The Double Puzzle: Reaching Millennials with Apologetics and Media
The Digital Transformation
The Arab world is going through a digital transformation. A new generation is rising up that is native to the internet and social media. They are the Millennials (born between 1981 and 1996) and Generation Z (born between 1997 and 2012), and they are a force to be reckoned with. There are over 160 million Millennials in the Arab world, and they make up a large percentage of the population. In fact, Millennials make up 40% of the population in Arabic-speaking countries.
The Millennial Arab is also very different from previous generations. They are more open-minded and tolerant of others. This is a generation that is highly connected and engaged. They are opinionated and they want their voices to be heard. They are also more educated than previous generations.
So how do you reach this new generation? Traditional media is no longer as effective as it once was. The young Arabs are not watching TV or reading newspapers. They are also not engaging with Radio and books as much as the previous generation did. They are, however, getting their news and information from social media. This is where you need to be if you want to reach them.
The church in the Arab world has been slow to catch on to this new reality. Some are still using the same old methods to reach people. Some are even resistant to the changing demands of the new digital world. The church needs to change its approach if it wants to reach this new generation. Others are beginning to see the potential of using digital media to reach this young generation with the gospel.
A few ministries and churches are creating Instagram accounts and posting photos and short videos that are designed to appeal to young Arabs. Others are starting podcasts or YouTube channels where they can share longer-form content. These are all good steps in the right direction. But we need to go further.
Not only do we need to be using the platforms that they are using. We need to meet them where they are intellectually and existentially. The most challenging part of our task is creating content that is relevant to arab millennials and that speaks to the issues they are facing. We need to be willing to engage in the hard conversations that Millennials are having online. We need to be a voice of reason and truth in a digital world that is often filled with lies and misinformation.
The methods today might be new, and that brings with it a whole host of challenges. However, the core of our task is not new at all. The apostle Peter commands us to engage with difficult questions, and provide answers to our culture. He writes, "Always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you" (I Peter 3:15).
In short, our calling is to become apologists for the Christian faith, and we need to be able to defend our beliefs in a winsome and persuasive way. We need to be able to answer the hard and pressing questions that young Arabs are asking about Christianity and life.
The Apologetic Challenge
The only question that remains now is: Are we up for the challenge? The answer to this question is complicated. We might want to say yes, out of our passion for the mission. But the task at hand is daunting. We need to grow; not only in our technical ability at using these platforms to the benefit of the kingdom but to be able to articulate our answers in such a way that wins the heart, mind, and soul of the Arab millennial. This mission field is a challenging one and millennials are refusing to settle for packaged answers.
Christianity is getting probed, and investigated by many seekers. Some are looking for answers to the big questions in life. Others seem to be more interested in apologetics and engaging with the hard questions that Christianity raises. Whatever their motivation may be, it is important that we are able to answer their questions in a way that is both winsome and persuasive. We, at remission, are often recieving questions like:Where is God in this unjust world?How can I trust the Bible was written by God? How can I know that Jesus is the only way to salvation? And What about people who have never heard of Jesus? Are they automatically condemned to hell? Isn't Christianity just a crutch for people who are weak and need something to believe in?
Answering these questions well requires more than a quick response or soundbite. It requires knowledge, wisdom, and most importantly, a deep relationship with God. Are we up for the challenge? I pray that we are. Digital transformation is an opportunity for the church in the Arab world to reach a new generation with the gospel. But we need to be prepared to answer their questions with wisdom and grace.
Francis Schaeffer, through L'abri Fellowship, an incredibly entrepeneurial initiative which he started, helped spur an apologetics and evangelism movement in the 1970s called the New Evangelicalism. L'abri's website describes the early days of the movement like this:
"L’Abri Fellowship began in Switzerland in 1955 when Francis and Edith Schaeffer opened their home as a place where people might find satisfying answers to their questions and a practical demonstration of Christian care."
This was a reaction to what Schaeffer saw as the declining influence of Christianity in Western culture. He believed that part of the reason for this decline was Christians had lost confidence in their beliefs and were no longer able to articulate them persuasively.
Schaeffer's solution was twofold: first, he argued that Christians needed to engage with the intellectual challenges posed by secular thought; and second, they needed to develop a more compassionate approach to sharing the gospel with those who did not yet believe.
The New Evangelicalism movement picked up steam in the 1980s and 1990s, and it eventually made its way to other countries around the world. This is a tremendous lesson that we need to learn; Apologetics, when properly done, has a tremendous ripple effect that goes far beyond its initial task. In my opinion, today we are standing at a great opportunity in the marriage of apologetics and media.
The Media and Apologetics
Apologetics and media, when used together, can speak to people on an emotional and intellectual level -at an unprecedented reach. The digital world is a mission field that is ripe for harvest, but we need to be prepared to answer the tough questions that people are asking. Let us not shrink back from this challenge but instead let us embrace it with courage and grace.
This is not an easy task, but it is a necessary one. The Arab world is changing, and the church needs to change with it. We need to be relevant and we need to be engaged. We need apologetics for the sake of the gospel and for the sake of the next generation.
It's time for the church in the Arab world to get on board with digital media. It's time for us to engage with this new generation in a way that is relevant and authentic. And it's time for us to apologetics for the sake of the gospel and for the sake of the next generation. Let's do this!
This is not an easy task, but it is a necessary one if we want to reach this new generation with the gospel. So let us begin. Let us start creating content that is relevant and engaging. Let us start having hard conversations online. And let us do all of this with wisdom, grace, and love.
The task ahead of us is daunting, but it is not impossible. With God's help, we can reach the young Arabs for Christ. Let us pray for wisdom and courage as we take up this challenge.
The apostle Peter commands us to engage with difficult questions, and provide answers to our culture. He writes, "Always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you" (I Peter 3:15).
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