3 Questions Skeptics are Asking About God : Lee Strobel
What are the three top questions that people are wrestling with today as it relates to belief in God? In this week’s conversation on FrontStage BackStage, host Jason Daye is joined by Lee Strobel. Lee is a New York Times best-selling author with millions of books sold worldwide. His latest book is entitled Is God Real? Lee has served as a teaching pastor at three of America’s largest churches, and he currently leads the Lee Strobel Center for Evangelism and Applied Apologetics at Colorado Christian University. Together, Lee and Jason explored these three pressing questions that people are asking about the existence of God. Lee also shares some incredibly practical ways that you and your church can embrace evangelism and become a brightly shining beacon of the hope of Jesus in your community.
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Additional Resource Links
www.strobelcenter.com – Explore Lees’s website to discover valuable resources, including his book, YouTube channel, educational programs, and other content designed to support you on your spiritual journey.
Is God Real?: Exploring the Ultimate Question of Life – When life feels overwhelming, we want to know if there really is a deity who loves us, knows us, and cares about what happens to us. Join investigative journalist and former atheist Lee Strobel on a quest to determine whether we can know with confidence that God is real.
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Ministry Leaders Growth Guide
Key Insights and Concepts
- The shifting landscape of belief is evident in the historical decline from 98% to 81% of American adults affirming the existence of God, sparking discussions on faith and skepticism.
- Despite the decline in belief, there’s a simultaneous rise in spiritual interest, with many expressing a desire for spiritual growth, especially notable among younger generations like Generation Z.
- The surge in online searches like “Is God real?” 200 times per second globally highlights a profound thirst for answers, creating a unique opportunity for Christians to provide reasoned and coherent explanations.
- Scientific discoveries, particularly in cosmology, contribute to a compelling argument for the existence of a transcendent, eternal, and personal Creator, aligning with the biblical description of the God of the Bible.
- Exploring the problem of suffering, the theological perspective suggests that free will, granted by God for genuine love, introduces the potential for both beauty and brokenness in a world where individuals make choices.
- Addressing the perceived hiddenness of God, insights from psychology and history indicate that personal experiences and earthly relationships can significantly influence one’s perception of a Heavenly Father, impacting the willingness to acknowledge God’s presence.
- Practical strategies for churches include appointing an evangelism point person and initiating spiritual discovery groups for non-believers, emphasizing the importance of personal connections, understanding, and shared dialogue.
- The call for a two-step approach in evangelistic sermons, recognizing that some may not be ready to commit, highlights the importance of creating spaces for exploration and questioning within the church community.
- The testimonial example of an atheist converted through genuine Christian love and understanding reinforces the impact of relational connections and compassionate outreach in bringing people into the fold.
- With God’s help, pastors and ministry leaders can redefine communities by becoming agents of hope, grace, and love, and have an eternal impact on those around them.
Questions for Reflection
- How am I working to better understand the evolving landscape of belief? What are some of the challenges we face related to sharing our faith in the world today? What are some of the hopeful realities about sharing Jesus in our world today?
- Do I feel equipped to engage with individuals exploring questions about God’s existence? If not, what can I do to become better equipped?
- How is our church intentionally ministering to those who are asking important questions about the existence of God? Is this an area in which we need to invest more time and energy?
- How am I responding within my ministry to interest in God as evidenced by the surge in online searches like “Is God real?”
- How can I integrate scientific discoveries, especially in cosmology, into my messages or conversations to strengthen the argument for a transcendent Creator? Do I see the value of including these details as I communicate? Why or why not?
- How am I addressing people’s questions about the problem of suffering in the world? Are there ways I can more effectively communicate the theological perspective on free will, acknowledging the tension between beauty and brokenness in a world filled with choices?
- How am I addressing people’s questions related to the perceived hiddenness of God? Is there a way I can better approach this?
- Do we have an active evangelism point person within our ministry? If not, how can we begin the process of finding and training someone to fill this role? Does someone come to mind for this role?
- What are my thoughts on spiritual discovery groups for non-believers? Have we implemented anything like this? How are we embracing the power of personal connections, understanding, and shared dialogue when it comes to deep spiritual questions? What can we do in this area of ministry that might have greater impact?
- How am I fostering an environment that prioritizes relational connections and compassionate outreach? How is this showing up in my personal ministry? Where is this happening in our local church? What changes should we consider making?
