The Source for Youth Ministry
Jonathan's Resource Ezine

Weekly Resources, Ideas and Articles from The Source for Youth Ministry
Tuesday, April 4, 2006

In This Issue

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Featured Interview: Jonathan interviews Josh McDowell about how to answer challenging questions raised by the new "The DaVinci Code" movie. They also talk about the Emergent Church, evangelism methodology and youth culture today.

Jonathan Interviews Josh McDowell
Some people seem to have forgotten that the story is fiction...

I'm speaking of Ron Howard's new film, The Da Vinci Code, coming to theatres next month. There is no question-it is going to be an incredible piece of film-making. The film is based on Dan Brown's best selling novel about a murder in the Louvre Museum that leads to a covert religious organization who will stop at nothing to protect a secret threatening to overturn 2,000 years of accepted dogma.

This book and film raise numerous questions about the deity of Christ, His Word and the Church. Many Christians are wondering, "How do we respond to this?"

I just spent an hour with Josh McDowell talking about this very thing. Josh is a noted Christian Josh McDowell apologist and author of numerous books such as More Than A Carpenter, Evidence That Demands Verdict and Beyond Belief to Conviction. He has just come out with a brand new resource, A Quest for Answers: The Da Vinci Code, to equip people to answer the challenging questions this book and movie raise.

Jonathan and Josh grabbed an hour together in Josh's RV after one of his teaching sessions. They discussed everything from Josh's Da Vinci Code resources to evangelism and the Emergent Church.

JONATHAN: You've just written a resource about Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code that we can put in the hands of our teenagers. The timing is perfect because Ron Howard's movie The Da Vinci Code is probably going to be fantastic and questions are going to surface... more than we've already seen from the book.

You've always been good at providing answers to tough questions. Name it: More than a Carpenter, Evidence that Demands a Verdict, Answers to Tough Questions... Your research and your books have always been a valuable resource to youth workers, especially for people who have questions or doubts. What started you down the road of answering the questions of skeptics? That's kind of a unique ministry.

JOSH: I have always done that. I've always lived in the skeptic's world: universities, high schools... my whole life. That's where I got started.

JONATHAN: Did you have these doubts growing up or were you surrounded by people with doubts...?

JOSH: I wrote about this in More Than A Carpenter. I set out to write the book Evidence Demands a Verdict against Christianity, because I felt Christians had two brains. One was lost and one was out looking for it. I thought Christians were walking idiots.

I thought the Bible was written years after the time of Christ and full of myths, legend and fiction. I met these Christians whose lives were different and I said, "Why are you so different?" And they said, "Jesus Christ." I just laughed at them. But they challenged me to intellectually examine it. So I did it to refute them. And in the process I became a Christian.

Then I spent 13 years documenting why, which became Evidence Demands a Verdict... which was selected as one of the 100 most influential books of the last century. Out of that came then More Than A Carpenter. I did More Than A Carpenter in 48 hours. I just sat down with 12 legal pads, just like this (holding up a yellow legal pad) and just started writing. I never went to bed, never went to sleep or anything.

JONATHAN: Talk about your all-nighter!

JOSH: And more teenagers are reading it now than ever before. This just blows my mind. There are more teenagers seeking, quote "truth" right now than I've ever seen in 45 years of ministry.

I've always dealt with skeptics and I like to deal with cultural issues that potentially surface the truth. And this is why The Da Vinci Code is an ideal opportunity. I believe that The Da Vinci Code can be one of the most positive platforms that the church has had in 100 years to make truth known if we do it positively, winsomely and wholesomely. We don't dare to attack it, because that would be like attacking Ron Howard and Tom Hanks and it will backfire.

JONATHAN: Like The Last Temptation of Christ?

JOSH: Yeah. It is so easy and yet it's amazing. I mean the negative impact The Da Vinci Code has had on people's faith is staggering. And they just printed 5,000,000 of the paperback because they said the ground swell is so great towards the movie that they are going to do one of the biggest printings in history... five million copies over night.

JONATHAN: You said the book is having a negative impact on people's faith. Have you seen this?

JOSH: It's taking nominal believers-which make up to 90% of the church-and turning them into skeptics. It's taking honest seekers and turning them away. Because what it does is, it reinforces your skepticism.


