In today’s program, Tom addresses the question, “What About Today’s Youth?” Joining Tom is Carl Kerby. Carl’s ministry is Reasons for Hope, and its focus is reaching today’s young people. Now, with his guest, here’s TBC executive director Tom McMahon.
Tom: Thanks, Gary. The game plan for today is to consider a topic that’s weighed heavy on my heart for the last couple years, and that is my concern for the upcoming generation of believers. Why my great concern? Well, with rare exceptions, they have grown up in church situations where entertainment has displaced discipleship, which has left most of them functionally, biblically illiterate. Now, what I mean by that is [that] they have Bibles, they know how to read, but they don’t. Online to discuss the issue with me is my good friend, my amigo, Carl Kerby. Carl’s ministry is Reasons for Hope, and if there’s a better communicator to young people, well, I don’t know who that might be. Carl, thanks for joining me on Search the Scriptures 24/7.
Carl: Hey, Tom, you bless me by allowing me to be with you. Thank you, my brother.
Tom: Okay. Carl, give our listeners some background info about yourself, and then tell us about Reasons for Hope.
Carl: Well, thank you. You know, I joke with people I grew up around guys with one name—Crusher, Bruiser, Mauler, Assassin. My dad was a professional wrestler, so I grew up in kind of a weird world—was raised in the church, though. And this is kind of where my heart is: reaching out and breaking for this younger generation, because I see a lot of parallels with what I grew up with and what I see going on today—growing up in the church and not really having any answers or knowing why they believe what they say they believe.
But I went into the military out of high school, met my wife in Japan. Long story short, she got saved before I did, because I took her to church. (chuckling) Even as a non-Christian I took people to church, because I knew growing up, “Hey, you need to go to church.” So I took her to church, she got saved, we moved to Salt Lake City, Utah, of all places, and I actually got saved out there, because my wife—I was taking her to church—and I was being exposed; I mean, they were preaching the gospel. But it wasn’t until we had someone come into town and preach the simple gospel message one night that just really...the Holy Spirit just took the scales off my eyes, and I realized that I’m sitting in pews and I’m going to hell.
Two years later, though, I really hadn’t grown in my faith, because I didn’t trust the Bible. The Bible was just a good book, spiritual and moral things. Well, two years later, I’m sitting in the cockpit of an airplane, because I was an air traffic controller, and I’m flying out to Oregon to visit my dad, and it’s an amazing thing: the pilot and the co-pilot—I started witnessing to them—and they turned out to be…both of them were Christians. So we’re sharing the Lord there, and they started talking about creation and evolution, and I had been trained—my Sunday school teacher taught me, you take evolution, you put it in the Bible; no contradictions, God used it, God directed it. That’s all I knew. So I threw that out, and the co-pilot turned around and very kindly opened the Word of God [and] said, “Carl, I’m sorry, but that’s incorrect,” and showed me why—using the Scripture—why it was incorrect. He introduced me to a book called The Lie: Evolution by Ken Ham. I read that book, and after that, man, my faith exploded from there. So, [I] got involved. I was on the board of directors for Answers in Genesis for ten years, one of their speakers for six years. And then two years and two months ago, the Lord just put it on my heart that I had to take that message of scriptural authority out and go after younger generation and fathers and that’s how Reasons for Hope really became an entity.
Tom: Carl, I know the answer to this, but for the sake of our listeners, you know I have a great concern for the upcoming generation; that’s what we share. We’ve been in England together, we’ve been a number of places together, and I know that’s on your heart. So, tell our listeners why you have a concern just as I do. In what ways?
Carl: Tom, they’re just under such attack! We really can’t understand—when I talk in a church setting and you see the broad spectrum from the younger generation to the mature generation, a lot of times when you bring up the fact that, look, this generation doesn’t know how to give an answer for the reason for the hope that lies within them; they don’t trust the Bible, they’ve not been trained in it, they’ve not been discipled in it—the older generation gets very defensive and thinks that, “Well, you’re attacking us.” My response is this: the generation that is coming up right now is facing things that we never dreamed of. The antagonism, the anti-Christian, anti-Bible sentiment is no longer under cover. It is very aggressive, it’s overt. Now, you and I, we’re blessed that we see some success stories. I’ll be sharing with you that in England we got to talk to the Truth for Youth young men…
Carl: …and I was so blessed because I had a mother just within the last two weeks send me an email telling me how her son—trying to get into Oxford, very sharp young man—goes into one of these classes that leads for him to be able to get up into Oxford, and they’re sitting around one day, not in class, but in between classes, and they just start talking and the topic of God comes up, the topic of the Bible, and he’s the only one…He stands up and gives an answer why he believes what he says he believes, and he said it was a phenomenal experience because these guys were asking real genuine questions, and he could give an answer, and the one young man that was with him said, “You know what, I’m no longer an atheist, but I’m now an agnostic because of that conversation.” But that’s not the norm. The norm are the other six or seven—eight emails that I could give you just within the last two weeks. Young lady, six months, Auburn University, heard me speak at a camp last year, and she said, “You know what, you told me that we’re not going to have answers, but I was raised in a Christian home. I went to church my whole life. I came here, I’m ready to walk away from it all.” That’s the norm that I’m getting now because the world knows how to destroy faith and we haven’t prepared the children to be able to deal with that. And so, yeah, my heart’s breaking for them.