- Amid debates about spiritual trends, am I grounded in the timeless mission that people need God? How can I keep my focus on the importance of sharing the gospel in the sometimes hectic and distracting work of ministry?
- As a pastor, what specific strategies can I employ to ensure that my ministry remains a welcoming space for individuals with questions and doubts, fostering an environment where exploration is encouraged and genuine connections are formed?
What are the three top questions that people are wrestling with today as it relates to belief in God?
In this episode, I’m joined by Lee Strobel. Lee is a New York Times best-selling author with millions of books sold worldwide. His latest book is entitled Is God Real? Lee has served as a teaching pastor at three of America’s largest churches, and he currently leads the Lee Strobel Center for Evangelism and Applied Apologetics at Colorado Christian University. Together, Lee and I explored these three pressing questions that people are asking about the existence of God. Lee also shares some incredibly practical ways that you and your church can embrace evangelism and become a brightly shining beacon of the hope of Jesus in your community. Are you ready? Let’s go.
Hello, friends, and welcome to yet another insightful episode of FrontStage BackStage. I’m your host, Jason Daye. Super, super excited about this week’s conversation. Each and every week, I have the distinct privilege, the honor really of sitting down with a trusted ministry leader. And we dive into a conversation all in an effort to help pastors and ministry leaders just like you embrace healthy, sustainable rhythms for both your life and ministry. We are proud to be a part of the Pastor Serve Network. And not only do we have these conversations every week, but our team creates an entire toolkit that complements the conversation. In there, you’ll find a ton of resources, including our Ministry Leaders Growth Guide. And we encourage you to use this in your own ministry and in your own growth. But you can also use it with the ministry leaders at your local church. And again, just a way to dig more deeply into the topic that we’re discussing. So be sure to check that out at PastorServe.org/network. Now our team at Pastor Serve, we have trusted coaches who love walking alongside of pastors and ministry leaders. And we are offering a complimentary coaching session and you can learn more about that at PastorServe.org/freesession. So please check that out as well. Now, if you’re joining us on YouTube, please give us a thumbs up and drop your name and the name of your church in the comments below. We love getting to know our audience better, and our team will be praying for you and for your ministry. And whether you’re joining us on YouTube or your favorite podcast platform, please take a moment to subscribe and hit that notification bell to follow. We do not want you to miss out on any of these great conversations. And like I said, I’m very excited for today’s conversation. At this time, I’d like to welcome none other than Lee Strobel to the show. Lee, welcome.
Well, thanks so much. Great to see you again. I appreciate the opportunity.
Yeah, Lee, so good to see you, brother, super excited for this conversation. We are living in a time and place. When we think of and look at the landscape, the spiritual landscape specifically here in the US. It seems that people are becoming increasingly skeptical about whether or not God even exists. And I’m curious, Lee, because that’s what we see and that’s what we sense. But, Lee, I mean, this is what you invest your life in. You are the one who’s out there having these conversations, having these interviews, writing, and creating great resources for us, and your Center for Apologetics and Evangelism. All of these things. You’re spending a lot of time with those people who are doing the research. You and your team are engaged in this. I would love to hear, Lee, just from your perspective if this kind of general assessment is accurate in regards to skepticism.
It is. I remember when I was a freshman in high school back in 1967. Back then 98% of American adults would say that God is real. Now that number is 81%. That’s the lowest ever in American history. And only less than 6 out of 10 are sure that God exists. And if you look at Generation Z, you see the skepticism is even higher. There are twice as many members of Generation Z who call themselves atheists as members of my generation. So there’s a lot of skepticism. At the same time, we see some other trends, too. We see spiritual interest, we see quite a few people saying that they want to grow spiritually, and we see quite a few people saying that they are more open spiritually today than they were before the pandemic. And my friend Shane Pruitt, whose ministry is to travel the country and to speak to groups of high school students and college students, said that over the last three years, he’s seen more teenagers come to faith in Jesus Christ than in the previous 18 years combined. So there’s some good things going on, too. It’s really a mixed message. A message of skepticism, but also a message of hope. And perhaps as people begin to come to the conclusion that God is not real, they’ll begin to realize that that leaves them holding the bag, so to speak, and they begin to look for opportunities to find out that, hopefully, they’re wrong.