JOSH: It's like when the young man said to Jesus, "I believe. Help me in my own belief." Well, what The DaVinci Code is doing is adding to that unbelief. And the reason is, only about 5% of it is true. But Dan Brown does a masterful job of mixing truth with imagination and you never know where one leaves off. And it's smart of him. I commend him for it. I mean it's brilliant.

But the problem is you can't answer these issues by quoting your Bible. You've got to know church history. And with all my background and everything, nine months ago, I couldn't have answered it. I had to do my homework. But then I thought, oh my gosh, the answers are so simple and overwhelming and encouraging.

JONATHAN: Do you think the book is growingly popular because it's a really good book ...or do you think that part of its popularity is because it's giving people an excuse to say, "Ah ha! See! I knew that Bible stuff was all bogus!"

JOSH: You just answered it. It's very popular because it's a real good book that reinforces your skepticism. At a university, this student came up to me-and this is happening all over-and said that he was assigned in Western Civilization to read The DaVinci Code and see how corrupt Christianity is.

JONATHAN: (Laughing) I guess it didn't register to them when they grabbed it off the shelf in the "Fiction" section of the university library.

JOSH: That's right. A father called me in Phoenix and said, "My daughter, 16 years old in high school here, was just given a mandatory assignment-she must read The DaVinci Code to see how religion lies."

One pastor came to me-it's been about 6 weeks now-and he said to me, "Josh, I lost two of my closest friends in my congregation to The DaVinci Code."

JONATHAN: That'd be like an American History class assigning Oliver Stone's "JFK" to find out the truth about the Kennedy Assassination.

JOSH: That's right. That's right.

JONATHAN: Assuming it is fact.

JOSH: Which makes you realize how many read The Da Vinci Code and think it's factual. But see what it does? It reinforces your skepticism to not believe.

JONATHAN: And this new generation of young people...well... let's talk about that for a second. and then we'll get back to The Da Vinci Code because I'm excited about some of the resources you have for us. But everybody has their theory on the characteristics of each generation. We've got Baby Boomers, and we have Generation X and Generation Y. Some people call this new generation of young people Millennials, or Generation @... or recently The MySpace Generation. What are the characteristics that you notice of this new generation, and what makes them vulnerable to this kind of skepticism reinforced?

JOSH: I think this generation will be best described in two words: "Whatever" and "Abandoned."

JONATHAN: Okay... Elaborate on that.

JOSH: We've never had a generation that, as a whole, feels like they have been abandoned by adults. Not just so much because of divorce and broken homes, but emotionally abandoned. And... do you know Chap Clark?

JONATHAN: Yep. Great guy. In touch with teenagers today.

JOSH: His book confirmed that. He said if one word described what kids feel, it would be abandonment...

JONATHAN: Hurt? mean his new book, Hurt: Inside the World of Today's Teenagers.

JOSH: Yes. It would be abandonment. The hurt comes out of that sense of abandonment and they project that right upon God. But it's also, "Whatever."

My son Sean is the head of the Bible department and teaches at Capistrano Valley Christian School.

I said "Son, what is your greatest obstacle to anyone believing truth today or wanting to learn?" He said, "Oh Dad, that's easy." He said, "Whatever." Whatever!

His new book just came out. It's called Ethix: Being Bold in a Whatever World. Oh it's powerful. It's on the 10 top ethical issues a kid would face today.

JONATHAN: Anyway...I like that-"Whatever."

JOSH: Yeah, "Whatever." That's how you describe it.

JONATHAN: So what reaches this new generation... this "Whatever" generation?

JOSH: It's very simple...integrity, authenticity. If they don't see it in your life, forget it, forget it. It doesn't matter how good you are. That's what I spoke on today the whole two hours. If they don't see it in your life, forget it.

JONATHAN: They want to see something real.

JOSH: They have to. Here's why. To you and me, if it's true, it will work. For kids, if it works, it's true...180 degrees opposite!

I have four kids and I am so fortunate. My 19 year old daughter is a first year student at Biola. She wrote me a note a few days ago and she left it on my table at a conference. She said, "Dad when I was little, I always hoped that Jesus was just like you."

JONATHAN: Wow. That's cool.

JOSH: So why was it easy to get my daughter to fall in love with Jesus? Cause she fell in love with me.

JONATHAN: She saw Him in you.