Tom: Yeah. It’s almost a crime. And I suppose we could play the blame game here, Carl. Is it the church’s fault, the parents’, or is it the kids themselves?
Carl: Man, this might offend some people, but all I can tell you is—here’s what I’m seeing. I’m talking two years ago, when I’m getting ready—three years ago now—when I’m getting ready to say, “You know what, I’ve got to go after the younger generation. I’ve got to go after fathers,” and the reason I got to that point is because I read a book by Robert Coleman, The Master Plan of Evangelism. And Jesus Christ turned the world upside down by pouring into the twelve. He poured more intimately into the three, and even more intimately into the one, but He poured into the twelve. And I’m in a system where, “Oh, big, big, big! You’ve got to go out and speak to big numbers and big churches and…” I’m sorry, I’m not seeing it there. I started talking to fathers and saying, “Dads, we’re losing 50-88 percent of our children!” And then I’d get the response back from the dads saying, “Oh, you’re right! And the church, it’s not doing this, and the school’s not doing this, and…” Wanting to blame everybody else, and I’m like, “Guys…” It just hit me, it’s like, “Guys, hold up! We’ve got to think about this differently.” If we’re losing to 50-88 percent of the children—and that’s what the statistics show, 50-88 percent of the young people, raised in churches, at age eighteen are walking away—we’ve got to quit blaming the church house, we’ve got to quit blaming the White House, we’ve got to quit blaming the school house, the problem is you’re in my house. And my only way of knowing to deal with something is just head-on. I mean, that’s the one thing a professional wrestler father taught me, man: you just go straight on to it. And so, I say that there’s enough blame to go around: the schools are messing up, yes; the churches are messing up, yes. But ultimately, I’d look in the mirror and say, “Dad, it’s my responsibility to raise my child in the fear and admonition of the Lord, and if I’m sending them to a school that’s compromising their faith and getting them to doubt and I’m not doing anything about it, I’m the problem. If I’m sending my child to a church that is undermining their faith and getting them to doubt the Word of God, I’m the problem, not the church, because it’s my responsibility to train the child and bring them up in the fear and admonition of the Lord and teach them how to apply their faith in the real world.” Now, I understand that there are single homes, and single moms, and I’m not attacking them, but boy—gentlemen, dads, we’ve got to get serious about our faith. I think we’re the issue.
Tom: Right. You know, Carl, sometimes I have the opportunity—I’m blessed to speak [at] men’s retreats, and so on, and it always—maybe it’s just me—but it always comes back to me challenging them and saying, “Hey, look. You know, I know you guys, most of you out here, if somebody broke into your home, you wouldn’t have a problem picking up a baseball bat to defend your wife, to defend your children. On the other hand, how many of you will pick up the Sword of the Spirit, to not only defend your family, but to teach them, to encourage them? Isn’t that the role of the spiritual head of the household?”
Carl: Oh, amen. That’s why I love working with you, Tom, when we get—well, not really working, but ministering with you. That’s not work to me, that’s ministry. When we get out there, and I can see the heart—your heart for the Word of God, that’s where the key is. And until a dad—and I guess I should say until the parents, all right? I’m not trying to…we are one. My wife and I are one, but boy, me as a dad, until I can really take the Word of God seriously and give answers, and show my children how to apply their faith out in the real world—until I can do that for me…you can only pass on what you’ve got in you.
Carl: You can only pour out what you’ve got in you, and so my encouragement to the fathers is to take the responsibility of being that dad seriously, because there’s only one thing we can take with us to heaven, and that’s our children. Our wives should already be going there…
Carl: …but our children—boy, that’s the one thing we need to really make sure that we’re spending the time preparing, teaching, and equipping and encouraging [them] to get out and be serious about their faith. That’s our children.
