotic use. (pg. 120)
Not long after graduating the first seniors, we found that most of them walked away from Christianity in the initial weeks of their freshman year at college. Many of our current students were still in touch with these new non-believers, and when I heard that they now rejected the existence of God, I was crushed, and I accepted the blame. (pg. 28)
It is so unfortunate that J. Warner and his students, their friends, and their families went through that. They are not alone. Perhaps books like So The Next Generation Will Know can help us as a Church start thinking in a way that will help turn the tide.
I highly recommend this book to anyone who works with Generation Z. I’m not only talking about youth pastors. This book is valuable to parents, teachers, Sunday School teachers, pastors, aunts, uncles, grandparents, internet trolls, basically anyone who has a young person in his life that he could be reaching.
Title: So The Next Generation Will Know:
Preparing Young Christians for a Challenging World
Authors: Sean McDowell and J. Warner Wallace
Publisher: David C Cook
Release Date: May 2019
Trim Size: 5.5×8.25
Page Count: 208
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Justin Martyrs