Who is Lee Strobel?

Lee Strobel

Jan 29, 2021

We sat down with Lee Strobel, New York Times best-selling author and Founder of the Lee Strobel Center for Evangelism and Applied Apologetics to discuss why the Strobel Center for Evangelism and Applied Apologetics was established, his novels, and things you may not know about him! 

How would you describe yourself in three words?

Lee Strobel: Three words, I'm committed, I'm enthusiastic- and I’d say passionate, passionate about God, about sharing the message of Jesus with others, about understanding why it makes sense to believe what we believe in and sharing that with other people who may be skeptical.

Do you think that those three words may have been different before you came to know Christ?

Lee Strobel: Well, I think they were different. I think it was more ambitious. I would have used that word to describe me back when I was legal editor of the Chicago Tribune and climbing the ladder of journalism. That was, my career was my god. That's what took priority over everything else, including family. It was big-city journalism taken to the extreme. It was a game to succeed, to get the story faster than your colleagues and your competitors, and to break the news that nobody else knew about. It was a 24/7 job. 

What have your past careers been? How did they shape you into this amazing adventure that God had planned out for you? 

Lee Strobel: My background is in journalism and law. I went to the University of Missouri for my journalism degree and Yale Law School to get a Master of Studies in Law. I was legal editor of the Chicago Tribune, and that prepared me when I ended up coming to faith; it was through the use of my investigative techniques and tools that I had acquired in my career as a journalist. In the same way, I investigated Christianity to determine whether it was true and other religions to see if they had the truth. 

I think it goes back to my childhood. I had a weekly neighborhood newspaper for a couple of years with 200 subscribers when I was about 12 years old, and I printed it in a little printing press in my basement. NBC News' the Huntley–Brinkley Report did a feature many years ago. I was writing a column in a daily newspaper in suburban Chicago at the age of 14. Journalism has been a lifelong interest of mine, and it dovetails nicely with my natural curiosity and desire to communicate.

Who were some of your mentors that impacted you along the way?

Lee Strobel: In journalism, one of my mentors was Floyd Abrams, a famous first amendment scholar and a lawyer for the Washington Post who defended the Pentagon Papers case. He was an adjunct professor at Yale Law School at the time, and I learned so much from him. He was an inspiration to me. 

Another person who had a great impact on me was a guy named Stanton Cook. When I had my neighborhood newspaper when I was 12 years old, my sports editor was Dan, who lived across the street. His dad went to college with a guy named Stanton Cook, and Stanton Cook became the production manager of the Chicago Tribune. He heard about my newspaper, and he wanted to see it. So Stanton Cook came over, and I showed him my operation in my basement, how I had set up my printing press and everything.

He wrote in his journal, probably 1965, "1974, Lee Strobel should be graduating from college, check out what he's doing." Fast forward to 1974, I'm 22 years old and about to graduate from the University of Missouri with my journalism degree. The Chicago Tribune calls and says, "Hey, we'd like to interview you for an internship if you're interested." It turned out that Stanton Cook had fulfilled his promise to get back to me all these years later. 

Probably the greatest influence on my life spiritually has been Mark Mittelberg, the executive director of our Center for Evangelism and Applied Apologetics at Colorado Christian University. Mark and I met when we were both hired on the staff of a large church in Chicago.  He mentored me in apologetics and theology. I would not be doing what I'm doing today if it weren't for Mark Mittelberg. We like to say we're "joined at the brain." That has been one of the great joys of my life, having a friend who has the same passion for ministry, a reservoir of knowledge in the area of theology and apologetics.

What has been the biggest challenge in your faith life since becoming a believer?

Lee Strobel: As I'd like to think like a lot of guys do, one of my biggest struggles was my children. I wanted my children to become followers of Christ. I wanted to see my kids have a vibrant, alive, committed faith in Jesus and the same thing for my grandchildren. It doesn't come naturally [to me]. I would consider myself an abject failure if my kids didn't have a vibrant faith in Christ. It's a mission that we're on, but being a good father, a good grandfather, and a husband with a family that serves God and is devoted to him, that's the ultimate to me.

