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Leo Lawson | Using Apologists to Reach Students in American Universities

On university campuses across America, there are thousands of students between the ages of 18-25 who need Jesus. What is the best way to reach them? Today we talk to Dr. Leo Lawson who uses apologetics to evangelize on the American campus. 

Websites Mentioned:




About Dr. Leo Lawson: 

Dr. E. Leo Lawson, Jr., D.I.S. (Fuller) is a certified Missional Consultant to churches and ministries desiring to reach students. He is President of The Alliance of Campus Evangelists in America (ACEA) meeting one day, once-a-year sharing best Spirit-led practices to reach students for Christ. ACEA is a ministry of ICECAP: The Institute of Campus Evangelism, Church-planting, Apologetics and Prayer (ICECAP.info) equips campus missionaries and apologists to plant campus ministries and churches on college campuses and/or college campus communities. ICECAP Director, Dr. E. Leo Lawson, Jr., D.I.S. (Fuller), is a certified professor for the U.S. Center for World Missions course: Perspectives in the World Christian Movement, a course which he has conducted, taught and/or hosted over the decades. Dr. Lawson is adjunct faculty at Grace College of Divinity (NC) where he serves as a MDiv Professor of World Religions and Intercultural Studies as well as Cross-Cultural Apologetics. Through ICECAP he also teaches a series, “Tread on to Maturity,” talks based on the foundational doctrines of Hebrews 6:1-3 (See Dr. Leo Lawson’s YouTube Channel). He also equips campus Evangelists in apologetics using the God Test training in issues on evolution, evil, and evidence for God’s existence and Christ’s deity.

To receive a copy of Dr. Leo’s dissertation e-mail: leolawson@gmail.com 

Listen to Daniel King, the Evangelism Coach, on The Evangelism Podcast


Evangelism Coach Daniel King (00:00):
On university campuses across America. There are thousands of students between the ages of 18 and 25 who need Jesus. What is the best way to reach them today? We talked to dr. Leo Lawson who uses apologetics to evangelize on the American campus. Jesus said, go into all the world and preach the gospel. Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord. Welcome to the evangelism podcast with dr. Daniel King we’re Daniel interviews, full-time evangelists, pastors, missionaries, and normal everyday Christians to discover how they share their faith, their powerful testimonies, and amazing stories that will inspire you to reach people with the good news. And now here’s your host, missionary and evangelist Daniel King. Welcome to the evangelism podcast. I’m Daniel King, and I’m excited about telling people about Jesus. Today. We have a special guest, Dr. Leo Lawson. He is a campus evangelist and apologist, Dr. Leo, Thank you so much for being on the show with me today,

Dr. Leo Lawson (01:16):
Honor, to be here. Thank you so much, Daniel.

Evangelism Coach Daniel King (01:19):
Your organization is called the Alliance of campus evangelists in America. Can you tell me a little bit about what you do?

Dr. Leo Lawson (01:27):
Yes, sir. We provide resources and opportunities for evangelists, campus evangelists on college campus and high school campuses to interact with the apologist and so that the apologists become more evangelists and the evangelists become more equipped apologetically.

Evangelism Coach Daniel King (01:46):
Now tell me a little bit about why that’s important. Why, why is it important for evangelists to use apologetics and why do apologists need to think of Angela Stickley?

Dr. Leo Lawson (01:59):
Well I think that it’s not just campus evangelists that need to be trained like, but really all Christians need to be trained in apologetics, particularly in this age of skepticism and we’re postmodernism has infiltrated the church and our culture and we’re people don’t believe there’s any absolute truth and that every merit that a narrative needs to be questioned. So we have to have an answer for that. All of us are called to do the work of an evangelist. And when Jesus gave the great commission, it wasn’t to a few, it was to all. And so, yeah, no matter what your calling is, whether it’s marketplace or church place, you need to have an answer for the hope that’s within you is first Peter three 15 says, and you need to be able to give that answer with gentleness and respecting the other person that you need to be clear on your apologetic.

