Mark your calendars for March 23. That's when a new movie, October Baby, will hit movie screens. I was able to preview the film last week and suggest you go see this one in the theater. I'll be up front, it is a strong pro-life movie dealing head-on with abortion. But it was powerful and compelling, without being preachy. The message comes through loud and clear, but in a way that stirred my soul (yes, yes...I cried like 4 times -- it was intense). And ultimately, the message is hopeful.
It's exactly the kind of thing the pro-life movement needs more of to make a compelling argument in the broader culture. It raises important questions like:
Are there morally significant differences between an unborn baby and a newborn child?
Are there significant consequences for the mother who aborts her baby?
Is there hope and redemption for women who have had abortions?
How can adoption assist our pro-life efforts?
But it raises these questions naturally, in the context of the movie, and suggests answers in the same way.
So take your friends, take your wife, take your kids (my 9 & 10 year old watched it with me), take your youth group, take some students...take whoever you can get to go with you and see October Baby on opening weekend.
Summer is expensive. At least, for me as a parent it is. For my younger kids I have to pay for swim lessons, soccer camps, VBS, trips to water parks and amusement parks, and more. For my high schooler I have to pay for summer basketball league, a San Diego tournament, and youth group activities and trips. And these costs don't even include feeding my kids all summer.
If you're a parent, this might be pretty typical for your family as well. Summer provides all kind of opportunities but they come with corresponding expenses. However, many parents will make the investment. "My kid needs summer football camp?' No problem. "Pay for swim lessons?" Sure. "Academic tutoring?" Of course. I know parents willing to spend thousands on sports and academics. But how many parents are willing to put the very same investment of time and money into their children's spiritual training?
I do a lot of training with parents and I challenge them on this very point. So I guess it's time for me to put my money where my mouth is. My biggest summer investment is a 2-week Colorado trip for my 16-year old daughter, Lexi. Altogether, the trip will cost me about $1,300. Where am I sending her? To Summit Ministries' Student Worldview Conference. She'll fly out of Orange County on the morning of August 14 and won't return home until August 26. Her flight will cost about $300. The conference costs $895. She'll need about $100 of spending money. That's a big chunk of change for our family. But it's worth it. It's an eternal investment.
I know what Lexi is going to get at Summit. Two weeks of intense training, training more valuable than any basketball camp or swim lesson. She'll examine the false ideas of this world that compete for her heart and mind every single day. Then she'll learn to analyze those ideas and expose them for the lies they are. She'll learn to think Christianly, discovering why Christianity is true and what difference it makes for every single area of her life.
How do I know? Because I had the chance to see firsthand what Summit does last month. I spent three days at their Colorado location and afterward, I was sold. I signed Lexi up immediately, willing to pay the cost. Summit's program was that good.
So parents and students, check out Summit's summer conferences. Not only do they host them in Colorado, they have a camp in Tennessee (coming up in 2 days!) and one in Wisconsin (Aug. 7-20). It's the best investment you can make this summer.
Can't get to Summit this summer? There may be other options closer to you:
On Sunday, May 15, come hear about the exciting things God is doing in young lives through the work of Stand to Reason. First, we'll enjoy a delicious banquet dinner together (our treat!). I will then share about the current intellectual & moral challenges wreaking havoc in the lives of our Christian students and how we're addressing those challenges in new and innovative ways.
I've invited two special guests to join me. First, amateur filmmaker Matt Champagne will be on hand to premiere his documentary movie, "Seekers of Truth." Matt recently accompanied me on one of our "theological mission trips" to Utah and captured on film this one-of-a-kind trip. In addition, Greg Koukl, founder and president of Stand to Reason and one of the best thinkers in the contemporary Christian world, will conclude our time with a special message and challenge. You won't want to miss this special program.
And this invitation is open to all, so invite friends & family who might be interested in discovering an exciting new vision for training the next generation of Christians. RSVP on our Facebook Event Page or e-mail Dawnielle Hodgman at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Recently, pollsters have confirmed what many of us already know: a large number of Christian students leave the church once they graduate from high school. Barna has the number at 61%. Lifeway has it at 70%. Even if we take Barna's lower number and then subtract another 10% just to be conservative, we're still left with a situation where we are losing half our kids.
But let's not be conservative because it looks like the situation could be worse. According to political scientists Robert Putman (Harvard) and David Campbell (Notre Dame) in their book, American Grace, young Americans are dropping out of religion at a rate 5-6 times the historic rate (30-40% have no religion today versus 5-10% a generation ago). The Church definitely has a challenge on its hands.
So what are the causes? Well, there are a number of reasons young people leave. Moral reasons. Sociological reasons. But it seems clear they also leave for intellectual reasons (Drew Dyck has some important thoughts on the interplay between the reasons young people give for leaving). In his book Soul Searching, sociologist Christian Smith found that students reported leaving the religion of their upbringing primarily due to "intellectual skepticism and doubt." Certainly Christian students who cannot give a reason for their hope in Christ to everyone who asks (I Peter 3:15) will be ill-equipped to deal with the intellectual minefield that is the modern secular college campus.
Here's part of my solution: start exposing our Christian students before they leave for college. Let's bring up their doubts before they do and then create a safe place to talk about those doubts. Recently, I did just that at a local Christian high school in Southern California by pretending to be an atheist college professor. You can see how the Christians students did, as I recorded the dialogue:
Of course, these students knew they fared poorly, giving themselves a failing grade. But here's the key: afterwards, they're ready to be trained. Once they see for themselves how ill-equipped they are, they're more open to their real need for serious training and discipleship of the mind. And then we need to do our part to inoculate them from the false ideas that permeate our culture.