I find it interesting that you say "authenticity and integrity" reaches them. It's funny; kids have their own words for that. One of the pages on our web site that draws the biggest hits is our slang dictionary page... so youth workers can understand what kids are talking about today. Kids have words for people that say they are one thing and live something else. They use words like "perpetrator" and "poser." They also use the term "fronting" if you're acting like one thing but really you are something else. If you're "posing," you might be acting like a gang member, but really you're a "wanna-be." So in some circles, kids recognize a fake. Authenticity at least "seems" important to them.

JOSH: And here's the problem: most of them are fakes themselves. They really are. This generation is not committed to relationships. And I hear youth workers say, "Oh, they're committed to relationships." They're not committed to relationships. They're committed to themselves. Not much different than 40 years ago but that self has manifested different ways.

JONATHAN: Committed to themselves... I won't argue with that.

But Josh... let's talk about your comment "not committed to relationships." I don't know if I'd say kids are committed to relationships, but I definitely think relationships are very important to teenagers today. And the church has moved in that direction-especially the "Emergent Church."

You've always been a leader in the field of apologetics. How do you feel about the "Emergent Church" and the focus on the relational? Is there a balance between apologetics and the importance of relationships?

JOSH: Some of those emergent guys have claimed that my Evidence Demands a Verdict doesn't care about relationships"...well they couldn't have read any of my stuff. From the word go, I proposed modernism before these guys were even born.

Right up front in Evidence Demands a Verdict I start out, "the greatest defense of Christianity is not all the evidence." None of that ever brought me to Christ. It'll never bring anyone to Christ.

I do not believe evidence is the key. I don't think evidence, rationale... will bring anyone to Christ. It's unbiblical and it doesn't work. Many people say in football the best offense is a good defense. But I say, when it comes to Christianity, that the best defense is a good offense. A simple clear presentation of the gospel of Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit backed up by a lifestyle.

That is the greatest defense, I don't care what Dan Kimball or Brian McLaren or anyone else says. That is the number one defense of truth..."backed up by a lifestyle." All truth in scriptures is relational.

These emergent guys don't listen to me. They go out and they make all these statements about me which are untrue. Biblical truth is not one dimensional. This is why I butt heads with so many of the apologists out there. It's not cognitive.

There are three dimensions to biblical truth and two of them are relational. I call it relational apologetics--relational with a little "2"-- to the second power. You take the incarnation, three dimensions of it:

  • You always keep pretty current with youth culture... which is pretty good for a grandpa. How does Grandpa McDowell keep current with little whipper-snappers today?
  • In your book The Last Christian Generation, you address why an entire generation is not returning to the church. So give us the skinny-why aren't they coming back to the church?
  • Some seem to think that there's this conscious agenda at work in The Da Vinci Code... to redefine or revise the history of early Christianity. Does that sound a little "conspiracy theory" to you? I mean, do you think that there's possibly this conscious agenda to do that?
  • How could Christians respond to this Da Vinci "hype" without looking like idiots?
  • "Petra! You toured with Petra. What were you thinking?"



Next Issue's Featured Interview: Jonathan interviews "Emergent" leader Dan Kimball to get his side of the story-what the Emergent Church believes about the balance between apologetics and the importance of relationships

Dan Kimball If you read my interview with Josh above... you'll notice some fingers were pointed. When fingers are pointed, I go to the source to give them a chance to share their two cents directly with us. So next issue I talk with Dan Kimball and find out exactly what the Emergent Church is, what they believe, Dan's two cents on what works reaching today's generation of young people... and how the heck he keeps his hair so spikey! Dan is author of The Emerging Church: Vintage Christianity for New Generations, and Emerging Worship: Creating New Worship Gatherings for Emerging Generations and pastors Vintage Faith Church in Santa Cruz, California, designed for the post-Christian culture. He also serves on the emergentYS board for Youth Specialties.

A Deal We've Arranged for You to Get a Free Book: All our EZINE subscribers exclusively get a free book with the subscription of The Journal of Student Ministries-you've gotta check this out!

The Journal of Student Ministries Okay... you know that I try to hook up my EZINE subscribers every once in a while. You also know that I don't do ads. But sometimes I find something worth plugging. And if it is plugworthy... I always try to score you a deal. And let me tell you: you need to check out The Journal of Student Ministries!