Dr. Leo Lawson (02:52):
Paul told Timothy who was clearly the Epistolic overseer that Paul delegated to oversee the church in Jerusalem are the church in Antioch. And as a result, Paul tells Timothy at the end of his life at the second page, second Timothy chapter four, verse five, he says, Timothy, do the work of an evangelist. Well, Timothy was an apostle, according to first Thessalonians two six, but though he was an apostle Paul’s telling him to do the work of an evangelist and thus fulfill his ministry. So no matter what your ministry is, marketplace or church place, we’re all called to do evangelism. And if we’re going to do evangelism at an age of postmodernism and this church and the church, we have to be equipped apologetically in order to be able to reach,uthe 18 to 30 year olds that are making their final decisions for against Christ.

Speaker 3 (03:46):
Why is it important to be speaking to college aged students?

Dr. Leo Lawson (03:54):
So we know statistically that a 19 out of 20 people who get saved in the U S 95% make their final decision for against Christ before age 25. Now around the world, it’s 90% but in the us by age 25, that 25 year old gets on a train that leaves out into a priceless fraternity and only five people, only 5% ever jump off of that train before it drops off in the abyss. So reaching college students where they get it themselves force and the three to five mile radius and and 60% of the 18 to 25 year olds would take a freshman course on some campus online. We have the opportunity to be able to reach them in person on the campus digitally to do digital evangelism. And we have to be able to answer the questions that they’re asking. The Abraham Lincoln said, the philosophy on the campus in one generation will be the philosophy of government and the next. So my children, grandchildren, your children, grandchildren, the government will be set on the college campuses as we’re seeing right now,

Speaker 3 (05:07):
Dr. Leo, what are some of the trends and beliefs and attitudes that you’re seeing on college campuses in America right now?

Dr. Leo Lawson (05:20):
Well the meta-narrative that has been offered through modernism through the church they absolutism there’s a reaction against that. There’s a retaliation or rebellion postmoderns, believe that you can dialogue your way to the truth. There is no one truth to be had. We actually create the truth. And so I wrote my dissertation,udr. Rice Brooks, and I went to fuller seminary and got our doctorates together, graduated in 2010. And I wrote my dissertation on,uplanting churches on college campuses to reach postmoderns. And so I did a lot of study into the different kinds of postmodernism and ask that question,ustudents that reject a meta-narrative, how do we actually present the truth of the scriptures, the truth of Christ, the truth of the gospel. How do we present that in a dialogical way? Uhow do we,uget the Holy spirit involved with my conversation with them?

Dr. Leo Lawson (06:21):
And so I grew up as a modernist Mo most people my age would have, however, because I studied postmodernism, I’ve learned how to be bicultural. And so many people that want to reach the 18 to 25 year olds, 18 to 30 year olds, the 1330 window, as some people call it, they’re going to need to be equipped apologetically to be able to do apologetics for the post-modern. So the Alliance of campus evangelists and apologists in America we basically meet one time once a year,uwithout COVID,uone time, once a year and every month we have a conference that we attend together called think evangelism.org, dr. Rice Brooks does that conference. And, ho we’re online once a week, once a month on the zoom. And then we’re trying to meet once a year face-to-face to share the best spirit born practices for reaching college students and high school students, and the best resources in order to be equipped apologetically, to address the issues of postmodernism in high school and colleges.

Speaker 3 (07:28):
And you’re talking about modern thought, and then post-modern thinking, could you explain to our listeners, what are some of those differences between the two different ways of thinking the, the modern thinking and, and postmodern thinking?

Dr. Leo Lawson (07:48):
It’s a pretty big question for such a short time to talk. I have written my written, my dissertation on that. And I listed on one page, the contrast between modernism and postmodernism, dr. Stephen Mansfield looked it over and said, this is the most complete lists that I’ve ever seen. If you’re interested, I’d be glad to send you, but digitally my, my doctoral dissertation,uyou can email the ad leoLawson@gmail.com. And I’ll send that over to you. You can also,uconnect with the Alliance of campus evangelists and apologists by going to campus evangelists.org with an S campus of angeles.org. And,uI’ll be glad to communicate with you in that vein.

Speaker 3 (08:30):
Thank you so much for your generosity with, with sharing that with people. And can you just share a few of the highlights of what the differences between modernism and postmodernism?

