‘Why Christians believe’ is a 7-part video — booklet — discussion series, created by the Shining Lights Trust. It is designed to suit both church and non-church audiences, youth and adult — to answer the question: Why do Christians believe Christianity to be true? Our hope is to see it in the hands of every young adult in every possible NZ church — to catalyse a conversation.
(i) To address a ‘general neglect’: We observed a general neglect in our nation’s churches regarding discussion about ‘reasons for faith’. We saw that creating a specific resource – if we could see it widely used for a season, could catalyse a needed wider conversation. However, the resource needed some uniqueness to it.
This blog Confidence of Culture speaks in-depth directly to this topic is a helpful clear way.
(ii) To create a comprehensive yet simple resource we could not find an equivalent – suiting not only church but also non-church audiences, and the young. In this we sought to balance:
– A tone and approach that respects non-church audiences/readers
– Substance suiting mature thinkers – inclusive of a genuine ‘holistic’ answer to the question that is in the name of the series.
– Reading / comprehension age suiting youth
The play-off was between the substance and reading/comprehension age.
In terms of uniqueness – see FAQ #4.
Regarding their design as a series of 7 distinct booklets rather than one book – see FAQ #3.
(iii) The attrition of young adults from our churches: The continuing attrition of young adults from our churches was a factor. For at least three decades it has been estimated about two-thirds of young adults aged 18 to 22 leave our churches. Key reasons include (i) a lack of experience of the faith sufficient to convince them their faith is real; (ii) a lack of knowledge of reasons for the faith to stay convinced it is real when faced with opposing views and temptations; and (iii) a lack of support when in a new environment, like when moving city to attend a particular university. The second of these reasons could be addressed.
(iv) To catalyse an important wider conversation: We believe the wider Christian community (of which we are a part) to have misread cultural changes related to public interest in our faith. When the public stopped asking questions about our faith, we stopped investigating answers to questions they might have asked – because we assumed the lack of questions to represent a lack of interest. We suggest this misread the situation. We who are in New Zealand live in one of the most sceptical and secularised nations on the planet. In fact, a recent international study ranked us as the third most secular nation. As the cultural view was adopted that ‘there is no truth’ and ‘everyone has their truth’ (which was beginning in the 1970s – ‘postmodernism’), the matter was compounded by a consistent tone of scepticism toward our faith via public media and education. The broad cultural assumption therefore came about in which it was believed that our faith had been PROVEN to be false. It was therefore logical that people stopped asking questions – based on these cultural assumptions regarding the truth of our faith! Put differently, they had abandoned all hope that an answer would be relevant or real! It remained, however, that a person’s journey toward possible faith would still require that certain questions be asked and answered. Our role therefore changed from one of ‘answering questions’ to one of ‘intriguing questions’. The change was not on the content of conversation as much as it was in the ‘mode’ of that communication – from ‘statements that tell’, to ‘stories and questions that intrigue’. The same points presented in an argument can be presented conversationally through gentle yet intriguing stories and illustrations – which beg questions. However, the initiative to mention matters now sits with the Christian believer. As Jesus said, ‘Go and make disciples’ (Matthew 28:18-19) – not ’sit and wait for them to come to you’.
Of note, recent studies in Australia demonstrate that our younger generations are more open to discussing spiritual things, and also to changing their views, than the prior generation, and the one before that, and the one before that (Godtalk.nz/openhearts). Could it be that we misread something within our culture?
While the videos will undoubtedly be the most widely used part of this resource, the booklets go many times deeper in their content – while still being short.
From a learning point of view – while online pdfs of the booklets will be available for free, we believe the printed materials will be read a lot more than online pdfs. The nature of online engagement is ‘short periods of time’. People expect things online to be brief and entertaining – while our content is about some important areas of reason and thought.
Regarding discussion groups – the printed booklets will have particular value when used in discussion groups. They are a resource, and easily digested in booklet form, as compared to a more limited viewing on a small screen. For a process: If given a week prior to a discuss, participants can be asked to read them. Participants arrive to watch the shorter (15 minute) video and to engage the conversation. If each week the participants are given the next booklet – at the end of the series, they will own the full series in its box. This can be meaningful for learning.
We imagine a youth or young adult who goes off to a university at which a professor makes sport of undermining the faith of any Christian students. This is a very real scenario – and is in fact prejudicial and shameful behaviour, which our society currently celebrates as ‘enlightened thought’. There on the student’s bookshelf is a single Christian resource in which they can quickly turn to read about a range of core topics related to the reality and truthfulness of our faith. If the student is already familiar with the resource – even just knowing answers exist can give a person confidence, while finding answers to opposing viewpoints is made easy.
