The 5-Step Guide to Answering Skeptics

Iwrote this brief guide after a few requests from those who wanted to better engage with people that were skeptical about faith. Though I’m far from being an expert, I’ve learned some valuable principles as a missionary to the University. Some may have expected a list of answers to the top ten questions asked by skeptics. But that isn’t the solution.

That is to say, having a response to tough apologetic questions is important, but more important is our need to communicate effectively to reach both the skeptic’s mind and heart. If you talk to enough atheists, you’ll realize quickly that most questions raised are smokescreens concealing a problem of the heart. I am confident that Christianity can answer all the objections even the most ardent objectors wield, but the goal is and always will be to win hearts to Christ.

Below are five steps (the acronym is SWIPE) that I take whenever I’m talking with students. This might happen in one conversation, or over multiple conversations. In order to convince people of the Truth, our goal is never to demonstrate our intellectual prowess but to strategically enable them to see the flaws in their own thinking and come to the conclusion themselves. This is done best by asking good questions.

Lastly, we must remember every individual is unique. Some questions will be more helpful to one person than another. Some people will need more time to think it through. Ultimately, we must pray for God-given discernment and wisdom to know what to say (and NOT to say), and ask the Spirit to open their heart.

If you don’t have time to read this right now,
download the guide as a PDF file below:



I rarely ever go into a serious discussion about faith until I’ve had time to let the person trust me. This happens when they believe that I genuinely care about them. Some helpful questions that I enjoy asking are:
  • So, what’s your story? How did you get to this place in your life?
  • What keeps you busy in your spare time?
  • What does a typical day in the life of Bob/Jill look like?
These questions give me a window into who they are as a person and what they care about. I try to intentionally find commonalities.
I try to be specific:
  • You’re an entrepreneur? Awesome! What do you think of Tim Ferris’ last book?
  • You do web development? Migrating my server was a nightmare! I hate propagation!
  • Skateboarding huh? Can you laserflip?
But if I can’t find anything in common, general follow-up questions are:
  • Oh, you’re from [city or state]? How’s that like compared to here?
  • So, you’re studying [field you know nothing about i.e. medieval literature]? Cool! What got you into that?
These questions build trust and an authentic relationship between you and the person. However, at this point you must discern if it is an appropriate time to move to the next questions, or if more time is needed for him/her to get comfortable with you.
  • Do you come from a religious background?
This question will allow you to gauge how open this person is to talking about spiritual things. More often than not, they’re willing to talk about it.
  • How did you come to that conclusion?
  • If you found out what you believed wasn’t true, would you stop believing it?


If a worldview is the lens through which we interpret the world, then it follows that everybody has a worldview. The next step is to determine the person’s worldview. Often times many students don’t even consciously realize the worldview they hold (similar to how we don’t think much about our glasses or contact lenses). These following questions will reveal their worldview.
  1. Where do you believe everything came from?
  2. Do you believe there is an absolute truth concerning morality? If so, how do we determine it?
  3. How do you find your identity?
  4. Do you think there is actual purpose and meaning in this world?
  5. What happens when we die?
At this point it is helpful to do some personal study on worldviews so you can identify which worldview he/she subscribes to, be it atheistic, agnostic, humanistic, or other religions. I recommend the books “What’s Your Worldview?” by James Anderson and “Jesus Among Secular Gods” by Ravi Zacharias.


Christianity is the only coherent worldview. Christianity is the only worldview that can answer all the questions above and remain consistent. After you’ve asked questions to help the person identify and admit his/her worldview, the next objective is to graciously point out the inconsistencies. This takes practice, but the more you have these conversations, the more easily you can recognize them. Here are some examples.
  • You say you don’t believe in absolute truth, but aren’t you also suggesting that statement itself is true?
  • You say you DO believe in absolute truth and we determine it through science, but what about things we can’t prove with science like meaning, history, math, beauty, or morality? Do you not believe those truly exist?
  • You say that we create meaning and identity for ourselves; we don’t need it to be objective. You also say you believe in reason. Isn’t pretending there is actual meaning a bit unreasonable?
  • You say you don’t believe in a Creator because that’s not reasonable. But isn’t it just as unreasonable to say that everything came from nothing?
  • You say we don’t need God to be good people and for societies to flourish, but who gets to decide what is good or bad?
There are many more questions that can be asked to find inconsistencies that will become more evident the more we learn about the Christian worldview and other worldviews. Again, the goal is not to end the conversation, but simply to begin one. The goal isn’t even about proving Christianity is true (if they throw questions back, it’s okay to say you don’t know). Rather, the goal is to encourage the person to be honest enough to admit that their own worldview is faulty and unreasonable.