Dr. Leo Lawson (08:45):
Well, modernism was basically started some people would trace it back to Decart in 1650 who believed that if you went down underneath each person’s presupposition across the globe, that you would find a common foundation. And so that would be common foundationalism and of course, a lot of scientific method and a lot that emerged from the sciences emerged from foundationalism postmodernism says, no, you’re going to find differences. It focuses on the differences in culture. And there’s no one worldview. There’s no one, meta-narrative no one story that applies to everyone. Um,,nada hired Lael card to, u,fine, to define, u,stmodernism for them. He said it’s, u,credulity, u,ainst meta narrative. And so basically people throw off any meta-narrative of the Bible from Genesis to revelation is a better narrative. It’s a story that applies to all from our vantage point, but not from the postmoderns.

Dr. Leo Lawson (09:53):
In each point, they basically create their own story, their own truth, as they dialogue in their various communities. And they don’t have demonically force their worldview or their story on the next community, every community arrives at their own their own truth. And that’s where we get the what’s called multiculturalism. It started on at Stanford university back in the sixties. So that results in a lot of ethnicity and F F ethnic, hdolatry. Uhe want to call it racism, but I don’t know that that’s a biblical approach, but there’s definitely, hthnicity that is worshiped. And of course that’s been at the root of, of sin ever since Adam fell, heing centered on yourself or on your own culture. So that’s about the briefest that I can say it, ho be able to contrast the two. So the question is, can we plant churches in a postmodern way on college campuses?

Dr. Leo Lawson (10:57):
And that’s what I wrote my dissertation on. I started a graduate school of campus ministry as an extension of fuller seminary. We trained 600 students in seven years. And in that school came J’onn ducks Chan asked me to take Jason Mol into my school, and I trained him and discipled him and sent him to UCLA. He started a movement on the campus that became a church, and he planted eight congregations on the campus in parallel with Chan’s church. So I wrote my dissertation on how a micro church can be planted in a postmodern way in parallel with a modernistic church that J’onn ran. And so that’s what my dissertation is on when I presented it to J’onn he said, well, go do it again. And then he and Peter Wagner laid hands on me, and we went to USC to plant a church in parallel with Sharon’s church for a season this time. And that was the third church that I planted. My first one was in Michigan state where I was the young single men’s with Angeles, met the young single women’s evangelists. We married was there for 12 years, planted another church, university of Houston, and then planted the London university of Southern California in the process of planting again.

Speaker 3 (12:12):
That’s absolutely amazing. Dr. Leah, let’s go back to the beginning of the story. How did you become a believer?

Dr. Leo Lawson (12:22):
Well, my mom was Catholic. My dad was Baptist. I grew up Catholic. I always knew there was something more than what the Catholics were telling me. And so I ended up my grandfather was a Baptist deacon. He just sent me on his knee, read the Bible to me when I was 14. I started reading Bible for myself. And however, I got distracted when my parents got divorced at 15. And so at 17, I was dating a girl, took me to a Baptist church. We broke up, but I continued to go. And the preacher there was preaching on Jesus every Sunday. And I fell in love with Jesus and who he was. And I remember in December saying, God, if you exist, I used to think that you did, but if you do exist and you convince me of yourself, Olubayi you. And within three weeks, he’d revealed his love to me, who he was, who I was apart from Christ and who I could be in Christ in January 7th, 1973, that preachers preaching on new year’s resolutions.

Dr. Leo Lawson (13:17):
He said, what you need is not a new year’s resolution. What you need is a new year’s rebel. It shouldn’t where the revolutionary person that Jesus comes into your life. And you become a new creation in Christ. Jesus, the old things pass away. And the new things come in. I knew that it had never happened to me when I went through the first communion and confirmation and walking out 14 years old in a Baptist church, I’d never become a new creation, but that day I walked out and he said, so do you want to rededicate your life? I said, no, I want to become a new creation. That was the day I got born. Again, had a wonderful honeymoon with Jesus throughout the next eight months, and then ended up in campus crusade for Christ crude. And my freshman year in college learned Vangelis and started leading people to the Lord, went through the Institute of creation, research, learned apologetics or at the beginning and filling the need for discipleship a year and a half later, I got involved with the navigators during which time not through the navigators, but I got baptized in the Holy spirit, sent into the middle of by Baptist church.

