For most college students and recent high school graduates, midsummer is a time of rest, fun and preparing for the academic year ahead.
Sean McDowell’s mission is to get students, parents and ministry leaders to see that there are more crucial elements of preparation than attending going away parties and buying dorm supplies.
On July 10-12 at The Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove, McDowell will help ready the souls of students before they enter the next school year with a student apologetics seminar, “The Cause: Strengthen Your Faith for College.”
The Correlation Between Truth and Relationships
As an apologetics professor at Biola University—and as the son of Josh McDowell—Sean McDowell wants to turn students’ minds and hearts toward what matters most: truth.
And the best way to do that, he said, is through relationships. Growing up, his parents built a relationship with him by talking with him, not at him.
“My mom and dad modeled what it means to live a life that mattered. My dad had constant conversations with us—at the dinner table, in the car. He always got us to think and talk about things by asking us questions about how Christians should respond to this or that issue. Then he would give his answer,” McDowell said.
“But he also went to sporting events and was super involved in our lives. My dad modeled truth and relationship. And it rubbed off!”
McDowell, who began speaking to college students when he was in college, believes that while human nature has not changed, circumstances have. He explained that it’s more difficult for this generation of students—“digital natives,” those raised with technology at their fingertips—to grasp what is really true amid all the voices speaking to them.
“This generation has access to endless information with one click, and there’s a lot of skepticism among them. It’s hard to know what is true, when there is so much competing information on the internet,” he said.
“They are also one click away from anything they want. They can order something in any style or size they want and have it arrive to their doorsteps in two days. … Not only does this breed entitlement and boredom, but for them it begs the question: What bigger thing is there to live for when I can have what I want, when I want it?”
And this mindset bred into this generation, Sean believes, is a roadblock to relationship building—which is a roadblock to understanding truth.
“In light of those things it is more important than ever to present a worldview in the context of relationships, because relationships build trust. And it’s difficult to build either—trust or relationships—when there are a million voices coming at them every day,” he explained.
Creating Disciples at The Cove
The overarching idea McDowell hopes the students at The Cove will grasp during the seminar is that Christianity has answers to the biggest questions of life.
But there’s much more to it than that.
“We’re really just scratching the surface. More than anything, I want these students to walk away with the confidence in Christianity’s truth and with a willingness to do their homework,” he said.
“They need to understand that Christianity is not a ‘feel good’ religion, and that it’s not just about experience, but that it’s actually true.”
This seminar can also be an opportunity for ministry leaders to bring students who may be on the fence about their faith.
“Bring students who struggle with their faith, who are not sure what they believe. We will lovingly and graciously share truth and give them the space to wrestle with their beliefs. They need to see that Christianity makes sense,” he said.
McDowell also believes that having students of varied spiritual strength attend the seminar is a win-win for everyone—ministry leaders, spiritually invested students and doubters.
“This can become a point of conversation for months, or even years,” he said. “This can plant a desire to reach out to people who don’t know Jesus—not in a way to argue with them, but to build relationships with them.”