Yeah, that’s fascinating, Lee. And what’s interesting is, oftentimes, we hear something like skepticism of the reality of God is increasing and more people and younger generations are considering themselves atheists. And we sit there like, oh, man, that’s doom and gloom. But what I love about you, Lee, is you always see the hopeful opportunities in all of these things, and you exemplify that so well with your life. So in this, you were seeing and sensing an opportunity, that with an increase in skepticism, it also opens up opportunities for deeper conversations around spiritual matters.
Yes, matter of fact, my publisher came to me and said, we’ve discovered something very interesting. We’ve learned that 200 times a second, around the clock, someone on planet Earth is typing into a computer search engine, basically, the question Is God real? So that shows a lot of interest. And so that’s why I’ve written my new book, Is God Real? Exploring the ultimate question of life. And so yeah, I think this gives us opportunities. The fact that people have questions, the fact that people have doubts, means that they’re looking for answers. It means that they’re looking for reasons to believe. And that’s what Christian apologetics provides. It provides reason to believe why we believe what we believe, why is it rational, why does it make sense, and why is it cohesive and consistent. And, you know, when people engage on that level, I think that’s great because, honestly, we’ve got an unfair advantage in the marketplace of ideas. We’ve got truth on our side.
That’s a good way to put it. So in your new book, Is God Real, you really dive into some of these core questions, including the reality of God and how it relates to science, and those deeper learnings that people often tend to push toward, and to dismiss God, they often pick up science. But I would love for us to kind of dig into these a little bit from the perspective of pastors and ministry leaders. As we are ourselves, looking for these opportunities to engage in these conversations, but then also helping really prepare our people and helping equip our people for their interactions in their workplaces, their schools, and their neighborhoods. To really speak into in healthy, loving, compassionate, and thoughtful ways of how to have these conversations I think is super key. And so there are a few big questions that the majority of people you share in Is God Real wrestle with. And one of them, as I kind of mentioned, revolves around the idea of science, right? A lot of people sort of argue the existence of God or the non-existence of God with science. And yet you spent a lot of time and in this book, you sat down face-to-face and engaged with people from across the country, and you connected with them. Scientists, many of whom would be considered atheists, or at least agnostic, right? But who have come to place their faith in believing that God is real, because of what they’ve learned through science.
Yeah, we’ve seen a series of scientific discoveries in several major fields over the last just 50 years that make it more rational today to believe in God than at any other time in history. I’ll give you an example. For centuries, scientists believed that the universe was static. It always existed, it was eternal, it was always there. And yet, a series of persuasive philosophical arguments, but especially a series of scientific discoveries over the last 50 years, involving the expansion of the universe, has now convinced virtually every scientist that the universe had a beginning at some point in the past. Well, that’s huge, because, first of all, it’s what the Bible says in Genesis 1:1. In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. And heavens and the earth is a figure of speech, a Hebrew figure of speech, a merism, which simply means God created everything. And so Christianity has been maintaining for centuries that no, the universe is not eternal but it had a beginning. Well, now we know. In fact, Alexandrova Lincoln, the great cosmologist from Tufts University, said that all the evidence we have tells us the universe had a beginning. Well, that leads to a very powerful argument for the existence of God. First, whatever begins to exist has a cause. Secondly, we now know that the universe began to exist. Third, therefore, the universe has a cause behind it. And then you have to ask then well, what kind of cause put it into existence? Well, it must be transcendent, because it’s separate from creation. Must be spirit, because it existed before the physical world. Must be eternal, because it existed before physical time came into being. Must be powerful, given the immensity of the creation event. Must be smart, given the precision of the creation event. Must be personal, because he had to make the decision to create must be creative, because my goodness, just look at the universe. Must be caring or loving, because he crafted so perfectly a habitat for us to flourish in. And then the scientific principle of Occam’s Razor tells us there will be just one Creator. So you think about that, what do we have? Transcendent, spirit, eternal, powerful, smart, personal, creative, caring, and unique. That is a description of the God of the Bible. And so just from that one area of science, cosmology, the origin of the universe, we have a powerful argument that points toward the existence of a creator who matches the description of the God of the Bible.
