Like Father, Like Son: Lee Strobel Interviews Sean McDowell
Josh McDowell’s son Sean is blazing new trails as an apologist to his generation. He offers great insights and advice in this interview about his life and ministry.
With such bestsellers as More Than a Carpenter and Evidence That Demands a Verdict in the 1970s, Josh McDowell sparked interest in Christian apologetics among both believers and spiritual seekers, creating a wave of popularity that has only increased over the decades. His son Sean (who, incidentally, was a seminary classmate with my son Kyle) is enthusiastic about training Christians and reaching seekers today.
Here’s a Q&A in which Sean talks about growing up as a McDowell, the lessons he learned from his dad, the challenges of reaching his generation, and his new GodQuest apologetics curriculum, published by my friends at Outreach.
• Your dad just celebrated fifty years of great ministry and is still going strong. As an apologist to a new generation, how is your approach similar – and different – to your father’s?
One of the things I deeply respect about my dad is his effort to continually be effective and relevant. Even though he is 72, he is at the top of his game. His message is still filled with Biblical truth, but he’s adapted the delivery for a new generation. One similarity between us is that we both use a variety of technological means to reach this generation (Facebook, Twitter, blogs, PowerPoint presentations, YouTube, etc.).
My father is first and foremost an evangelist. While I love evangelizing, I am a teacher at heart. Thus, I am working on my Ph.D. in apologetics so I can eventually teach at the college and seminary levels while continuing to work with high school students.
As far as our approaches, my dad cut his teeth in the free speech movement of the 1960s. He would debate, seize opportunities at Marxist rallies, and speak at unreceptive places like Berkeley. So he is very outspoken, bold, confident, and assertive. He was a “radical” for Jesus in the 60s. Although I debate and speak, I am more relational and conversational in my approach. It’s tough to be dogmatic about many things today, especially since there is always another perspective simply a Google away.
• What are the biggest obstacles to faith for the young people you encounter today? How do you address them?
There are three hurdles that I encounter the most – and these questions tend to be similar for both Christian and non-Christian youth…
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Many teenagers leave home for college but don’t take their faith with them. Popular writer and speaker Sean McDowell offers a solution for this problem: a new way of approaching faith that addresses the questions the emerging generation is asking and that incorporates a radically humble and relational approach. An impressive list of contributors including Dan Kimball, Brian Godawa, and Josh McDowell, show that today’s apologetics must employ: A clear connection with everyday life; an invitation for people to express their doubts and wrestle with tough questions; a culturally savvy understanding of the way secular people view Christians; an engaging methodology that captures the imagination before engaging the mind;a strong emphasis on the resurrection and how it changes everything . This resource is imperative for leaders who are ready to engage a new generation with the claims of Christ.
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