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Apologist Lee Strobel Visits Campus

Apologist Lee Strobel Visits Campus

Apologist and author Lee Strobel speaks in Chapel November 18.

As a former journalist—with a law degree, no less—Lee Strobel built his career on seeking out truth and relentlessly double-checking every fact he came across. The now-apologist and best-selling author recently visited Bethel’s campus, sharing the story of how a fact-finding mission to poke holes in his wife’s Christian faith became one that solidified his belief in Christ and transformed his life and career.

On November 17, Strobel took the stage in a packed Benson Great Hall as part of Bethel’s “World-Changers” series, which brings prominent speakers and teachers to campus for the benefit of Bethel alumni and the wider community. Strobel shared his personal story, the basis for his best-selling book The Case for Christ and a forthcoming feature film.

As an atheist, Strobel spent two years attempting to reach a definitive conclusion on whether or not the Christian faith was valid. Through interviews with biblical scholars and historians, he filled a yellow legal pad with the evidence for and against Christ’s claims and eventually realized “it would take more faith to maintain atheism.”

In Chapel, Strobel urged the student body to put relationships before evangelistic results and to pray—“specifically, fervently, consistently, and expectantly”—for their neighbors. 

“Apart from the work of the Holy Spirit, there’s nothing we can do to bring someone into relationship with the Holy Spirit,” Strobel says. “Before talking to your neighbor about your Heavenly Father, talk to your Heavenly Father about your neighbor.” He spoke briefly about his quest to disprove the Christian faith and attested that he could do no such thing. His most fervent investigation only caused his faith to grow.

“It’s an investigable faith that offers answers to the toughest questions of life,” Strobel says. Though faith is personal, it can stand up to the toughest scientific analysis. But, he says, the heart of the gospel is more about providing for the needs of our neighbors—and reaching out in love—than it is about proof. “For us the key word is not ‘debate,’ it’s ‘dialogue.’ It’s conversation. It’s relationship,” he says.

Strobel led a pastor and ministry leaders’ seminar later that afternoon, giving leaders in Bethel’s pastors’ network practical tools and strategies for fostering a culture of evangelism in their congregations.

Ralph Gustafson, executive minister for church relations, says he had Strobel’s visit in the works for three years. He sees his team’s efforts—including the “World-Changers” series, regular youth events, and trainings for pastors and ministry leaders—as a tangible way that Bethel can serve the body of Christ and the local community. “We love to find ways we can partner with churches to advance the gospel of Jesus Christ,” Gustafson explains.

His hope was that Thursday night would have an evangelistic feel, where attendees could “invite someone who is doubtful about Christ and His claims,” Gustafson says. “But the heart of it from the very beginning was to offer a teaching time for pastors.” The Friday event was intended to do just that, along with weekend community events at First Baptist Church, Cambridge, and Calvary Church in Roseville and White Bear Lake. All of the events were collectively intended to inspire and equip the local church to minister more confidently and approachably.

“I believe there can be a tendency in the church—when we’re under fire—to become more timid. Lee’s approach [to evangelism] isn’t confrontational, but relational,” says Gustafson. “Having a highly respected person who has come to Christ through an actual encounter with the living God—that means a lot in our culture.”

Lee Strobel is a professor of Christian thought at Houston Baptist University and teaching pastor at Woodlands Church in The Woodlands, Texas, one of the largest congregations in the country. He is author of more than 20 books, and his latest, The Case for Grace, received the 2016 Christian Book Award for Nonfiction.