It’s about readability. Reading levels vary a lot. Reading a longer book feels overwhelming. Reading a single booklet, by comparison, feels achievable.
For our process
(1) 20,000 word summaries on each of the seven topics were reduced to 10,000 words, and then painfully to 5,000 words – before being increased again to an average of 6,000 with endnotes, because too much of the core thought had been lost.
(2) Regarding design, a lot of effort went into this – filling pages with images, illustrations and photos that could enhance interest and engagement with the text.
The reading age of many young people varies. This series is about giving people access to a certain depth of content – in the simplest formats we were able.
(i) A tone suitable for and respectful of non-church audiences/readers: The content is shaped to be respectful to non-church audiences, therefore never assuming things many others similar might assume. For example, this series never claims Christianity is true. Instead it claims that Christians believe Christianity to be true – which even atheist agrees to be a true statement, to note the subtle distinction. This affects wording and tone (1 Peter 3:15)., and avoids ‘early offence’. Authentically – even while this series articulates reasons for faith, it isn’t about convincing people – as if a reasoned argument alone could that. It is genuinely about making available a simple and authentic explanation of why so many do believe in this faith – so that reasoning can be available.
(ii) A considerably ‘holistic’ answer to the question the series titled after, taking us from ‘God to Jesus to today’ – concisely. Many will never have considered the rational connection between the various things discussed. Few will ever have found a resource as concise as this that articulates that wider chain of thought.
(iii) Designed as 7 videos and 7 booklets – rather than one book, with thought also given to design and imagery. This makes reading through a topic much less overwhelming for those who are not strong readers.
(iv) Entirely free online – the only exception being if someone wants printed copies of the booklets, which are otherwise available as pdfs online.
(v) Inclusive of discussion guides that are also free, and thoughtfully considered from an educational / disciple-making point of view.
The desire was for something short – but that also covered certain scope of material. We also wanted a length that would suit easy use in church discussion groups – in which you want to preserve the majority of time for discussion. For this reason a length of 30 minutes was ruled out. The question was, in how short a length can we achieve the desired communication?
The answer to this came down to the authors ability to communicate a considered scope of content – simply. An experimental series on the same content was created in about 2015. It was in 5 parts, with each video being just 5 minutes in length. We found it covered material too lightly and fast for the average viewer to understand what had been said. We revisited this in 2022 and – with script options considered – concluded on 12 minute presentations. This expanded to 15 minutes once interviews and other imagery were added.
An Alpha Course is about the basics of the Christian faith, exploring a wide scope of factors related to the Christian faith in a simple and clear way. It is a superb resource!
The ‘Why Christians believe’ series is different in that it is a discussion series for church use – even though it could suit non-church audiences. It is specific in its content too discussion of why Christians believe Christianity to be true (I.e. reasons for faith).
For non-church audiences the videos and booklets are useful to show something of the scope of scholarship and rationale that sits behind the Christian faith. Most would remain completely unaware of the extent of this otherwise. They would suit use in the context of one-on-one conversations – or in discussion groups if there were a few people interested at one time in understanding the rationale of this faith.
This was tested not only on some groups of young adults, but also on a group of youth aged 10 to 15 years. We found that age 12+ could engage meaningfully with the video content, but only age 14+ with the booklets. Noting possible higher-than-average reading age in the group we therefore concluded on age 13+ for the videos and 16+ for the booklets.
Regarding printing pdfs out to give physical copies to discussion group members – this is permitted.
Regarding printing the series to make it available for sale – this is prohibited unless in agreement with the publisher (Shining Lights Trust, NZ). Please contact us if you have any queries, noting that our desire is to see the series being well used.
We give permission to groups to print for their own use if they want to – but there’s a few key reasons why we’re printing them for everyone as it’s a better option than each church printing their own.
Purchasing the booklets at the pre-print discount will be a lot cheaper than the cost to colour photocopy them, that’s excluding the time for staff/volunteers to print, cut and collate them. The pages are a different size to a standard A4 (with 4 of the booklet pages on it) so require trimming.
On average it would cost approx $25 to colour photocopy each set at a church and this doesn’t come with the box for the set.
Generally, when booklets are printed for courses, they are often thrown away after. However, this resource is unique as they are a high quality boxed booklet set, ready for the bookshelf for ongoing use and are a standalone resource without watching the videos.
The videos may not be uploaded to any platform other than those we have established or agreed upon.
Rights of use include free use for personal, church, home and discussion group viewing.
Television broadcast is separate. Please contact the publisher (Shining Lights Trust, NZ).
No. They are only available online.