What would be your advice to parents communicating with their kids in forming their faith life, with their grandkids, or just people around them?

Lee Strobel: There are so many more resources today than there were when my kids were growing up. All my books, for instance, have children's editions. People like J. Warner Wallace, an atheist homicide detective who became a Christian, has a whole series of books for young people. Using those and engaging with your children in conversations lets them know that the family is a safe place to ask questions and express doubts. Encourage them to be honest about their feelings, their interactions, and their relationship with God.

What inspired you to start the Lee Strobel Center for Evangelism and Applied Apologetics?

Lee Strobel: Mark Mittelberg and I have a passion to see lives transformed by Christ. We thought, "What kind of legacy could we leave? How can we disciple the next generation to share Jesus and defend the truth of Christianity in a world that's increasingly skeptical and even hostile toward the Christian faith?" We came up with this idea for the Center for Evangelism and Applied Apologetics, the idea that we could train thousands of people on how to naturally and effectively share their faith with others, to defend it as being true so that they can be difference-makers and influencers in the marketplace of ideas. 

We approached Colorado Christian because CCU has a history of being committed to evangelism, biblical fidelity, the truth of Christianity, theology, the historical underpinnings of the Christian faith, grounded in the truth of Scripture. Mark and I coalesced 40 PhDs from around the country, experts in areas of science and faith and historians and philosophers. We created nearly 100 online, fully accredited undergraduate and graduate-level courses to help people understand theology and share their faith and defend it as true. 

Why would you describe now as the right time to start studying apologetics and evangelism? What makes now the right time?

Lee Strobel: It sounds like a cliché but now is the right time. It's the right time culturally. We're living in a time when the doubt is proliferating because we have the increased influence of so many atheist organizations on the internet propagating outdated and often inaccurate claims about Christianity. It's a time when truth itself is under attack, when relativism is flourishing, and when things like "fake news" are influencing people. It's time for Christians to make their presence known in a loving, winsome, natural way by sharing who Jesus is. It's always a good time to learn why we believe what we believe and what we believe. 

What advice do you have for working adults, parents, people who are retired, young people, considering studying evangelism and apologetics at CCU

Lee Strobel: Whether they're a young person or an older person, I would say to anybody, pray and discern [about] what God is wanting you to do with your life and your ministry. We all have a ministry that God has given us. If you're sensing that it is a ministry to influence others for Jesus, to tell them about God, and to help them get answers to the spiritual sticking points in their journey toward God, then this is the program for you. It is a completely online experience. In this COVID era, that makes even more sense than ever to take these courses online and be part of a community online to grow and learn, and whether they're pursuing a degree, a bachelor's degree, or a master's degree, or if they're just interested in growing.

What is God doing in your life currently? What's next for Lee Strobel?

Lee Strobel: I just finished my new book called "The Case for Heaven," which explores reasons to believe that the afterlife, issues of hell, the logic of hell, and reincarnation. I look at things like annihilationism, universalism, new approaches that younger theologians are raising to the question of eternal punishment, and so forth. It comes out in the middle of September. I also, just today, finished a proposal to update my book, "The Case for Faith," which looks at the top eight objections to Christianity. So my publishing interests continue. 

What are a few things that people may not know about Lee Strobel? 

Lee Strobel: I never tasted peanut butter until my 60th birthday. I know that's kind of weird. I've never worn a backpack. I've never owned or worn a backpack in my life. Many years ago, I think it was in 1981 or so, the governor of Illinois, James Thompson, declared "Lee Strobel Day" in the state of Illinois. January the 12th, I think. I've never tried a soft-boiled egg, soon my birthday, which is in a couple of days, my granddaughter Penelope has challenged me to try a soft-boiled egg for the first time. I'm going to give that a try. 

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