This next step is usually the most the difficult. After we’ve convinced him/her of the fact that their worldview is not all that stable, we must seek to find the question behind the question – the question they are truly asking. By revealing that the reason for their secular worldview isn’t because of its intellectual coherence, we see that their problem probably isn’t intellectual, but emotional or spiritual.

At this point, some questions to begin this conversation are:

  • If all your questions about Christianity were resolved, would it still be difficult for you to believe in God?
  • If God was real, do you think believing in God would make your life better or worse?
  • If God was real and you could ask him one question, what would it be?
These questions must be asked graciously and with care as they tend to elicit very personal responses. Often the student I ask will suddenly bitterly admit with a visceral pain an incident that he blames God for. Many times, it comes down to their flawed view of God’s character that repels them.

At this point in the conversation, we must move from apologetics to theology.

Our tone must change from being persuasive to pastoral. We must demonstrate Christ-like empathy and not disregard their real pain or anger. There have been times at this point in the conversation I simply had to weep with her as she asked how God could let those atrocities happen to her as a child. I dare not answer on God’s behalf nor dismiss her pain.


Finally, the last step is to explicitly invite and encourage the person to consider and explore the Christian faith. We must always present this invitation on their terms, or they will immediately be repelled. This might be an invitation to meet again for coffee the next week, or an invitation to read the bible together.

How this may look like will depend on how their pain points. Regardless, they must walk away convinced that we care for them, there is grace for them, they can be completely honest with us, and that there might just be more to life.

For those of you that scrolled down here to see how it all ended, here’s your summary: The 5 steps are
  1. Set the Stage
  2. Worldview Check
  3. Identity Inconsistencies
  4. Pain Points
  5. Encourage Exploration


Interested in being part of a movement to mobilize new evangelists to reach a skeptical generation? Learn more here.




By | 2018-03-08T10:11:20+00:00 March 8th, 2018|4 Comments

Christians, You Are the Media

The power of the media is simply stunning. Whether through television, radio, social media, or the newspaper, the media’s ability to sway the opinions and feelings of the masses is a power like no other, and with great power comes great responsibility, right? Unfortunately, there has been a surge of irresponsibility in the media as we are victims (and perpetrators) of fake news. The power of a single article — whether true, or alternative fact — is unprecedented in our age of digital media, able to summon a gunman to fire misled shots in a pizzeria, able to spark an outrage over inauguration numbers, and even able to convince an entire generation that Steve from Blue’s Clues was dead (he’s not).

Perhaps the only thing more astonishing than the influence of media is the staggering amount of its consumption. According to Nielsen’s Q1 2016 Total Audience Report, in 2016 American adults spent 10 hours, 39 minutes a day consuming media. It seems fitting then that the President of this media-frenzied country leads us in devouring media, claiming he only needs 4 hours of sleep and can spend more time watching the news.

So how does media affect us?

Christians You Are the Media

Facebook showed us in its 2012 quasi-ethical experiment when, for one week in January, it altered with the number of positive and negative posts in the news feeds of 689,003 users. The results? Those that were shown only positive posts began to post more positively. And those with negative posts started to write more negative things. Their conclusion? Emotions are contagious. And media is powerful.

This brings me to my main thought: Christians, we are God’s media. What is media but the different mediums through which information is communicated? In the 1600’s the word medium was defined “intermediate agency, channel of communication.” Or think of a related word: Mediator. What does a mediator do but stand in between two parties, conveying realities to each other?
Sound familiar? Paul says it best.

“Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” Or we could say, therefore we are the media for Christ, God reaching the world through us with the Gospel.

Friends, in this technology-driven, media-saturated society, what would it look like for us to live lives and speak words that communicated life? What would it look like to be the media through whom Christ beckons his sheep? We need to speak louder.