Yeah, it’s so fascinating, because, as you said, science is now not only opening up the possibility, almost of God as the Creator, but it’s pointing toward the truth of it. It’s not just like, okay, that might be one of many theories. It’s supporting more and more that this does make sense. That the truth that we know as Christ followers is the truth of the universe. Which is fascinating. What are some other things in the realm of science that are continuing to support this.
Yeah, another one that’s very powerful is physics. Physics is the numbers that govern the operation of the universe. And one of the most extraordinary discoveries of modern physics, just again within the last 50 years or so, is that the numbers that govern the operation of the universe conspire in an absolutely extraordinary way so that life can exist. In other words, the universe is so finely tuned on a razor’s edge that it defies the explanation that this could have been an accident or coincidence and points more powerfully toward the existence of a creator. It’s like if you go out at night, and you look up at the sky expecting to see 1000s of stars but on this night you don’t see that, on this night you see 50 to 100 giant dials in the sky. And each dial could be calibrated to one of trillions and trillions of possible settings. And yet every one of these 50 to 100 dials is absolutely perfectly calibrated so that life can exist. That is the picture that modern physics gives us of our universe. I’ll give you an example. One of those dials is the force of gravity. Everybody knows what the force of gravity is. If you drop a pencil it’s going to hit the ground. But gravity has to be set exactly right so that life can exist. How exactly is it set? Imagine a ruler that goes across the entire known universe, 15 billion light-years, imagine it broken down into one-inch increments. Now that plausibly represents the range along which the force of gravity could have been, and yet it’s set the exact right spot so that life can exist. What if we were to change it? What if we were to change it one inch compared to the 15 billion light-year width of the universe? Intelligent life would be impossible anywhere in the universe. I mean, it’s staggering. Another example is the strong nuclear force. That’s the force that binds together the nucleus of atoms. Now, if you were to just decrease that just the tiniest bit, just decrease it by one part in 10,000 billion billion billion billion. If you did that, all you’d have in the universe would be hydrogen. No life wouldn’t be possible. So there’s 50 to 100 of these settings. And I talked to one scientist, I said, What are the odds that this is going to happen by chance? He said I just have a term for that. I said, what? He said, ain’t gonna happen. So it points toward a super-intellect that as one physicist said has monkeyed with the numbers so that life can exist. Of course, the explanation the atheists give is that well, maybe there’s an infinite number of invisible other universes. And if you spin the dials in an infinite number of times, just by chance, they’re going to come up correct in one universe. Well, the problem with that is there is no evidence whatsoever of any existence of an infinite number of other universes. In fact, one very prominent German theoretical physicist just did an interview the other day in a newspaper in which he said that this idea that there’s an infinite number of universes is scientifically ridiculous. It’s not even worth it, it’s a waste of time, were her words. So a waste of time and not even worth investigating. Besides which, if one universe requires an explanation, an infinite number of universes require an even bigger explanation, right? And point even more powerfully toward God. So I’ll tell you what, Jason, to be honest with you, I was an atheist for much of my life. If all I had to go on today were these two categories of evidence, cosmology, the origin of the universe, and physics, I would be convinced that God is real.
Yeah, because, Lee, it’s at a point where it takes more faith, more belief, to believe that all of those dials are set perfectly by chance, right? You know, by just chance happening in the universe, then that God’s hand was in it. That’s the world we live in. Okay, so that helps us with the Is God real question. A couple of other questions that you tackle in the book are questions that pop up in conversations, probably that we all have with people who are unsure of God, and one of them has to do with human suffering. So talk to us a little bit about that question.
