While I was in Tempe a few years ago for a Campus Crusade event as ASU, I carved some time from a very busy schedule to hang out with Matthew Mittelberg, the young son of Christian Case Maker, Mark Mittelberg. Matthew was leading an apologetics club on the campus of Grand Canyon University and was already a very gifted communicator. I’ll confess there are times when I feel like an old man in the company of young men and women like Matthew, but I love the passion and energy of young like-minded Christians, and I appreciate the opportunity to influence the culture through them.
Like my own sons, Matthew has a dramatic head start as a Christian thinker and communicator. I came to faith at the age of 35. I didn’t have a deep relationship with any Christians at the time, and I had no strong Christian influences in my life. Without a mentor or role model, I felt like I had to work through the evidence and claims of Christianity on my own. Many years later however, as I was preparing to write my own book and start a modest journey as a public Case Maker, members of the apologetics community surrounded me with support and encouragement. While I wasn’t much younger than any of them (and was, in fact, older than some), they recognized I was the “new kid” on the block and surprised me with their generosity, wisdom and assistance. I was humbled by the response, and began to look at my own sphere of influence, searching for young men and women I could encourage in a similar way.
Those of us who hope to influence the culture for Christ typically think of our own efforts to communicate and reach the world. What can I write today? What can I say? How can I effectively use the internet to promote and defend the Christian worldview? Like others, I’m guilty of viewing my influence through the narrow lens of my own efforts. As a guy who started this season in my 50’s however, I’ve come to realize the limits of my own impact and the role I can play as an encourager. My questions are starting to change: Who can I inspire as a young Christian Case Maker? What small piece of wisdom can I provide to someone who is a few steps behind me in this journey? How can I impact the younger generation of Christian Case Makers? I know I won’t be writing and speaking 30 years from now, but there are men and women out there who will be. What can I do to make them even more effective?
The young people in my life are far more likely to have a deep impact on the culture than I will. Think about the role young people play in shaping our society. Young people influence the culture through pop music, art, movies, video, and professional sports. In addition, young people are the demographic target of movie makers, media moguls, technology producers and culture shapers. Imagine if our young Christian men and women had the wisdom and experience of their older Christian brothers and sisters. I can’t help but wonder what God could have done with me if “I’d have known then what I know now”. I want to make sure guys like Matthew Mittelberg start off with more than I did.
If you’re interested in influencing the culture, start rethinking your approach to include young people. Train them. Encourage them. Mentor them. Young Christians are tested more than any other age group in the Church, but they have the potential to do more than anyone else to meet the challenges and direct the course of the culture. It’s up to us to give them the tools and encouragement they need to survive the trials and change the world.
J. Warner Wallace is a Cold-Case Detective, Christian Case Maker, Senior Fellow at the Colson Center for Christian Worldview, and the author of Cold-Case Christianity, Cold-Case Christianity for Kids, God’s Crime Scene, God’s Crime Scene for Kids, Forensic Faith, and Forensic Faith for Kids.