Last month, Drew and I attended the reThink student apologetics conference in Costa Mesa, California. Although we’ve been to the conference several times before, this year was our first time going since Tent Making Christianity began. We’ve plugged the conference before on the podcast, but I thought it might be worth reflecting on the conference’s history and some of my own experiences with it. It’s an amazing conference, year after year, so please join me in looking back on reTHINK 2019.
What is reTHINK ?
The very first reTHINK happened back in 2012. The great minds at Stand to Reason had a vision to fill a void in the church. There were plenty of fun events for students to be entertained, maybe even to do community outreach and mission-work. But there were very few conferences or events to equip students to understand and defend their Christian convictions. The material has been out there for a long time, but the goal here was to make it accessible to kids without dumbing anything down. Year after year, amazing speakers like Sean McDowell, J. Warner Wallace, John Stonestreet, and many more provide some of the best teaching to equip students to defend their faith.
The First reTHINK for Tent Making Christianity
Drew and I have been doing this for a while. This was our 6th annual reTHINK , having gone every year save for the very first. We’ve come a long way in that time. Back in 2013, I was still in high school and Drew was the selfless youth leader taking all of us wide-eyed little punks to a new conference. That first year is still a favorite memory of mine. I look back on how excited I was to meet and get books signed by some of my heroes like Greg Koukl and Scott Klusendorf. That year was the last time they ended the conference by doing an atheist roleplay. The idea was to test us and see just how much we still needed to learn. I get why they stopped, but I do still like the idea of ending with that note.
Now in my early 20s, I find there’s nothing that makes me feel old quite like going to a student conference where they try to appeal to middle and high school students with references to Fortnite dancing and loud hip-hop and EDM intros to respected speakers. To be fair though, I wasn’t really the typical demographic even when I was a teenager, since I was already in it for the apologetics. I’m probably the wrong person to ask about any of that. This year was our first ReThink since the beginning of Tent Making Christianity. It took both of us in with a slightly different perspective. Now we came to not only learn about apologetics ourselves, but also about how to present it. How can we better share and defend Christ in our culture and to the next generation?
reTHINK in 2019
Looking back on reTHINK 2019 specifically, this was a good year. The conference has grown massively since 2012. Back then there were around 400 attendees, and it has now grown to over 2,500. Bear in mind that they have been selling out for several years in a row now, squeezing people into overflow. The numbers don’t necessarily reflect the amount of interest anymore. But this is only the California conference. In those 7 years, they’ve also begun doing successful conferences in Birmingham Alabama, Dallas Texas, and coming very soon for the first time, Minneapolis Minnesota. Our culture is hungry for apologetics. We tend to underestimate what Christian teens can handle theologically. If you give them something substantial, they will listen. When you give them something substantial and presented in a fun way, they come out by the thousands.
The Theme: Rethinking False Ideas About God
They have recently been giving the conference an overarching theme. They then construct the conference with its keynote speakers and breakout sessions around that theme. It took some time iron out the kinks, making the themes feel natural, but this year worked exceptionally well. The theme was about rethinking your false ideas about God, with every session addressing a different myth or false idea about God. After introducing the theme and how to see and guard against false ideas, they tackled perhaps the two most critical issues. There is no God, and God is not good. After breaking down those two, topics could fan out a little more into the breakout sessions with more specific topics like, “God is Anti-Gay,” “Christians and Muslims worship the same God,” or “God is Pro-Choice.” Difficult issues that we see regularly in our day to day lives.
Are you ready to give a good defense and clear up these issues? Do you think many teenagers in the church are? They are walking into a battlefield where these kinds of false ideas are the bombs being thrown at them. If you have a child, or know a Christian teenager who is not prepared, consider getting them to your nearest reTHINK apologetics student conference.
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