Dr. Leo Lawson (14:16):
I said, Jesus, I believe you’re the baptizer in the Holy spirit. And I’m going to ask you to baptize me and the Holy spirit right here in my Baptist church. And he did, and I spoke in tongues, not loudly or productively, but I ended up speaking in tongues and shaking the hand of the pastor on the way out. And I said, do you know, I got baptized in the Holy spirit today and spoken to as we sit back tonight. So the navigators didn’t know much what to do with me, but that pastors still continue to take me on lay, witness missions trips. And,uI ended up being recommended to be a Southern Baptist chief minister baptized in the Holy spirit and took the little youth group from seven to 70 and 10 weeks. And they asked me to stay. And so I finished my college career,udoing much ministry on the college campus with the UK Christian council, which I was the founder of. And,uthen also driving three hours North to this church and,uto grow this youth group. And then I attended Asbury seminary started there and then planned it my first church at 24 years old at Michigan state university, where I met my Brad.

Speaker 3 (15:19):
That is so tremendous. You know, acts chapter one verse eight says you shall receive power when the Holy spirit comes upon you and you shall be my witnesses. And so it’s the Holy spirit that actually gives us the power, the ability to be effective evangelists. Talk to me about the intersection of apologetics evangelism and the Holy spirit and why the Holy spirit is so essential to the process of evangelism.

Dr. Leo Lawson (15:54):
Well, with apologetics, we speak to the head long enough to get to the heart. And when we get to that heart level in our discussion and dialogue with the person, that’s when we really begin to see the Holy spirit, provide words of knowledge, words of wisdom, gifts of healing to persuade the heart. Jesus said, I’m going to send the Holy spirit and he will give conviction concerning sin and righteousness and judgment. So it’s the Holy spirit that really persuades the heart. We can speak to the mind and lower the hurdles, but it’s really the Holy spirit. That’s going to convert the heart and bring someone to a place of faith. Once the Holy spirit gives conviction and eviction, Hebrews 11, one says faith is the conviction of things. Not saying people can only get saved by spirit born conviction. So we as apologists and evangelists much must work alongside of the Holy spirit and what the Holy spirit is doing in that person’s life.

Dr. Leo Lawson (16:50):
In that moment, we may not get to lead them to the Lord that day, but we may be an average person has seven gospel presentations before they actually get saved. We may be number one, we need to be number seven. We may be number 14. So let’s lead them to the Lord as the Holy spirit brings him to say,uso the Holy spirit has to get involved in the dialogue, whether it’s in a large group and a Bible discussion, or it’s just, one-to-one the Holy spirit is the Weaver of the story. He’s the one who designs in that. Person’s heart. The story that will bring them to faith and that faith will bring them to Christ in righteousness, by faith. I will say one more thing and acts one eight. Jesus tells his disciples, resurrection. Sunday night, he breathes his Holy spirit into them.

Dr. Leo Lawson (17:37):
They get born again and open. He opens their minds to understand everything written about him in the law and the prophets and the songs. And yet here, they have fully engaged with Christ for three and a half, three years and four months. And now they understand everything written about him along the profits and the songs. If there was anybody qualified to go out and preach the gospel. At that point, it would have been these guys on resurrection Sunday night. However, Jesus tells them to wait in Jerusalem until they’re in dude with power from on high. And so G he gives them two, two commands go, but wait. And so there’s a lot of people who want to do the dual evangelism, but, hf we go before the Holy spirit is empowering us to go, we will be our witness. We will represent ourselves. We won’t represent him.

Dr. Leo Lawson (18:27):
He says in acts one eight, you shall receive power to be my witness in Jerusalem, Judea Sumeria. Now, if you’re going to be Jesus witness, you have to have the power they said in acts one eight, you have to be baptized in the Holy spirit. According to acts one four, Jesus says you shall receive what the father promised. You heard from me. Heard it from me. You shall be baptized with the Holy spirit, not many days from now. So Jesus gives two commands. Go do the work of in the band. Just go and make disciples. But wait, you cannot be my witness unless you have my power to represent me to do what I would do. If I was there. The word witness is what is used in a court of law. If I’m your witness in a court of law, I get up on the witness stand and say what you would say if you were there, understand, well, if I’m Christ witness, that means I’m going to say what he would say, do what he would do.

