The WORD Conference and Why it Matters

The WORD Conference and Why it Matters

By Stacey Tuttle

A friend recently drew my attention to an article posted in the Christian Science Monitor about the “Coming Evangelical Collapse.”[1]  The entire article is thought provoking and worth the read as he predicts both the collapse of evangelical Christianity as we know it, and the rise from that collapse of something more vital and full of integrity. 

I wanted to draw attention to two of the reasons he thinks evangelical Christianity is in danger (points 2 and 6 in his list of 7):

2. We Evangelicals have failed to pass on to our young people an orthodox form of faith that can take root and survive the secular onslaught. Ironically, the billions of dollars we’ve spent on youth ministers, Christian music, publishing, and media has produced a culture of young Christians who know next to nothing about their own faith except how they feel about it. Our young people have deep beliefs about the culture war, but do not know why they should obey scripture, the essentials of theology, or the experience of spiritual discipline and community. Coming generations of Christians are going to be monumentally ignorant and unprepared for culture-wide pressures.

6. Even in areas where Evangelicals imagine themselves strong (like the Bible Belt), we will find a great inability to pass on to our children a vital evangelical confidence in the Bible and the importance of the faith.

Both of these mention a lack of fundamental grounding in the Word of God.  It’s frightening to think he might be right.  Are we truly able to defend the Bible and our faith, when skepticism presents itself? 

I was recently talking with some friends about the conference Shepherd Project Ministries is producing – The WORD.  I explained it was to help Christians understand and defend God’s Word.  They seemed a little unimpressed.  I got the sense that they didn’t really see the need. 

Why did they need to know how to defend God’s Word?  Defend it from what? Against what? 

I guess, if you are spending most of your time in church or with Christian friends, that is a valid question.  You might not be facing much opposition or skepticism.  In their minds, people either wanted to believe in Jesus or they didn’t.  But they had never had anyone actually question whether or not the Bible itself could be trusted. 

I had been in their shoes not too long ago.  I was raised in a Christian community in the Bible Belt.  My friends either believed or they didn’t want to believe—usually because they were reluctant to submit to any Christian ideals of behavior, or because they had some hang ups about a loving God who could allow bad things to happen, things like that.   Their disbelief was generally based on feelings and desires.   I had never run into any intellectual skepticism about the Bible itself. 

And then I met a random guy in a coffee shop…this is how most of the stories and adventures in my life begin…who had a host of intellectual challenges (I would say questions, but he was out to undermine my ignorant faith, more than to search out answers for his skepticism and questions).  He started challenging the canon of the Bible:  Why were these books included, and not these (enter a list of historical texts I was previously entirely, blissfully unaware of)?  Why does the Catholic Bible include texts not included by my Protestant Bible?  (It does???  I didn’t realize that… qood question!)  What about certain contradictions in the Gospels? (Again – this guy didn’t just spout off that there were some contradictions…he had specifics.   Lots of them.  He knew the gospels better than I did—or at least, maybe not the heart of them, maybe not the gospels as a whole, but he knew details about a few apparent contradictions that made it seem like he knew way more about the Bible I claimed to know, study and love.  Ouch!) 

I did my best to stand my ground.  I tried not to get ensnared in his traps.  I didn’t try to answer things I was ignorant of—frankly, he was way too intelligent and informed for me to be able to bluff him on anything anyway.  Instead, I did my best to confront the real issue.  His real issue wasn’t his supposed intellectual hang-ups, his real issue was not wanting to believe in Jesus.  However, his barrage of questions were excuses and smoke screens which kept him from dealing with the real issue.  And, judging by things his friends said, I gather that he rarely dealt with a Christian who held his/her ground.  It seems his questions kept most of them feeling too inadequate and uninformed to push him to deal with the real issues…instead, they cowered in a corner.  And I won’t lie – that corner was pretty appealing while he and I talked.  I felt a little like I was getting beat up.  In fact, I felt like a featherweight in a heavyweight match.  Cowering never looked so good!

I don’t think that having solid answers to his questions would have necessarily brought him to Jesus at that moment.  But, I think it would have hopefully taken away some of his excuses so that he would eventually have to deal with the person of Jesus.  I also think it might not have hurt for him to discover that Christians were not just intellectual featherweights.  I’m not sure I really helped that perception.[2]

I also wonder how many believers have faced his questions, or similar questions from someone else, and left shaken?  How many take that skepticism to heart and begin to wonder themselves if Christianity is true?  If the Bible can be trusted?

As I was talking to my friends, the ones who didn’t seem to understand why the WORD conference was really necessary, I mentioned the questions this guy had posed to me in that coffee shop.  I asked them what would they say if someone asked them these things?  They had no idea.  Like me, they weren’t even aware those questions existed.  In the best case scenario, they simply wouldn’t know how to respond and defend their faith.  In the worst case scenario, it would begin to undermine their own faith. 

I also asked a few other questions, based on some of the pop culture that I have recently come up against.  Two best sellers right now, one for teens[3], the other for adults[4], are paving the way of a new fascination.  Fallen Angels are the new Vampires in pop-culture.  These books seem to be the leaders in a whole new craze of literature.  And these books are quoting from the Bible and The Book of Enoch and even Green mythology about fallen angels, Nephilim and romance between angels and mankind.  I was curious how much my Christian friends had heard about some of these topics – Nephilim, Book of Enoch, etc…  again – not one of the people I asked even heard of these things.  But these books are #1 bestsellers – books I see in the airports, books my friend’s book club is reading.  And these books are quoting from scripture.   If people aren’t asking you what you know about these things, they soon will be. 

So, THIS is why I’m so excited to about the WORD conference coming up.  THIS is why I think it matters.  We have a culture of Christians (myself included) who aren’t even aware of what kinds of questions and opposition people have against the Bible.  Much less are they prepared to answer them.  This is kind of like giving someone the test questions, and the answers to the questions prior to the test, so that they are prepared as best they possibly can be with the test comes.  And it’s not a grade or even a degree that is at stake when you take the test, it’s the heart and souls of man—both that of the person asking the questions, and your own.  How many people have been ill-equipped and fallen away when their faith was called into question? 

Oh that we as Christians might be strengthened ourselves in the knowledge and understanding of our Lord Jesus Christ and of His Word…and that we might be able to give that strength, knowledge and understanding to others as well. 

[1] Though this was in the Christian Science Monitor, the writer is not a Christian Scientist.  Rather, Michael Spencer is a writer and communicator living and working in a Christian community in Kentucky. He describes himself as “a postevangelical reformation Christian in search of a Jesus-shaped spirituality.” This essay is adapted from a series on his blog,

[2] I do hope though, that even though I couldn’t completely hang with his intellect, he saw that I wasn’t shaken or afraid of what seemed to be faith shattering questions.  Hopefully he saw my confidence in God was a force to be reckoned with, because of who I know God to be, not because of my confidence.

[3] Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick – frankly, it was basically a knock-off of Twilight with fallen angels in the place of vampires.

[4] Angelology by Danielle Trussoni – it’s more impressive as literature than Hush, Hush was. It was more in the vain of The DaVinci Code.  Well researched, she redefines all of history through the lens of fallen angels and conspiracy, and it’s fairly convincing.