Tom: All right, so let’s say—well, first of all, thinking about fathers—they say, “Well, you know, come on. I’m not a theologian. I’m not this, I’m not that…” Wait a minute, if you are a follower of Jesus Christ, how do you follow Him? Don’t you follow Him by His instructions, His teaching? Jesus said, “If you love Me, do the things that I say.” He says in another place—I think it’s in Luke:6:46, I could be wrong—He says, “Why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and don’t do the things that I say?” So there’s a responsibility. Well, if Jesus is going to say that, you don’t have to be a theologian; you don’t have to be a Greek/Hebrew scholar, all you need to do is read the Word. Read the Word, and live the Word out, and then encourage your children to do so. Too often, I mean, it’s the day, it’s the age, that kids are kind of—rule the roost. They do the things that are contrary to the Word, and the parents go along with it, and so on. But look, Carl, I know it’s a difficult thing. I have five children, ages right now 24-30, and I can tell you this: I have no greater joy than to see my children walking in the Truth. Did Peg and I do everything right? No! But we were consistent.
Now, if somebody out there is a father, parent, under conviction, how do you deal with it? You deal with it by just, starting today, doing what the Lord has instructed us to do, and the only way you’re going to know His instructions is for you personally—I’m talking, speaking to fathers primarily—you personally read the Word, and then you read the Word…I teach and preach familiarity: just keep reading it, and keep reading it, and keep reading it, because you’re going to get to know Jesus better. You’re going to understand better what He has for you. This is all “not by might, nor by power, but by His Spirit.” If you’re a true believer, you’ve been indwelt by the Holy Spirit who is the Teacher, the Convicter, the Encourager, the Comforter—all of these things are available for you as a believer in Jesus Christ. But, you’ve got to put your hands to the plow. You’ve got to discipline yourself to read the Word and read the Word. And then, what does it take? You just share what you’ve been learning with your family, with your wife, with your children. It’s not a complex program, is it, Carl?
Carl: No, it really isn’t. And, you know, I’m always the wrong guy when these people come up and say, “Well, I’m not a theologian, and I don’t have this and I don’t have that,” and I’m like, “Dude, are you kidding me? I grew up around guys with one name—Crusher, Bruiser, Mauler, Assassin. You think I.Q. is stressed in the home of a professional wrestler?
Tom: And Carl, let me just side note that, okay?
Tom: This is why we get along. People probably don’t know where I grew up. I grew up in a mental institution, okay? (Laughing)
Carl: (Laughing) Exactly!
Tom: You see, that’s what we have in common, Carl. Now, okay folks, “What’s he talking about?” Well, my father was a psychiatrist; Carl’s dad was a wrestler, okay? Not a lot different environments there on the one hand. (Laughing) On the other hand, God has chosen the foolish things of this world to confound the wise.
Tom: So, do you come under that category? Well, who doesn’t? But we just have to do what the Lord says: follow Him.
Carl: Yeah, because that’s the key. I mean, when we recognize and realize, “Lord, here am I, send me,” who’s the one that’s doing the work? Well, He’s doing the work! And yeah, it’s a challenge; yeah, it requires that you’ve got to do your part, but it’s a privilege—it’s a blessing to see that light come on in your children’s eyes. It’s just a privilege and an honor, man. So dads, you can do it. I mean, you absolutely can do it. It does not have to be deep; it does not have to be theological, deep stuff, man. It can be real world application, because that’s where they’re hungry—that’s what’s they’re looking for, real answers.
Tom: But the hard part is it does take discipline.
Carl: Yeah, absolutely.
Tom: The content the Lord has given us, everything that we need to grow in the faith…so what do we bring to the table? Well, you have to bring to the table a willingness to do it. That’s the deal.
Well, Carl, you mentioned earlier that our youth are being subjected to all kinds of things that—I mean, I’ve been a believer for 35 years. I’ve been involved in a ministry in which discernment has been the key growing and understanding of faith, dealing with issues that are coming into the church, and that’s tough. I agree with you that this upcoming generation is going to be facing things that, for as long as I’ve been involved with Dave Hunt, with apologetics and all that, I shudder to think what they’re going to have to deal with. Yes, “Where evil abounds, grace does more abound,” the Scripture says on the one hand. On the other hand, they’re still going to have to deal with it.
