Thursday, June 14, 2012

How to Get Apologetics in Your Church 2: Five Tips for Starting an Apologetics Group

Five Tips for Starting an Apologetics Group
by Ron Pantalena

Our apologetics ministry has been in existence for 11 years. I was a seminary students studying for an MA in Apologetics from Southern Evangelical Seminary and felt that there needed to be application in the local church. So I approached the person who oversaw the ministries in our church with the idea of starting an apologetics ministry. After several meetings where other like-minded people were identified, we wrote an interim mission statement.

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My first order of business was to train the members of the ministry. I chose to do this by leading a study of The Case for Christ followed by several other apologetics books. I finally chose the book Unshakable Foundations by Norman Geisler and Peter Bocchino because it has an accompanying PowerPoint presentation on CD. After finishing our internal study we taught through the book to a class of students for six months utilizing the PowerPoint slides on the CD (we modified some of the lessons).

We teach the Unshakable Foundations course every two years. We have since developed a 3 month course that we teach to the high school students in our church every three years. We wrote a three month course called Twisting Doctrine that examines how cults and other isms mishandle Scripture and use faulty arguments to deny essential tenants of the historic Christian faith. In addition to this we are now developing a new course that will teach believers how to engage unbelievers in a non-combative way and yet still point out their flawed thinking and point them to the truth.

Since our founding we have renamed ourselves E3 which stands for “Equip” (the church), “Engage” (the culture), and “Evangelize” (the lost).

We have intentionally kept the ministry small. We have primarily been a teaching ministry and it takes people who have done a fair amount of studying to teach and be able to address questions that arise. Unfortunately some of the questions are from believers who underestimate the value of apologetics. Some of the questions betray just how much the culture has infected the church rather than the church infecting the culture.

My recommendations for anyone wishing to start an apologetics ministry would be:

1. Approach your church leadership. Let them know that you are not asking them to do something, but rather that you are wanting to do something for the church and them.

2. Start by identifying others with an apologetics “bent.”

3. Study intensely together with good apologetics books by authors such as Norman Geisler, William Lane Craig, Lee Strobel, Ron Rhodes, and Gary Habermas. This is not to say that I agree with every position that these authors hold. For instance, I hold to a “young” earth while not all of the above authors do.

4. There are several good apologetics organizations that provide seminar type training. Consider organizing/hosting an event and volunteering to be the chairman overseeing the event. Events like these are a good way to identify possible ministry members.

5. Once ready, consider teaching a class based on a good apologetics book. This is scary and takes LOTS of prep and work but it is more than worth the effort. It is also probably the best way to identify potential new ministry members. We now use this method almost exclusively. Student participation and interest is a great judge of a person’s future ministry involvement. I actually require that anyone who wishes to teach in one of our courses to first take our Unshakeable Foundations course and then be mentored as a member of the ministry for at least one year.

You do not need to be an expert but you do need to be willing to learn. Apologetics is not a goal; it is a life-long learning endeavor. You will be stumped at times by objections that are raised, but you should never be stumped by the same objection twice.

Expect resistance from within the church. Anticipate it and be ready with a defense of the need, and Biblical mandate, of apologetics.

The ultimate aim of apologetics is relationships: Your growing relationship with Christ, your relationship with those around you, and their entering into a relationship with the risen Savior.


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