A collaborative effort on the part of several denominations and youth ministry organizations, this new publication will challenge, encourage, and intrigue you in your personal and professional life. Find out about the latest cultural trends among young people, and get the scoop on the latest books and music. Dive deep into poignant topics of interest to youth workers, and participate in thoughtful dialogue, such as the one between Sean McDowell (Josh's son) and Tony Jones (national Emergent coordinator) in their regular column, "Sparks: Iron Sharpens Iron."

The Journal of Student Ministries is fresh, insightful... with a little dash of controversy?and it's launching in May. Subscribe now to be sure you receive the inaugural edition! And if you subscribe in the next two weeks through this site (by April 18), you will receive a copy of Help! I'm a Student Leader! by Doug Fields absolutely free!

Click here to jump on The Journal's subscribe page. Once on that page, click "subscribe now" in the middle of the page. (Some of you will have to allow a pop up from your blocker) And BE SURE to tell them that you heard about them from so you get your free book!

Important Note: Next issue... I've scored another option for you guys. It's another exclusive deal for all you EZINE subscribers with a gift of Tony Jones' book The Sacred Way to all those who sign up for The Journal. Either deal gets you a free book, so choose the one you want. If you prefer Tony's book... wait until next issue. And if you already signed up for The Journal... sorry. Don't email us... just call the Waaaaaaambulance!

(Or if you want to check out their Web site a little bit first before subscribing, be sure to let them know you heard about them from in order to get your free book!)

Once on that page, click "subscribe now" in the middle of the page. (Some of you will have to allow a pop up from your blocker) And BE SURE to tell them that you heard about them from so you get your free book!

We're Giving Away Hundreds of Last Year's CD's: We're clearing out our 2005 OUTREACH RESOURCE CD's by giving them away with ANY book order

We've only got a few hundred of last year's 2005 Outreach Resource CD's left and we're clearing them out!

Why do you care?

Good question: because we're giving away one of the greatest resources for training your leaders, both student and adult, to reach out to "the unchurched."


One of the great resources on last year's 2005 Outreach Resource CD is the "ready-made" PowerPoint seminar called "Reaching Out to the Unchurched." You can use this 38 slide PowerPoint presentation to teach your student and adult leaders about the mindset of "The Unchurched" today. This presentation parallels chapter 3 in Jonathan McKee's hit book, DO THEY RUN WHEN THEY SEE YOU COMING? published by Youth Specialties.

"Do They Run When They See You Coming" is recommended by Mark Oestreicher, Bo Boshers, Jim Burns, Kurt Johnston, Walt Mueller, Chap Clark, Wayne Rice, and more!


"Reaching Out to the Unchurched" Training on Both Coasts: If you're near Tampa, FL or Livermore, CA-peek at these affordable training opportunities!

A TRAINING OPPORTUNITY YOU WON'T WANT TO MISS: Last year Youth Specialties released Jonathan's hit new book, DO THEY RUN WHEN THEY SEE YOU COMING? REACHING OUT TO UNCHURCHED TEENAGERS. (CLICK HERE FOR THE BOOK) Now it is available as a one day training! Come to this affordable training on either U.S. Coast!



Tampa, FL

May 20th, Jonathan is doing a Saturday workshop (9AM to 3PM) for youth workers within driving distance of the TAMPA area. If you're a youth worker, paid or a volunteer, this is for you!

A Personal Note from Jonathan: I'd love your help! If you are a youth worker in the TAMPA area and would like to help me spread the word to the greater Tampa area, please email me at

Here's the details for this TAMPA training:

    Saturday May 20th, 9AM to 3PM
    St. James United Methodist Church
    16202 Bruce B. Downs Blvd. (3/4 mile south of I-75)
    Tampa, FL 33647
    Two choices:
    • $20 (includes lunch)
    • ONLY $10 for paid pre-registrations (VISA/MC accepted) on or before May 15th (includes lunch)
    CONTACT David Smith at (813) 978-8880
Livermore, CA

Jonathan will be doing his REACHING OUT TO THE UNCHURCHED training seminar at the INVIGORATE conference this year in Livermore, California on May 6, 2006. This Saturday conference is only $15 including lunch if you register by April 1st. All youth workers, both paid and volunteer are welcome. Please call (925) 455-4250 to register.


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