Monday, September 20, 2010

How to Get Apologetics in Your Church: Apologetics Functions in the Community

Apologetics Functions in the Community by Carolyn Horne

The idea of having an apologetics function came during a church Dream Team meeting where we were discussing the best way to reach our local community with the love of God and the truth of the Gospel. Many good suggestions were brought forward that involved getting out to community events, baseball games, and into parks nearby. However I had something stirring inside of me that would not go away. What about reaching those who frequent libraries and those in higher education institutions?  I sort of envisioned having a seminar at a library and having a much simpler William Lane Craig style debate. Our pastor, James Laymon, was open to such an idea.
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I was already on the Reasonable Faith mailing list, joining shortly after finishing a book report for seminary on The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel.   This seminary is the International College of Ministry, planted locally through the chair of the Jacksonville Theological Seminary branch in Olive Branch, Mississippi and several pastors and Christian educators from Memphis who have a vision to bring along young ministers in this region.  That book report changed my life in so many ways.

I have a personal testimony about how the education system can undermine our faith even at the high school level. And, like Lee, have a passion to make sure that those who are susceptible to having their faith undermined are equipped to deal with that eventuality.

It wasn’t too long after joining WLC’s mailing list that there was in invitation to start local RF Chapters. That was a Eureka moment for sure.  I contacted my pastors about it and they agreed to host a local Chapter event if I qualified. That meant taking a week’s solid vacation from work plus another few long weekends and spending that time working through Reasonable Faith 3rd Edition and the Study Guide questions in concentrated fashion. In February, 2010, I qualified to start Reasonable Faith Memphis.

We originally were going to have a weekend event with a local worship arts college, where the students could get credit, but that did not pan out. My passion and the pastors’ passion did not equate to the (lack of) passion on this subject there. So that was disappointing. But we redirected our focus and decided to post notices around the community, on KLOVE, and promote it during Sunday church services leading up to the kickoff event at our church facilities.

I have to say that without my pastors’ support at Wellspring Church; it would have been difficult to get off the ground. They prayed for me, gave fatherly and motherly talks to the sheep about the need for apologetics, voiced their support for the event publicly to the congregation during church, and helped in the event planning stage. They also provided the venue for our meetings. I really have to thank them for all they have done and continue to do.

During the planning stage, I also received an email from Daniel Ashworth Jr., who attends Union Avenue Baptist Church in Midtown Memphis (the University of Memphis area). He was also interested in starting a Chapter in Midtown and wanted to join up with me until he was able to do that.  Daniel has experience teaching Apologetics at various local churches he has attended. He also was a great help, and very faithful and passionate about it.

Chris Shannon provided an exhaustive list of Apologetics materials we could use.  We decided to start with the basics and show The Case for Christ/Faith/Creator series by Lee Strobel. I bought a license for The Case for Christ for around 200 viewers from Wing Cinema. They also provide promotional materials with the license, such as posters, church bulletin inserts, tickets, event handouts, and leaders’ guides. These were very helpful. I also ordered a 10-pack of the DVD’s to give to those who gave a free-will offering.  We planned to show The Case for Christ on a Friday evening and have break-out groups using the leader’s guides afterward.  Then Saturday morning we would show the Craig-Hitchens  debate ‘Does God Exist?’, with a Q&A after that. Daniel, our church youth pastors, senior pastors and I led the breakout groups for The Case for Christ. I asked Daniel to lead the Q&A after the Craig-Hitchens debate and he did a great job.  He has experience teaching at the college level so that was put to good use. People were very engaged in both events, though we saw a different mix of people at the Friday evening versus the Saturday morning event. We had about 25 people on Friday night and 10 on Saturday morning.  It was a bit disappointing that most of the youth only showed up on Friday night. But for those who did attend, I think all agreed hands down on Saturday morning that WLC won the debate and Christopher Hitchens didn’t really address any of the points WLC put forward. We handed out some of WLC’s popular articles and a transcript of the debate to participants.  We also let them know about his website and podcasts. I know many wanted to order the debate DVD themselves after that viewing. It was a real confidence booster to those who attended.

We had our next monthly meeting at UABC, Daniel’s Church, and he had the opportunity to invite those in his neighborhood to come. My pastors came, along with one other person from my church, a man from the huge (25,000 member) Bellevue Baptist Church came, and others from UABC. In all, there were about a dozen attendees. We viewed The Case for Faith, which is just so powerful my pastors decided to share that over the next two Wednesdays at our own Church. We were just awestruck by the presentation. I ordered The Case for Faith books in three versions: adult, youth and children’s and gave those away. Some could give a love offering in return, but I didn’t require it. A lady from UABC who deals with children snapped up a children’s book.  We took a break and spent some time listening to WLC’s Defenders 2 podcasts using the outlines he provides on his website. These were received well, but people were beginning to fade after having already viewed The Case for Faith. So after that we agreed to assign the podcasts for private listening. In our culture we are so used to multimedia that if there isn’t a video component, it can be hard to maintain people’s interest level at an event. This bothers me because I wanted to make the podcasts foundational to our training. I did bring copies of ON GUARD to introduce to the people, since they were hot off the press. If people were willing to read that, which compresses a lot of information into a digestible short volume for laymen, then we had an alternative for the podcast presentations at our meetings.

We found we were too busy with other ministry needs to even meet in June, so we had a double feature in July at my church in Millington. We showed The Case for a Creator and Darwin’s Dilemma, both by Illustra Media. I received permission to show those publicly by sending an email to Illustra.  They replied with a viewing agreement for Reasonable Faith Memphis which would pertain to all of their DVD’s. There was no fee involved. This time our pastors really pushed the need for apologetics training to parents and youth on two consecutive Sundays. We met at 4 PM, which is dinner hour, so advertised that we would provide food. I ordered pizza, popped some popcorn, brought drinks and fruit. Another lady from the church provided paper plates, etc.  So it had the flavor of a movie matinee. I was stunned when we opened the doors.  People just poured in. Parents brought their youth.  Children and seniors were among the head count. Almost the entire church turned out.  They were on the edge of their seats for both presentations, and clapped enthusiastically at the end. When asked if they learned something new, just about everyone raised their hands. I laid out a table with copies of ON GUARD, The Case series, WLC’s printed articles, RF 3rd Edition, and people took advantage of those materials. I was only left with one copy of ON GUARD. This fits into our current plan of doing slide show summary presentations of ON GUARD in future meetings. People are interested and able to read and understand the book. So for now instead of the podcasts, we are going with ON GUARD plus some visuals.

This month, we plan on showing Expelled! with Ben Stein as a follow-up to our introduction to Intelligent Design in July, followed by a slide presentation of the first two chapters of ON GUARD. The Expelled! license is available from Wing Cinema. Again we will offer dinner fare and meet at 4 PM on a Sunday, which seems to work best for us.


Unknown said...

Fantastic! These testimonies are a real encouragement for anyone involved in Apologetics ministry.

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