The Ascent of Mars Hill

Resources to train our young adults to engage the culture for Christ through speech

By Suzanne Reid

One of the most provocative passages in the New Testament, illustrating effective witnessing is Acts17:22-31. The location was Mars Hill, the Areopagus, or rocky hill in Athens, northwest of the Acropolis, where the Athenian supreme tribunal held its court of morals. From some part of this hill Paul addressed the "Men of Athens" with the Gospel message. Scripture records that at the end of his speech some sneered; some wanted to hear more; others joined him and believed. Not knowing these pagan Greeks, Paul immediately connected with them by first addressing their worldview and then preaching the truth of the Gospel. He met them where they were, preached the truth, and conversions resulted.

Unquestionably, Paul was anointed, but Scripture tells us that every believer is called to "preach the word; be ready in season and out of season." (2 Timothy 4:2) The responsibility of homeschool parents, and actually all parents, is to prepare our children to fulfill this call to witness. Many Christians know their Bible, have memorized portions of Scripture, but often find themselves lacking the words or confidence to speak the truth in love.

An effective method for breaking through this fear to communicate is to actually work on speaking with like-minded believers. Many opportunities exist to help homeschoolers train to speak, two of which I will highlight in this article. The first is Communicators for Christ (CFC), a national ministry that travels around the country training homeschoolers to be "Cultural Communicators" through its conferences and resources. The second is The National Christian Forensics and Communications Association (NCFCA), a speech and debate league for Christian homeschoolers throughout the United States.

In 1998 David and Teresa Moon created Communicators for Christ with a vision to encourage Christian families in the education of communication. Each year the Moons travel around the country in a 40-foot motor home with a team of student interns, who are each nationally ranked speakers and debaters. They travel for approximately sixteen weeks beginning in late summer through early winter and hold three-day speech conferences in approximately fourteen cities across the United States. At these conferences students and their parents together learn the basics of communication. Students interact with other students and the interns, act out short speeches and truly fall in love with speech. After all, what young adult doesn't like to talk to her friends? In a fun, educational environment CFC inspires parents and children alike to venture into the world of public speaking.

Many parents who have attended a CFC conference will tell you that the event was life changing for both their student and themselves. And while it is a high, the Moons offer resources to develop the student further once he departs the mountaintop and returns home to the valley. Through its sister company, Communicators Advantage Project, Communicators for Christ publishes a thorough and ever-growing supply of resources that families can purchase to advance their learning of communication. The range of books on communication includes everything from beginning public speaking, to apologetics and formal debate theory. Interestingly enough, some of the authors are the nationally ranked teens, themselves, who tour with the Moons. It is impressive to read the work of these bright, young, homeschooled CFC interns.

One resource that I would like to spotlight is The Art of Apologetics...An Introductory Study in Christian Thinking and Speaking, an apologetics textbook written by Karen Kovaka, a 17-year old senior, at the time of its writing. In her "Prelude," Karen discusses why apologetics is so important to her. She claims that apologetics has changed her thinking, her priorities and her actions, giving her the confidence to speak with strangers about her faith, whereas beforehand, she couldn't even speak to strangers.

Karen's book is a study guide to be used in conjunction with two other books: The God Who Is There, by Francis Schaeffer and Know Why You Believe, by Paul Little. The guide includes ten lessons, which can be studied at home alone or in a study group, such as in a homeschool co-op. Personally, I recommend studying the subject matter with other homeschool families. Each lesson includes wonderful reflection questions from the weekly reading, which, when discussed with other students and parents, provide deeper understanding.

The reflection and research questions within each lesson are stimulating. Typical study guide questions include the following: "What are the biggest differences between the existentialist view of truth and the Christian view of truth?" "What specific theological errors result from Christian existentialism? What errors have you encountered?" How about, "Explain 'modern mysticism' and the effect it has had on Christian theology." Karen's study guide is a wonderful resource for teaching our children how to think and communicate as Christian apologists.

The ten lessons in the study guide, if studied together with the texts listed above and some of those listed in Karen's bibliography, comprise a college course in apologetics. The lessons cover the following: What is apologetics? Analysis of Scriptural Apologetic Speeches; Why Do Apologetics? How to do Apologetics; Philosophy, Science, Scripture, History and Apologetics; and a lesson entitled, "Why I am not a Christian." This course provides material sufficient to embolden even the most timid speaker.

Other books written by some of CFC's interns are equally impressive. The Art of Interpretation, by Nick Elledge, contains eighteen lessons teaching Christian youth how to communicate to anyone in any situation, from story telling to preaching the gospel.

Nick, a nationally competitive speech champion and instructor writes his step-by-step approach in an engaging and conversational manner. The Art of Interpretation is replete with fun activities for the student. It provides an essential foundation for novice speakers and supplies key tools for experienced speakers and instructors as they seek to master the art of interpretation.

Thane Rehn, a CFC intern, and national competitor in both speech and debate in both high school and college is the author of another instructive publication of CFC, As I Was Saying...A Guide to the World of Competitive Speech. In his book, Thane discusses the different types of competitive speeches: platform, limited preparation and interpretive. He teaches the student how to write a speech and how to prepare for competition. In his appendices he provides a checklist for a competitor of every type of speech. This is a must read for anyone considering speech competition.

To learn more about Communicators for Christ and its resources, go to communcatorsforchrist.com.

Originally started as the Home School Legal Defense Association debate league by Michael Farris's daughter Christy Shipe, NCFCA is now a separate entity that operates in cooperation with HSLDA. Its stated mission is to "provide a means for home schooled students to learn and exercise analytical and oratorical skills, addressing life issues from a Biblical worldview in a manner that glorifies God."

The league includes ten regions and comprises the entire United States and Canada. Idaho belongs to Region Three, and Esther Paul is the Idaho state representative. Participating states have clubs where homeschool students meet to develop their oratory skills. For those interested in competition, the clubs work to prepare students for competition in their state, region and nationally. To learn more about participating in a local club, contact Esther through the NCFCA website at ncfca.org/local_contacts. To learn more about this homeschool, Christian speech and debate league go to ncfca.org. The website includes wonderful resources to learn more about developing communication skills.

Having been a homeschooling family for eleven years now, our family has found participation in speech and debate has been the finishing touch to our homeschooling. In Psalm 127:4 our children are likened to arrows in the hands of a warrior. We will be sending them out into the world as a warrior does his arrow. The straighter we make that arrow, the better it will hit the target. Participating in speech and debate in association with both the NCFCA and CFC has been a process of refining and adding the finishing touches to our arrows¬-our children. Lord-willing, when they are ready to be released, their trajectory will reach their God-appointed targets. And, Lord-willing, they will be ready in season, and out to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Suzanne Reid is a former board member of ICHE and long-time home school mom. She and her husband home educated their two children from inception through high school graduation. Now that her children have completed college and are married, Suzanne is enjoying dating her husband and being a homeschool grandma. She has also returned to her graphic design business and is building websites for small business owners.

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