Dr. Leo Lawson (19:19):
You can only do that if you’re empowered by the Holy spirit. So you have the command to go, but you also have the command to wait until you’re a dude with power from on how to be his witness and that power. The Holy spirit gives you the ability to represent Jesus and what he would say and do even unto death, the actual Greek word or witness. The actual Greek word for witness is March Rio, where we get the word martyr. And Jesus says, you shall receive the power of the Holy spirit to do what I would do. Say what I would say, walk the way out of the walk, talk the way I would talk and do it even unto death. And every one of the disciples went through a martyrdom. UJohn was raised from the dead, our bowling, Oh, but Peter was crucified upside down. But he did that because we had the power of the Holy spirit with 3000 people every year, being martyred for their faith for Christian faith here in a minute, here around in the world, we need the power of the Holy spirit to preach what Jesus would preach even unto death.

Speaker 3 (20:24):
So before your field, don’t go after your field, don’t stay, take the power of the Holy spirit to reach people for Jesus. Let’s talk a little bit more about reaching post-modern thinkers with the gospel. So some of the things about postmoderns is that postmoderns value experience over knowledge, they value feelings over facts. So rather than just preaching truth to them, it’s, I think it’s important to include them, to draw them in, to give them an opportunity to experience God in, in, in that sense spirit field Christianity is really effective at giving an experience of, of, of touching God. And then postmoderns also don’t want anyone in authority over them. They don’t trust the authorities. And so I think that instead of drawing lines of separation, in order to reach postmoderns, we have to draw circles of inclusion, to include a place for people to be involved with what God is doing, even if they haven’t fully come to a full knowledge of the truth. What, what, what else would you say to people who are ministering to post-modern?

Dr. Leo Lawson (21:47):
Well, the best apologetic for postmoderns is an encounter with God. So if you’re, if you’re dealing with a post-modern, at some point, you’ve got to get past their mental hurdles in order to be able to get them to encounter God encounter the Holy spirit encounter a revelation of who Jesus is. Jesus says in Matthew 16, Peter flesh and blood didn’t reveal to you that I’m the son of God, but my father did. And every person that becomes a part of jesus’ church has to have a revelation from the father of the son, by the spirit or else. They can’t be a part of Jesus church. So we have to lead people from their head to their heart, to the spirit. They’re a human spirit where the Holy spirit will communicate. Jesus said to the disciples in John 14, he said, the Holy spirit who is with you will be in you.

Dr. Leo Lawson (22:35):
Well for three years, the Holy spirit was with them. That’s how they were doing the miracles and et cetera. For three years, the Holy spirit was with them, revealing to Peter that Jesus was the Christ, the Holy Spirit’s with people. And we need to walk alongside of what the Holy spirit student in a person’s life. So bringing them into an encounter with the Holy spirit, that that will be bringing a revelation to them. And it may be a healing, a word of knowledge, a word of wisdom. You know, the Lord uses those things to reveal who he is. His love has been missed, and to bring those people into an encounter, which will persuade the heart. So it’s, we don’t use apologetics to persuade the heart. We use apologetics to persuade the head. We work alongside of the Holy spirit to persuade the heart.

Dr. Leo Lawson (23:27):
And he’s the one who brings revelation in and encounters with God. So yes, I would say that the most effective apologetic proposed moderates, his encounter with God. Well, I’ll give a, again, my email is Leo Lawson, gmail.com. If someone wants to email me, they, we can follow up. And if they’re interested as evangelists to be involved in the think evangelism conference with dr, or with dr. Rice Brooks,ugo to think of vandalism.org and,udr. Rice Brooks developed,ua dialogical tool to do evangelism with the God test. And if you look you’ll find training to be able to use that much. Like the two question tests a long time. This is 10 questions that you die. Logically enter into a discussion that atheists or you enter into a discussion with an agnostic. And if you enter into a Thea, the discussion with the theist, there are 10 questions on the other side that you engage them on both of them with the goal of leading them to Christ,

Evangelism Coach Daniel King (24:36):
What a tremendous tool. Well, thank you, dr. Leo for being on the program. It’s great to have you on the evangelism podcast for more information about how to share your faith or to financially support our worldwide evangelistic outreaches, visit King ministries.com. Again, that’s King ministries.com.


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