Yeah, I knew I couldn’t do a book about God being real without dealing with the question, if God is real, why is there so much suffering? And also, if God is real why does he seem so hidden? And so I deal with this through interviews with experts, not just a 25-cent answer to a million-dollar question. But I’m able to really go into depth with the scholars and experts who’ve written on this topic and thought deeply about it. And I think personally, the interview I did with Dr. Peter Kreeft on the issue of suffering is, he is just profound. And I think it’ll help anybody who deals with pain in their life. But, basically, the answer is that God has existed from eternity past as God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit in a perfect relationship of love. And so love is the greatest value in the universe. And when God decided to create humankind in his image, he wanted us to experience love. Well, the only way he could allow us to experience love, love each other, and love him, is if he gave us free will. Why? Well, you know, when my little daughter was little, this was well before your time, Jason. When my daughter was little, they used to have a doll called Chatty Cathy. And Chatty Cathy was a doll with a string on her back. And if you pull the string and let go, the doll would talk to you. So I gave her one for Christmas. And she pulls a string in the back and lets it go and the dial says to her, I love you. That was about as high-tech as it was back then. So did that dial love her? No, of course not. It was programmed to say that. It was a mechanical device, it had to say that, it had no choice. It must say. That’s not love. Love always involves a choice. And so God has given us this free will. And what have we done with it? We’ve turned our back on him, we’ve turned our back on each other. You know, I can take my hand, and using my free will I can feed a hungry person. Or using that same hand, I can pick up a gun and kill an innocent person. But if I pick up a gun and kill an innocent person, it’s a little disingenuous for me to say then, Oh, God, why do you allow suffering? I’m the one who has activated that potentiality of evil in the world. So there’s a lot to be said for that topic. I don’t want to be glib about it. You know, I have my wife who suffers from a neuromuscular condition that has her in pain every day. And she’s been in pain for 20 years, and she’ll be in pain every day for the rest of her life through the condition unless God intervenes and does a miracle, which he hasn’t chosen to do. So people like that who suffer extensively, sometimes wonder, could this be true for me? And so what I like to say to them is Romans 8:28 says, God can take all things that happen to those who love him and are called according to His purpose and cause good to emerge from those things. And when we think that we suffer too much for that to be true, what I like to say is, you know what, think about this. God took the worst possible thing that has ever happened in the history of the universe, which is the death of the Son of God on a cross. And from the worst thing in the universe, He created the best thing in the universe, which is the opening of heaven to all who follow Him. So if God could take the worst thing in the universe and turn it into the best thing in the universe, then he can in some way in this life and the next redeem our suffering for our good. And, you know, I don’t think that’s a pipe dream. I think that’s reality.
Yeah, that’s good. And you mentioned this other big question that a lot of people are skeptical of and wrestle with, and that is the hiddenness of God. You know, if God is so real, then why isn’t he just showing up everywhere and making it clear?
This has become the number two question. And yeah, the number one question is, why is there suffering? But now the number two question is, why does God seem so hidden? And I interviewed an expert on this topic, he does a great job of really looking at all angles of it. And, you know, one of the things we have to look at is this, the guy I interviewed is a former baseball player. And so he kind of likens it to a pitcher and a catcher. So he says, God’s the pitcher and we’re the catcher. Where does the problem lie in the hiddenness of God? Does it lie with the pitcher or does it lie with the catcher? He says, I think biblically, it lies with the catcher. It lies with us. I said, How so? He said, well you look at Romans 1:20 and it talks about how we have evidence of God’s existence in nature, we see nature and the clear conclusion of the existence of nature is there must be a creator behind it. So through nature, we have evidence. It’s so much evidence, in fact, it says we’re without excuse, that we must know that God exists. And yet, Romans says that we suppress that. In fact, the Greek there, when it says we suppress it, is like a pedal. So as the awareness of God grows in us, we suppress it, we push it down. And then it grows again, we push it down again, as it