We are the media for Christ: God reaching the world through us with the Gospel. Click To Tweet


Recommended Reading

By | 2018-02-03T15:23:33+00:00 February 3rd, 2018|0 Comments

Help Us Jesus, You’re Our Only Hope

Help Us Jesus, You're Our Only Hope by Shaun McDonald

Help Us Jesus, You’re Our Only Hope by Shaun McDonald

“And what would you like to be when you grow up?” the first grader was asked.

“A dinosaur!”

“Well, little one, you can be whatever you put your mind to.”


Is that really true? The last time I checked I am not able to transfigure myself, make myself taller, or give myself any special abilities. Even more, try as I might, I cannot seem to change the very basics of my personality. I am a strong leader with an indecisive bent. I am a sensitive lover with an Irish temper. I am ambitious with a need for safety and security. How do I become someone else?

We all know the answer to this. We don’t. As a matter of fact, I don’t believe we were intended to either. Scripture tells us that we are “fearfully and wonderfully made.” (Psalm 139:14 NIV) Of course that doesn’t mean that God was afraid He’d break us when He made us; nor does it mean that He was afraid we’d break the world. The fear is referring to a very careful, very intentional creative process. His eyes were squinted and His brows were furrowed as He knit each one of us together in our mother’s womb (Psalm 139:13). And what He knit together wasn’t just good – it was wonderful – and it was you, and it was me.

The narrative that undergirds our young people is not one that gives them more freedom, but rather more anxiety. Depression, anxiety and bi-polar medications are going out the door like Tylenol once did. Suicide rates are at an all-time high, and the age keeps dropping. This narrative has been promoted by Disney for years and our homes, school systems and even churches have all bought into it. Be what you want and don’t let anyone tell you it’s not right, best or possible. I mean, a bunny rabbit arresting a lion… really?

What has happened is this. Little Eden wants to be a famous singer one day, but the poor girl can’t sing. To keep in step with the narrative, her parents, teachers, and even her pastors keep telling her what a beautiful voice she has and how she should “improve” it with some lessons. Sadly, we all know Eden can’t sing. That’s why everyone has a love/hate relationship with Simon Cowell. He says what we all know to be true but have been taught not to say. Meanwhile, poor Eden is getting more and more frustrated because she just can’t land a gig! Eventually that leads to depression because she feels like a failure, which leads to bitterness because the world just doesn’t understand, which leads to another all-too-young obituary.

I know, that’s a little heavy. How about Little Jude? Jude just wants to be a boxer. The only problem is that Jude is only a little guy and he hates getting punched. Not only that, but he is too soft and sweet to want to fight anyone. Or how about Olivia? She wants to be a chemist someday. Unfortunately Olivia cannot do math. I mean… cannot do math. So, to help her achieve her goals, her parents get her the best help available. She has tutors, private classes, and even one-on-one aids in her class to help her get better at what her brain just doesn’t seem to want to do. The result? Not only does Olivia never gets into the program she wants to because she cannot do the math on her own at the level required, but she spent all those years as the “special kid” who needed all the extra help to become something she was not created to be – good at math. And who does she have to blame?

As a last example, let’s take Lorna. Lorna was told that she has to make a good income to be happy. To do so, of course, she needs a college degree. So Lorna chooses the degree she thinks will set her up for the most money in the end. She graduates Magna Cum Laude, but there are simply no jobs in her market. Lorna leaves friends and family in search of a job to pay the debts she accumulated getting the degree she needed for the job that doesn’t exist. She is now living away from home, not doing what she set out to do, nor what she wants to do, all to make a check that barely covers her debts, let alone allows her to enjoy her life.

What a sad narrative. When will we wake up to see that God has made each of us on purpose, for a purpose? And the purpose is simple – to enjoy Him. What if Eden, Jude, Olivia and Lorna were all told from the very beginning, “Follow what you are good at, what you enjoy, and what allows you to love God and your neighbor (including friends, family, co-workers, etc.).” What if each of them was simply encouraged in what they excelled at and lovingly told the truth about their whims? What if each of them was told that a college degree and six-figure salary will not make them happy, but a life of contentment with Christ surely will? The end of each story would change.