Now, Carl, the problem is—and this is why you do what you’re doing, and why I have heart for youth and young people and this generation—is in terms of what they’ll have to deal with. They are incredibly vulnerable for the reasons that we’ve been articulating.
Carl: Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. If I were to share this letter—the young lady at Auburn. Think about it. She said, “Look, I was raised in a Christian home. I was never taught anything about other religions.” Number one: there’s a problem. We need to know what’s going on out here, okay? We need to teach our children, “Here’s where they’re coming after you; here’s what’s going on. And this is why we believe what we say we believe, and here’s how we give an answer to these types of issues.” But her biggie was, “I can’t give answers why I believe what I say I believe. All I can do is parrot what somebody taught me.” And there, to me, is a really big key: is teaching critical evaluation, critical thinking, and application of our faith. And so, it’s as simple as taking somebody to a zoo, to a museum, to an aquarium—that’s what I love to do; I love taking parents and kids to those places—“Here’s what the world says. Look at this exhibit. Look at this, look at this, look at this. Here’s what the Word of God says. Now take a look at this, this, this; and isn’t it amazing that what we see in the world screams that what God said is true, and not the worldview that you’re being taught over here.”
Carl: Real application. And it can be a fun thing, as well, to do that.
Tom: Right. And, Carl, I appreciate the response from this young lady at Auburn. I remember when we were together with Paul Wilkinson at the Truth for Youth down in Devon, in England, and we had—what, about 180 young people in their twenties, maybe early thirties—and I remember saying, “Look, the reason we’re here, you guys, the reason that we’re here is we want to encourage you to think biblically; think biblically. But you know what? We’ll settle for if you just think!” And that’s the issue for today: there’s peer pressure. They go along with this, they go along with this—we’re not teaching them to be rebels. We want to encourage them to be thoughtful; think these things through. Don’t buy it just because somebody who seems to be impressive is laying it out. Carl, as you know, our ministry is so blessed. You’ve been here a number of times for conferences—The Berean Call. The Bereans: who were they? Well, they were Jews in the synagogue of the Greek city of Berea. They weren’t even Christians! But they’re commended by Luke—commended by Luke for what reason? Because they listened to what the apostle Paul had to say. Well, what did he have to say? Wasn’t he encouraging them that the Messiah that they had longed for had arrived, had come in the person of Jesus Christ? But these Jews are commended because they listened to what the apostle Paul had to say, but then “they searched the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.” So (laughing), there are—and again, many—the Scripture says many—came to believe in Jesus as the Messiah. But they were thoughtful. They listened to what Apostle Paul had to say—they were open-minded, but they weren’t so open-minded that their brains fell out! They took this thing to heart. And so, how much more for those of us who profess to be Christians, who really have the Holy Spirit, a spirit of discernment? How much more, then, should we be effective in terms of our understanding of what’s going on, certainly in the world, but more particularly what the Word of God says?
Carl: Tom, one of the things that I was really encouraged about—you know, we’re talking about some of the success stories—young man just contacted me a few days ago. He’s in a law school—I don’t want to say where, because I don’t want to get him in trouble or anything—but it’s a very prestigious law school. They’re paying him to go there; that’s how sharp this guy is. He messages me and says, “Hey, I just want you to know I used some of your stuff in my law class.” I’m like…he sends me the message and says, “I used your stuff in class, because we were talking about bullying in high school, and we had to give a definition, and in my head I’m like, ‘How do you define that?’ And so, sure enough, the professor called on me, and he said, ‘Would you define bullying for us?’ And he said, ‘Well, sir, what does purple smell like?’ And he said the professor just looked at him, was like, ‘I expected an intellectual answer from you, not some…” profanity-laced answer, you know, he went off after him—and he said, ‘Well, sir, you know the conversation that you and I are having right here, it’s okay, but if you were to say what you just said to me to that young lady there, she can’t handle it, you’re bullying her, she gets up, she runs out of the room—why are you bullying us?’ And he said the professor was dumbfounded. He didn’t know what to do. So they sat there for the next fifteen-twenty minutes and had a great conversation about bullying. How do you define it? Because what you can accept, what I can accept—we can’t do it. And he said it was such a great conversation, but then the next day, he’s in another class and one of the professors was asking questions, you know, “Can you define this, can you define this.” He comes to him and he says, “Would you define this? And I don’t want to know what purple smells like.” Sometimes, we’ve got to challenge people to think, and when they challenge us with these silly things like, “Well, how many angels could dance on the head of a pin?”
“Could God do anything? Well, then, could He create a rock so big He couldn’t move it?”