grows, again, we push it down again, that’s kind of the Greek meaning there. And because we don’t want there to be a god. We want to be God, we want to be the God of our world. We don’t need another God. And so is God hidden? Or are we ignoring him? Are we choosing to turn the other way? Are we choosing to turn a deaf ear? You know, it’s interesting. If you study the famous atheists of history, who would say that God is hidden, God does not exist. Camus, Nietzsche, Voltaire, Wells, Feurerbach, O’Hair, I mean, just all the famous atheists of history. Every one of them has a father who either died when they were young, divorced their mother when they were young, or with whom they had a very difficult relationship. And the implication is that if your earthly father has hurt you or disappointed you, you don’t really want to know a Heavenly Father, you just think he’s going to be worse. And so you tend to walk the other way, you tend to ignore the evidence for him, you tend to think that he’s hidden if he’s even there. It’s not something you do on purpose. It’s not something you do knowingly, but it’s a psychological phenomenon that can cause us to think that God is hidden, God doesn’t exist. He is not there. When what it really is is our own hurt from our earthly father, discouraging us from wanting to really know a Heavenly Father. Finding excuses for there not to be a Heavenly Father. I had a very difficult relationship with my dad. My dad told me on the eve of my high school graduation, I don’t have enough love for you to fill my little finger. And so we had a very difficult relationship. Did that contribute to my going down the path of atheism? Yeah, I think it did. I think it was a factor in my life. CS Lewis has a cure for this. CS Lewis says, imagine what the perfect father would be like. What would the perfect father be like? Oh, he’d be loving, he’d be kind, he’d be gracious, he’d be your biggest cheerleader, he pull you up in his lap and give you a hug. That is a picture of your heavenly Father. That is the father that you really want to know. And that our earthly father and our Heavenly Father are two different things. Our heavenly Father is not just an amplification of our earthly father. So I think there are a lot of reasons why we tend to suppress this idea of God. And so maybe some of this hiddenness problem is on our side, right? When you think about it, if God really is omniscient, he should know the degree to which he can make his existence known. Make us aware of his existence, without forcing us to believe in Him so that the maximum number of people would come to faith. And in fact, if you look at those times in history, this is interesting. When God made his presence undeniable, for instance, when he guided the Israelites through the desert when he parted the Red Sea. I mean, there you’re seeing him in action in a way you can’t deny. What happened? Did Israel then bend its knee and devote itself? No, it fell into apostasy again. So there’s no guarantee that if God were to write in the sky, I am real. Think about that if that happened, if all of a sudden we wake up and we look at the sky and it says, “I am real. – God.” You know, what would we say? We’d say, Oh, that’s a special effect. Yeah, look what those airplanes with the contrails did, that’s a great joke. We wouldn’t believe it. We may find it annoying if God made Himself more present in our lives. So it’s a big topic. And in my book, I think we get a lot of different angles of that issue.
Yeah, I love that. That’s super helpful. And as you’re talking about God showing up in these very demonstrable ways as we read in Scripture. The Israelites crossing the Red Sea. Not only did the Israelites fall into apostasy, but it’s not like the Egyptians all said, Oh, okay, well, that’s for us. 10 plagues? See, yeah, God is real. So it’s one of the things that people crave and say, Well, you know, if God’s real then he’d just be doing all these things. Well, every time God shows up, people find a way to dismiss it in some way, right? I mean, that’s human nature right now. So, Lee, I love what you’ve done with the book. Incredible stuff. Is God Real? The interviews you had. Deep questions. Incredible, incredible people that you sat down with and had the opportunity to talk to. I mean brilliant people.
One of the joys of my work is the brilliant godly men and women who inspire me.
Yeah, as I was reading through it, I was like, Man, that’s a fun gig right there, Lee.
I don’t have to be the smartest guy in the world. I just have to find the smartest.
That’s the key. That’s the key. So as we’re kind of winding down this conversation, talking to pastors and ministry leaders, Lee, who know that we’re in a world where it seems like there is a lot more pushback against Christianity than in our lifetimes and we’ve probably experienced, right? So for us, this is kind of like, oh, wow, where’s everything going? What encouragement, thoughts, or ideas would you give pastors and ministry leaders?
