Friday, September 17, 2010

How to Get Apologetics in Your Church: Cultivating a Local Church Apologetics Ministry

Cultivating a Local Church Apologetics Ministry by Chad Gross

So It Begins. The teachings of Jesus Christ were what initially caused me to start asking questions about who He really was.  Not only did I find His teaching to be practical, but I also recognized that His teachings seemed to correspond with the reality I found myself in; however, I also had to acknowledge that this only mattered if His teachings were true.
So, as encouraged by a Pastor, I began an investigation into who Jesus claimed to be and whether or not I had any good reasons to believe Him.  Admittedly, I was impressed with the wealth of evidence I discovered that supported the reliability of the New Testament documents, the historicity of Jesus’ bodily resurrection from the dead, and the existence of a theistic God. [MP3 | RSS | iTunes | Table of Contents]

Enthusiastically, I began sharing some of this evidence with fellow Christians and (to my surprise) the majority of them had little knowledge of it!  I remember thinking, “How can these people believe that a man came back from the dead without any evidence?”  Understandably, the believer possesses experiential evidence, but if that experience does not correlate with available evidence, I believe the authenticity of the experience should be called into question.  Further, what about the person who has questions and has not experienced God?  

It seemed to me that if we had sound evidence to believe that God existed and that Jesus rose from the dead, we should be fairly excited about it and want to tell others!

Is Apologetics a Bad Word?

Since that time, I have uncovered numerous reasons why more followers of Jesus don’t engage in apologetics- 1. Some simply don’t see it as important; I believe they are mistaken 2. Many seem to think that apologetics is only for the “intellectual” and doubt their own ability to understand the relevant arguments 3. Some do not want to take the time to study and understand.  Apologetics is hard work!  4. Some wrongly think that they only need to live out their Christian faith and that is enough.  However, the Bible tells us otherwise (1 Peter 3:15; 2 Tim. 4:2; Jude 3). [1]     

You Have to Start Somewhere...

Regardless of the reasons why many Christians do not engage in apologetics, I decided that apologetics was an important ministry for our church to have because unbelievers (and believers) have good questions and it is my conviction that Christianity affords the best answers.  
I began engaging in apologetics myself via the Letters to the Editor in the local paper, book reviews for “hot topic” releases such as The Da Vinci Code and The Secret, and encouraging others to familiarize themselves with the vast amount of apologetics literature available.  Immediately I found that men seemed very interested in evidence for what they believed.  Many had been raised in Christian homes (I was not) and had experienced the truth of Christianity, but never had tested its truth claims on an evidential basis.  Most welcomed the opportunity to do so.  
Once I recognized a hunger for apologetics within our church, I started a ministry called Truthbomb Apologetics.  The name “Truthbomb” was inspired by Jesus and the manner in which He taught and presented truth.
As Mark Galli writes in his book Jesus Mean and Wild:
Jesus had a tendency of storming in and out of people’s lives, making implicit or explicit demands and, in general, making people feel mighty uncomfortable…This is Jesus the consuming fire, the raging storm, who seems bent on destroying everything in his path, who either shocks people into stupification (Mark 6:51) or frightens them (Mark 16:8) so that they run for their lives.  This divinity we had thought was under lock and key and confined to the Old Testament.  But to find him roaming the pages of the Testament of love and forgiveness- well!  And yet there He swirls, a tornado touching down, lifting homes and businesses off their foundations, leaving only bits and pieces of the former life strewn on his path.[1]
Truth, presented biblically, should never leave those who hear it the same.  It should challenge, demand investigation, or even disturb.  Our goal became to offer apologetics resources to encourage and challenge both believer and unbeliever.   