“Hold up: what does purple smell like?”
“Well, that’s a dumb question.”
“Well, so is yours.” We need to challenge people to think a little bit, and that’s what this young man did in a very prestigious law university, and got great conversations going with the young folks around him, as well.
Tom: Right. Now, Carl, speaking of that, a major part of your ministry deals with issues regarding creation versus evolution, and you’ve established that. Has the church as a whole welcomed your biblical perspective?
Carl: (chuckling) No, it’s very interesting, to be real honest with you, because it runs the gamut, especially when you get onto the “race issue”—we all go back to one man and one woman, and everybody will say that with their mouth, but then with their minds they’ve been infiltrated by the whole fact that, given enough time, right circumstances, man’s evolved. And then you’ve got an ape-like ancestor that evolved into the black people who moved out of Africa because ape-fish got smart, moved north, and turned white. That sounds like a joke. I’ll show you the video from history channel. That’s what they teach.
Carl: It’s a racist philosophy. And the church—the church has bought off on that lie that there’s different races and those types of things. So, when it comes to that aspect especially is where I get the most flak and the age of the earth, because everybody “knows” the earth is millions of years old. Science has proven it. And it’s very hard for Christians to turn away from the wisdom of man and say, “Okay, I don’t care what man says, I care what God says, and God said that He created in six days and rested in one. So if God said that, He means it. And now, let me take that history and go to the world that I live in, and what I see in the world around us—is it consistent with that? Most folks don’t know how to do that so they’ve just bought off on the, “Well, here’s the stories because we see it on TV. We see it in school, we see it all over here.” And that is infiltrating the church as well, unfortunately, because the Bible has been relegated to just kind of “good book” status.
Tom: Right. And certainly you want to be esteemed by the world, so, you know, you’re not going to promote something that although the world claims to have evidence, which they don’t, you know that Carl…
Tom: …but they claim to be able to prove certain things that are contrary to the Word of God. Well, we know, time after time after time, and this is what you do, the Word of God wins out! Carl: Mm-hmm.
Tom: Well, why wouldn’t it? Because it’s given to us by the Creator of the universe, the Creator of all things. So to fall back and say, “Well, this is what the Word of God says,” that’s not a faulty position, that’s the truth.
Carl: You’re right, right. Well, that’s the thing with me with the new ministry, you know, Reasons for Hope, it was like I believe that we need to, when it comes to our faith, know it, live it, share it. Apologetics is vitally important. We need to be able to give an answer, because God commanded us to do so. But the “live it” part is just as important. If our life and our lips are not in sync—if I’m living one way and I’ve got all this knowledge and they’re not lining up, well, hypocrisy; world[‘s] number one thing that they see about Christians: “You’re hypocrites and…” So, they’re right. I mean, if our life and our lips aren’t in sync, we’ve got a problem.
Carl: So you can beat everybody up all day long with your I.Q. and you still haven’t accomplished what you’re supposed to do: live it. And then share it. The evangelism piece is such an important piece because we are required to do that, as well, because if you’ve got the answers and you’re not living it out and you’re not sharing with the lost, come on! We’re living in a world that’s begging for people to speak the truth! I see that over and over and over again. Every time that you open your mouth and share with a waiter or waitress or someone at the hotel when we’re checking into the hotels, every time you see lights going off and people are blown out of the water; they’re just blown out of the water to know that somebody cares. We need to share out faith.
Tom: Carl, we’re about out of time for this segment of our program. We’re going to pick up with this next week. But what you’ve been saying, it’s my prayer—it’s both our prayers—that people will take heed, because we are to be a light unto the world. We’re not around here just for our own deal. We’re to, as the Lord leads, to encourage people to come to the knowledge of the truth and spend eternity with the Lord on His grounds, on His basis, on His requirements, which are not all that tough. Carl, thanks, and we’ll get back to this next week, the Lord willing.
Carl: What a blessing to be with you. Thanks, Tom.
Gary: You’ve been listening to Search the Scriptures 24/7 with T.A. McMahon, a radio ministry of The Berean Call. We offer a wide variety of materials to help you in your study of God’s Word. For a complete list of materials and a free subscription to our monthly newsletter, contact us at PO Box 7019, Bend, Oregon, 97708. Call us at 800-937-6638, or visit our website at thebereancall.org. In our next program, Tom will continue his conversation with special guest Carl Kerby as they discuss how to minister to today’s youth. I’m Gary Carmichael. Thanks for joining us. And we encourage you to search the Scriptures 24/7.