So, there are two areas that I encourage. These are very practical things that churches can do. First of all, I think that every church of every denomination of every size needs to have an evangelism point person. In a small church, it’s a volunteer, right? In a little bigger church it’s a part-time person, in larger churches it’s full-time. But every church needs to have one person whose sole responsibility is to help penetrate the community with the gospel. How are we going to reach the community? That’s the person who stays up late praying in the middle of the night. How are we going to reach this community with the Gospel? The pastor can’t do it by himself. He needs someone he can work with to accomplish that role. And so one of the things I’ve done is I’ve started this new center at Colorado Christian University, Center for Evangelism and Applied Apologetics and we’ll train people. You may have someone in your church who might be a great volunteer to lead this role. And we’ll train them through our center all online, all fully accredited. They get a master’s degree, a bachelor’s degree, or just certificates that are not academic, but kind of show that they’ve achieved a certain level of proficiency in this area. One of the people who got excited about this is Willie Robertson, the Duck Dynasty guy. And Willie heard me speak on this. And he said I want to do that. So we’ve been mentoring Willie. Willie went to his pastor at his local church there in West Monroe, Louisiana. And he said, I want to be the local point person, I want to be the evangelism guy as a volunteer, and the pastor’s like great go for it. Well, I got an email from him last March. And I am so excited. We’ve already baptized more people this year than in the entire year last year. We have revival going on in our church. And they’re able to really focus on how they can reach that community with the gospel. So I think every church needs that. The other thing I think every church needs is to have what we call spiritual discovery groups. These are small groups for non-believers. So you have half a dozen non-believers led by two Christians, often a Christian couple, that meet on a regular basis to talk about faith. And I’m telling you, these are gangbusters because young people if you look at the statistics about Generation Z, what you find is they love to talk about what they believe. They love to give their opinions about what they believe, which is great. So we did some experiments in Chicago where I was a pastor several years ago. And we brought in Gary Poole, who’s the world’s leading expert on how to do these groups. And pretty soon we had 1100 non-believers in these groups. And we tracked them over a period of years. And we found that if a non-believer joined one of these groups and stayed in it, 80% came to faith in Christ. Where do you get an 80% conversion? And you know, this is not where the leaders of the small group are like the Bible answer men or the Bible answer ladies, and they just sit there and take tough questions. That’s not how it works. We train people through our center, how not to give answers. What we want to do is train people how to ask more questions, to get to the real root of the issue. So I’ll give you an example. Often what we do to begin these groups is we’ll say, if you could ask God any one question and you knew he’d give you an answer, what would you ask him? And most of the time, it’s some permutation of Why does God allow suffering? So if you could ask God one question, what would you ask? Well, I’d ask, Why does God allow suffering? Well, instead of saying, Well, let me give you a five-point sermon on why God allows suffering, we say, no, ask a follow-up question. Here’s the follow-up question. Of all the possible questions in the universe, why did he ask that one? Now we get to the personal side. Now they say, because we lost a child in childbirth five years ago and I want to know where was God when that happened. Or my wife was just diagnosed with cervical cancer, I want to know where’s God in the middle of that. Now we’re getting to the real personal issue. And most of the time what people don’t necessarily need at that point is a five-point sermon on why God allows suffering. They need someone to put their arm around their shoulder, to love them, to be Jesus with them, and to pray with them. That’s what they need. And that’s how these groups work. These groups are just an excuse to get together to talk about God. And if you think it’s hard to get people in these groups, it’s the opposite. It’s so easy. People love to talk about this stuff. And you can meet at Starbucks or wherever you want to get together. And we find that people love to talk, it’s hard to get them to stop talking. We try to limit it to an hour and 15 minutes, that way it becomes doable, we don’t want to go too long so that people get worn out. But these are fantastically effective. We have a course that we teach through our center all online on how to teach and how to run these particular kinds of small groups. But I think, you know, think about it as a pastor. As a pastor, you get up and you say, You know what, you’ve given an evangelistic sermon, and you say, I’m going to offer a prayer that if you want to receive Christ right now you can pray this prayer with me. But I know some of you aren’t ready. If you have too many questions, we’ve got two routes for you. We have some groups in our church. And if you join one of these groups, you can, first of all, make some friends. But secondly, over time, I think you’re going to find answers to your tough questions about God. And so what a great way to teach that. It’s a two-step appeal. Here’s an appeal for those who aren’t ready yet. But then here’s an appeal. Here’s an appeal for those ready to receive Christ who are ready. So we think these are fantastic, these spiritual discovery groups. And anybody can do these groups. You don’t have to be an apologist. In fact, I’ll be honest, apologists are generally the worst leaders in these groups because they want to jump in and give these really complicated answers and everything. That’s not what people are looking for. They’re looking for answers, but they’re not looking to be overwhelmed by it. What are they looking for? A friendship. They’re looking for a conversation. They’re looking for someone who understands them. They’re looking for someone who points to hope, purpose, and meaning. And we can do that. This one atheist was coming to our church. And the reason is her daughter had come to our church and become a Christian. And so this atheist mother was mad. So she was coming to our church and she came up to me one day, she said, I hear you have groups for people like me who don’t believe. I said, Yeah, she said, I want to join one. I said that’s great. She said, No, no, you don’t understand. I’m going to join just to cause trouble. And I’m going to ask all the embarrassing questions and I’m just going to watch the Christians squirm. Okay, hey, not my group. And so, I get her into a group. I don’t see her for six months. Six months later, we’re doing a baptism service. She comes up to me to be baptized. I said, Whoa, timeout. What in the world? Last I saw you you’re gonna join a group just to cause trouble. I said what happened? She said, Lee, the Christians who led my group loved me even though I was obnoxious. And when I was sick, they brought me chicken soup. And when I was out of town on business and missed one of our meetings, they said, Hey, let’s get together at Starbucks. Let’s have a cup of coffee. They listened to me. They respected me. They validated me as someone who matters to God. They loved her into the kingdom of God. And that’s how these groups were. So I would love to see these groups in every church all over the world.