The following are the steps we have taken to start an apologetics ministry in my local church:
  1. I started a blog entitled Truthbomb Apologetics that’s main purpose it to provide believers with a vast array of materials to deal with the challenges they face in regard to their faith.
  2. My Pastor has allowed me to preach apologetics sermons such as Jesus: The Intellectual, Our Reassurance In and Through our Suffering, Have You Lost Your Mind?, and Lessons from Lily.  The reaction to these messages has always been positive and believers always appreciate an intelligent presentation of the gospel message.
  3. We have invited top apologetic speakers to share at our church.  Last year, Greg Koukl shared a message on Tactics for Defending the Faith and this coming October, Dr. Frank Turek is coming to share the content of his best selling book I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist.  
  4. I set-up a resource table that offers free literature (details about the discipline of apologetics, answers to common objections), free books, and other resources to encourage believers to think about what they believe.
  5. We offered a book study centered around Dr. Turek's book I Don't Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist.  It was well attended.  More on this below...
  6. We offered a Sunday School class based on the TrueU: Does God Exist? Video curriculum hosted by Dr. Stephen Meyer.  More Sunday School classes are forthcoming.
  7. We also offered an apologetics newsletter for the first few months of the ministry, but for different reasons have not continued it.  However, future plans include revamping the newsletter and calling it “The Bomb Shelter.”  The newsletter will go out via email and include relevant apologetics articles, videos, commentary, etc.
  8. We also started an Apologetics Team that is available to help with the distribution of materials.

The Fruit of Apologetics

I believe the most important reason that the church today needs apologetics is because it works!  Consider the following examples:

Agnostic Scientist

A friend of mine, who is a lab biologist working for the government, had been reading the book of Revelation and finding what he called “eerie parallels” in it's events and events happening in our world today.  However, he wasn't sure if one could know that God existed.  He and I began discussing the issue of Intelligent Design via an internet discussion forum.  Soon thereafter, we decided to meet for coffee and discuss our beliefs face to face.

His objections to Christianity largely focused on the character of God and why God seemed so “hidden.”  After discussing these objections at length with him that evening, I left him with a copy of Lee Strobel's The Case for Christ and Frank Turek's I Don't Have Enough Faith to be Atheist and encouraged him to read them with an open mind.

A few months later we decided to meet for coffee once again and shortly after I sat down he informed me that he had decided to follow Jesus Christ!  I was of course excited and remember asking him, “What made you decide to finally take the step of faith?”  He replied, “I had no more objections left.  It was the most logical thing I could do.”  

He continues to follow Jesus to this day and read apologetics literature.

The Engineer that Could

After being encouraged by his wife, Ron began attending the book study Truthbomb offered based upon Turek's book I Don't Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist.  When Ron began attending, he was an agnostic who found the idea of an all loving and all powerful God difficult to believe.  Further, he felt he was living a more morally consistent life than many believers he knew so he saw no need for God in his life.

After attending the book study for approximately 5 weeks and participating in various discussions with other believers concerning some of his main objections, I received a phone call from Ron one morning; he had decided to surrender his life to Christ.  By Ron's own admission, it was the faithfulness of his wife and the removal of his objections through the book study that allowed him to fully give himself over to Jesus.  Since then, Ron has helped me lead the TrueU Sunday School class and is actively leading his wife and daughter in their spiritual lives.  He is truly a new creation.  Ron now refers to people who reject God after looking at the evidence “denialists.”

One of the purposes of apologetics is to remove one's intellectual objections to the gospel so that they may deal with the claims of Christ directly.  I have witnessed this very thing and seen the discipline of apologetics aid people in surrendering to Him.


If you are interested in starting an apologetics ministry in your church, I humbly offer the following bits of advice:
  • Seek the support of your Pastor.  If your Pastor gets behind what you are trying to accomplish, others will as well.  Further, he can offer advice in starting a ministry.
  • Begin discussing apologetic topics with fellow believers.  Many times, it's not that people are not interested in apologetics, it's that they don't know much about it.
  • Begin getting apologetics literature into the hands of fellow believers.  Used books or articles are an inexpensive way to start.
  • With the permission of your Pastor and/or Board of Directors, invite an apologetics speaker to your church.  
  • Start a blog or website that deals with relevant apologetics topics.
  • Begin a small group at your church and discuss common objections to the faith and answers.
The discipline of apologetics is a worthwhile endeavor that God commanded and that Jesus and the apostles practiced.  We should do not less.

1. I have addressed a few of the reasons more Christians don't engage in apologetics here.
2. Mark Galli, Jesus Mean and Wild, p. 16-17.


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