Like all parents, when our first child came, we scrambled for any wisdom we could find to help us make sense of our new role as parents. As we drew on our own experience and reading of the Bible, the Lord showed us the link between parenting and evangelism—something we have been doing in our calling.
I (Max) serve as a speaker and as the Asia-Pacific Regional Director for Ravi Zacharias International Ministries. Fiona leads in our kids’ engagement with the gospel while also helping me with research and content development. Fiona also leads a mothers’ Bible study group and is part of the RZIM executive-administration team.
In many ways, being a Christian evangelist-apologist is no different from being a parent. Both are battles which require bringing together the head and the heart to build authentic relationships of trust.
You might say, “But I am not an evangelist or apologist.” Consider, however, this biblical truth: all Christians are evangelist-apologists. Jesus’ Great Commission in Matthew 28:19–20 means all of us have the responsibility to be ready to give answers about what and why we believe. And this is even more important in our role as parents.
In the uncertain, complex, and ambiguous world in which we seek to raise our children today, 1 Peter 3:15 shines as a beacon of practical wisdom for both 21st-century evangelism and parenting:
But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.
Let’s take a look at the three pillars of evangelism in 1 Peter 3:15:
1. Make Jesus Lord in Your Heart and Home
“. . . in your hearts revere Christ as Lord”
Revering Christ as Lord in our hearts is the foundation of biblical discipleship, apologetics, evangelism, and parenting.
In their early years, children are generally not interested in philosophical debates on the problem of evil, science versus God, or the historical credibility of the Bible. However, they will see and understand if Jesus is at the centre of their parents’ hearts.
The extent to which we submit to Christ’s lordship every day is thus the most fundamental key to biblical parenting: it will be an example, a guide, a lesson, and an inspiration for our children for the rest of their lives.
So my wife and I begin each morning with worship music, give thanks at each meal or snack time, and pray before bedtime. We sing songs with memory verses and read picture books that teach stories and truths from the Bible.
The extent to which we submit to Christ’s lordship every day will be an example, a guide, a lesson, and an inspiration for our children for the rest of their lives.
These are just some of the simple things we incorporate into our daily routine so that our kids can see that Jesus is at the centre of our family life. There are a multitude of websites and blogs that can provide far more creative ideas on ministering to your kids of all ages.
2. Take Your Kids’ Questions Seriously
“Always be prepared to give an answer . . .”
In any authentic relationship, serious questions deserve to be taken seriously. It is heartbreaking to see teenagers and young adults walk away from their faith because no one took their questions seriously.
In fact, there is nothing more damaging than to answer a child’s faith-related question with something like, “Just have faith”, or, “We don’t ask those kinds of questions, we just trust God.”
Many might quote the biblical call to childlike faith here (Matthew 18:3, Mark 10:15), but notice that this call to be childlike applies to our hearts—not to our minds. 1 Peter 3:15 calls us to reason and to point to the evidence of the truth of our faith. Jesus himself stressed that we are to love God with “all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37).
There is nothing more damaging than to answer a child’s faith-related question with something like, “Just have faith”, or, “We don’t ask those kinds of questions, we just trust God.”
We need to allow and encourage our children to discuss their questions and doubts about Christianity openly, and talk about things like suffering, the Trinity, miracles, death, creation, and the fundamental narrative of the Christian message.
If we want to prepare our children for the inevitable attacks on their faith, we also need to equip ourselves on issues that matter to our children. Questions of sexuality, identity, fulfilment, and purpose are common.
How do we do this? It’s not about having the right answer every time; rather, it’s about embracing every question.
In addressing the questions, we can draw on our own story and experience of faith and our own answers. We can also draw on many available resources—credible websites, podcasts, books, other parents, and small-group and church communities. A little reading, a little courage, and a little more conversation can go a long way.
3. Always Show Gentleness and Respect
“. . . do this with gentleness and respect.”
The last part of 1 Peter 3:15 demonstrates well how the foundations of apologetics mirrors the foundations of biblical parenting.
Having affirmed our submission to the lordship of Jesus in our homes and embracing the biblical mandate to take our kids’ questions seriously, we need to pin these on a foundation of Christlikeness. As my colleague and friend Os Guinness says, our apologetics must be cross-centred as well as cross-shaped.
As we seek to follow Christ and His example, God’s spirit will enable us to bear fruits of the spirit (Galatians 5:22–23), which will help us raise our kids in the ways of the Lord.
We parent best when we do it with grace and by our example, not by what we tell our kids. We teach them not just with words, but also with our actions—the way we treat them and those around us.
We parent best when we do it with grace and by our example, not by what we tell our kids.
Having regular, open conversations around the dinner table, in the car, or on the bus, whenever we get a chance for some conversation, sets an example of openness. It’s the collective memory of these talks, and not so much a specific conversation, that our children will keep with them.
Ultimately, of course, our children will not come to Christ through reason and evidence alone; it is the Holy Spirit who convicts and transforms them, and it is the Lord Jesus who enters hearts and opens minds to His truth.
However, we need to be ready to meet our call: to set aside Christ as Lord in our hearts, to always be ready to give a reason for the hope we have, and to do so with gentleness and respect—tirelessly, devotedly, and prayerfully.