Yeah, I absolutely love that, Lee. What a gift. And all that can be you said, through the center, right?
Yeah, if they go to strobelcenter.com. strobelcenter.com to get information, we have the courses on how to do these what we call spiritual discovery groups. It’s on our certificate level, which means that you don’t have to sign up for 18 million courses, they’re very inexpensive courses. And you can take it at your own pace all online and learn how to do this. And then if you take five courses in either innovative evangelism, practical apologetics, world religions, or cultural apologetics, you take five courses on one of those tracks you get a certificate, kind of affirming that you completed this course of study through the Colorado Christian University. So that’s an inexpensive way you can do at your own pace online to learn and then apply it in a ministry setting.
I love that. Absolutely love that. That’s so cool. Lee, thank you so much for hanging out with us, for making the time to be here, and for sharing. Super excited about your new book Is God Real? Great conversations. And they’re great interviews that you had answering these huge questions. Really excited about the work that you’re doing through the center as well at Colorado Christian University. And for those of you who are watching or listening, we will have links because we shared some great resources. So we’ll have links to Lee’s newest book Is God Real, we will also have links to the Stobel Center so that you can go there and see the different courses available, the certificates that are available, and all of those resources. Because I really want to encourage you guys to look into those. And just to see and pray that God would raise someone up in your local church that would be that kind of champion, that evangelism champion that we all need. So you can get all that information in the toolkit for this episode, PastorServe.org/network, you’ll get all of those links. So you can check that out there. As we’re closing down, I just want to give you a moment to kind of wrap things up with some encouraging words to pastors and ministry leaders, what would you share with them?
I would say ignore the statistics. You can cite statistics on any side that we’re in a spiritual decline or we’re in a spiritual ascendancy. People are people. They need God. And I would say, you are in the most important role in all of the world. You’re the head of the lighthouse that is shining this message of hope, grace, love, religion and eternal life all over your community and beyond. And so my hat’s off to you. I know how hard it is to be a pastor, I know the challenges involved. And nobody works harder than the pastor of a local church. But you know what? You can do it with God’s help. And with God’s help, you’re gonna see people in your community’s lives revolutionized and eternity rewritten.
Amen. Amen. Thank you, brother. I appreciate once again, you making the time to be with us. God bless you.
Thank you, God bless.
Now, before you go, I want to remind you of an incredible free resource that our team puts together every single week to help you and your team dig more deeply and maximize the conversation that we just had. This is the weekly toolkit that we provide. And we understand that it’s one thing to listen or watch an episode, but it’s something entirely different to actually take what you’ve heard, what you’ve watched, what you’ve seen, and apply it to your life and to your ministry. You see, FrontStage BackStage is more than just a podcast or YouTube show about ministry leadership, we are a complete resource to help train you and your entire ministry team as you seek to grow and develop in life in ministry. Every single week, we provide a weekly toolkit which has all types of tools in it to help you do just that. Now you can find this at PastorServe.org/network. That’s PastorServe.org/network. And there you will find all of our shows, all of our episodes and all of our weekly toolkits. Now inside the toolkit are several tools including video links and audio links for you to share with your team. There are resource links to different resources and tools that were mentioned in the conversation, and several other tools, but the greatest thing is the ministry leaders growth guide. Our team pulls key insights and concepts from every conversation with our amazing guests. And then we also create engaging questions for you and your team to consider and process, providing space for you to reflect on how that episode’s topic relates to your unique context, at your local church, in your ministry and in your life. Now you can use these questions in your regular staff meetings to guide your conversation as you invest in the growth of your ministry leaders. You can find the weekly toolkit at PastorServe.org/network We encourage you to check out that free resource. Until next time, I’m Jason Daye encouraging you to love well, live well, and lead well. God bless.
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