“Godliness with contentment is great gain.” (1 Timothy 6:6 NIV) Don’t believe it? Consider the man who wrote those words. Paul wrote of himself, “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” (Philippians 4:12 NIV) To an American, comfort is the meaning of life. In comfort we will find fullness. Perhaps full stomachs and waist lines, but not full lives. Paul was filled to the brim, yet, read what his life was like, “… I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches.” (2 Corinthians 11:23-28 NIV) To an American, Paul had nothing. He lived a third-world life with first world stress. But, of this type of life, here is what he said, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13 NIV) This was Paul’s secret. Learning to be content had nothing to do with circumstance and everything to do with Christ.

True fulfillment, true contentment, does not come through a degree or a salary. It does not come through possessions or positions. It does not come through fame or martyrdom. It does not come through anything, but only through One Person, the God-man Jesus Christ. Jesus Himself said, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10 NIV)

So what does all of that have to do with a kid wanting to be a lion when he grows up? Good question. Everything. The end goal for every human being is to know God and be made like Him. The recipe for contentment and a fulfilling life is always the same – Jesus. It begins with an introduction to Him. From the very beginning our children need to know Who Jesus is, why Jesus came, and what that has to do with them. They need to know of His infinite love for them, proved on the cross. His definite plan for them, modeled in His life. And His ultimate destination for them, displayed in the resurrection.

If our children can truly grasp the first question in the New City Catechism and say that it is true of their own life, they will live the most fulfilling lives possible. “What is our only hope in life and death? That we are not our own but belong to God.” Do you want to know something? My three year old already has this memorized. The rest of her life, for me, is about helping those words make their way into her heart and life. Everything else is trivial.

For two great resources on this topic see:
Don’t Waste Your Life by John Piper and Ordinaryby Michael Horton

By | 2018-01-31T02:31:22+00:00 October 21st, 2017|0 Comments

3 Things to Keep in Mind This School Year

3 Things to Keep in Mind This School Year by Rebekah B.

3 Things to Keep in Mind This School Year by Rebekah B.

“So, whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”

1 Corinthians 10:31

The month of August symbolizes the beginning of a new school year, back to school shopping, and all those annoying backpack commercials. Whether you are a freshman in high school or a senior in college there are three things you need to know to help keep God at the center of your school year.


1# The most important book you will read this year is your Bible.

All the homework you have been assigned will be a temptation (or an excuse) to slide on your Bible reading until that paper is done or when the next break comes. Don’t give in! The time you take to spend soaking in His word will be the most fruitful and character building time of your entire education.

Nothing can replace the wealth of information in the Bible and nothing can prepare you better for life, family, a job, or your next class. Take the time to grow in grace and the benefits you reap will be invaluable.

“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

Matthew 6:33


2# Don’t let pride grow in your heart.

God despises the prideful (James 4:6). This is enough to know that pride is really dangerous. Your pride will pollute you (Matthew 7:20-23) and keep you out of the Kingdom of God, as we have seen with Satan. Your humility though, is a testament to God’s forgiveness of your sins and His work that is being done in you.
The classroom has, unfortunately, become a breeding ground for pride and comparison. Pride can most definitely be present before our education, but school contest, awards, certificates, and grades seem to encourage the wrong kind of competition — the self-seeking kind. This pride clashes with our Savior’s sacrifice like socks with sandals.

Let us practice being quick to encourage and celebrate others, but slow to think more highly of ourselves then we ought for Romans 12:3 says, ” For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.”

Remember that in all of your good projects, tests, and papers it is God working through you for His glory.

“For it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”

Philippians 2:13


#3. Someone younger than you needs a role model.

When I was younger I always admired those older than me, and still do! I wanted to be like them, act like them, and couldn’t wait to be their age or grade. Most young people do, sixth-graders can’t wait to be eighth-graders, who can’t wait to be juniors and so on. The bottom line is that no matter what grade you are in, you will always have someone looking up to you and probably wanting to be like you. Whether you like it or not, you are a role model. So, why not model Christ like love, humility, joy, and service?

Keep your eyes open for the guy or girl looking for someone to look up to, and spend some time and energy pointing them to Christ. Think up some creative way that you can invest the gospel into their lives and show them that they too can be a role model.

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

Matthew 28:19

Whether you’re going to walk, drive, ride the bus, or even bike to school, as you prepare for a day of work and study, remember to keep Him at the center of you day, week, month, and year. By His grace and mercy, I pray that this will be the year that your relationship with Christ blossoms, and that you will be a light to others on campus.


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By | 2018-01-31T02:36:50+00:00 September 7th, 2017|0 Comments


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