Q & A with Dr. Jeff Myers
“More than anything a skeptic needs to see that there is a thinking community of people who are not developing their beliefs around what they don’t know, but that they are developing their beliefs around what they can reasonably and intelligently know.”
Editor’s Note: Dr. Jeff Myers, President of Summit Ministries, is one of America’s most respected authorities on youth leadership development. His involvement with Summit began in 1983 when he attended one of the Colorado summer sessions as a student. Summit Ministries is an educational Christian ministry whose existence is a response to the current post-Christian culture. Summit views its role in God’s kingdom as a catalyst to counteract this alarming trend. Dr. Myers’ many books and video courses include Of Knights and Fair Maidens, Playpen to Podium, Secrets of the World-Changers, and most recently, Cultivate: Forming the Emerging Generation through Life-on-Life Mentoring. Myers and his wife Danielle have two sons and two daughters, ranging in age from 7 to 14 years old.
Q: When you look at the church in America today, where do you think it stands as far as embracing a biblical worldview?
A: “George Barna says that only 8 percent or 9 percent of the people who attend church in America have a biblical worldview. Of those who claim to be born-again Christians, his latest statistic is 19 percent of those have a biblical worldview. And of Protestant pastors, only 51 percent of them have a biblical worldview. If the biblical worldview is not coming through from the pulpit, then it’s not going to come through to the parishioners. And if it doesn’t come through in the lives of the parishioners, then they have nothing to pass on to their children. In essence the first generation theorizes, ‘Let’s reject the biblical worldview because it’s not really that important;’ the second generation internalizes, ‘Well, my pastor doesn’t really believe this, so I guess it’s not really important;’ and the third generalization actualizes, they actually live it out. So among young adults today, if you say that moral truth is absolute, they will look at you like (and say): ‘What do you mean moral truth is absolute? Of course it’s not. Whatever I decide for myself is what’s true.’ That seems to be the message that is coming through in churches. That being said, of our Summit graduates, about two-thirds of them tell us that they feel their church does a pretty good job communicating a biblical worldview. So that’s the good news.”
Q: What needs to be done to change that trend of a lessening biblical worldview among Christians, particularly in young people today?
A: “The first thing to do is to work together with maybe something like the Truth Project or one of the Summit Ministry programs to understand a Christian worldview. … You also need to develop a sense of community. Kids are also asking, ‘Who else says so besides my parents?’ They need a community of people whose beliefs are based on a biblical worldview. So training is the first part. The second part is to begin understanding the battle of worldviews. … Young adults need to not only understand a Christian worldview, they need to know the opponents of a Christian worldview and how to respond intelligently to them.”
Q: How do you see the students who attend your training at Summit Ministries change?
A: “Most of them come in with a reasonably good biblical worldview. They have some sense of what the answers are. However, through the two week Summit … they become more convinced, not only that there are people who believe this, but that ‘I can personally believe this and defend what I believe.’ There is one level of belief that we reserve for things we think are interesting and probably true; there is another level of interest that we reserve for things that we would stake our lives on. … I see them move from aimless to fearless.”
Q: How do you deal with the students who are not convinced?
A: “We say to them, ‘We want you to feel free to ask your questions. … We will work with you; we will tell you what we think we know; we will tell you what we’re not sure about; we’ll listen to you, we will engage with you.’ More than anything a skeptic needs to see that there is a thinking community of people who are not developing their beliefs around what they don’t know, but that they are developing their beliefs around what they can reasonably and intelligently know.”
Q: What do you say to a parent who wants to get started imparting a Christian biblical worldview to their young children?
A: “If the children are really small, I would encourage them to start a family Bible time (looking at worldview issues). Summit has a resource called ‘What We Believe.’ … It starts off with ‘Who is God?’ The second book is ‘Who Am I?’ The third question is ‘Who Is My Neighbor?’ and the fourth book is ‘What on Earth Am I Doing Here?’ … You can help students get a robust understanding of a Christian worldview.
Q: What role do you see Christian schools have in helping to impart a Christian worldview to the next generation?
A: “A Christian school cannot only teach a class about worldview, the Christian school can make it the foundation of everything else it teaches. So when you teach mathematics, you don’t just teach, ‘here’s how you count,’ you also teach that God invented numbers as a language by which he intended to reveal aspects about Himself. So by learning the language of mathematics we can discover God’s nature and come to know Him better. That brings glory to Him. In every subject area we teach that you can ground it from a biblical worldview, which will change how you teach it, it changes the purposes for the teaching … and it changes the way the students receive the material.”
Q: Video games are a huge part of today’s culture for our children. What do you think they’re doing to our culture? How can parents counter that?
A: “Children, like everybody, need to be given a vision. … (At our home) we committed that we were not going to sit inside and watch TV, that, instead we would be outside doing things. We just try to maintain the close family connection, and replace the bad activities that we don’t want with the good activities that we do want. … I actually pay my children to read books. I tell my children, ‘You can play video games but it’s going to cost you $2 an hour. And the $2 has to come out of your reading money. And I will pay you a penny a page for each chapter book that you read.’ If they want to play video games they have to read two 100-page chapter books. (Video games) have pacified a generation of young men. Every young man wants to stand for truth and fight against evil and injustice. If he can do that in the virtual world, it satisfies that urge and he feels no need to do anything proactive in the culture in which he lives. It has turned us from a nation of thermostats (where we set the temperature) into a nation of thermometers, where we just reflect the temperature of whatever else is going on. Kids let the culture tell them what to do and they just do it.”
Q: Do you see a rising up of Christians to stand for a biblical worldview?
A: “Interest in a biblical worldview needs to be constantly stoked. We’re working in a culture that mitigates against an understanding of the biblical worldview at practically every level, including the very level of the way commercial society is organized.”
Q: What role can you see RENEWANATION playing in the movement of promoting a biblical worldview?
A: “The first role is ambulatory. RENEWANATION is the emergency response for Christian schools that are in cardiac arrest. No. 2, RENEWANATION is the family physician bringing health and nutrition and positive lifestyle to Christian schools so they can survive. Both of those roles are important. … You in essence begin to see the whole Christian school community in any town become a harbor in which the rising tide lifts all of the boats. Psalm 78 says that we must not withhold God’s truth from our children, but instead we must help them put their hope in God, so that they will not forget the works of God and not be like their fathers, a generation whose heart was not steadfast. … In the heat of the battle they backed down and fled. We must never do that.”