Thursday, July 05, 2012

How to Get Apologetics in Your Church 2: Evangelism, Apologetics, and Cultural Impact

Evangelism, Apologetics, and Cultural Impact by Adrian Urias

There is a difficulty in implementing apologetics into our churches. This difficulty arises from the notion that apologetics has no real practical value; that apologetics is employed only by scholars in their ivory towers—who think themselves wise—which is warned against multiple times in the Bible (e.g., Proverbs 26:12). This attitude is a serious problem and it must be dealt with. The best way to debunk this myth is for Christians to get out (literally) and show that this is not true. Some may argue from the Bible the necessity of apologetics in our church, but as James says, “Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do” (James 2:18b). Therefore, we must go out to the frontlines of this spiritual war and show that the proof is in the pudding.

I started an apologetics discussion group on my college campus to extinguish this problem. This was a weekly event where I took my group to evangelize for an hour or so, and then had everyone rendezvous, with visitors, at a specific place where I would give a brief ten to fifteen-minute lesson where we would get into the Word and talk about an issue such as the existence of an afterlife, the existence of God, the problem of evil, religious pluralism, a difficult passage in the Old Testament, and a variety of apologetically themed topics.

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The discussion group proved to be effective for two reasons: evangelism and cultural impact. Let us examine the evangelism component. Christians will not see the need to a defense of their faith if there is no apparent need to actually defend their faith. If they do not feel the need to defend their faith, it is probably because they are not willing to present their faith in a challenging arena. The command to go and make disciples is explicit (Matthew 28:18-20). When we do come across non-Christians such as Muslims, Atheists, Wiccans, etc., I encourage my group to have discussions with them. Not arguments, but discussions. This puts their knowledge of apologetics to use.

Now, let us turn to the result of bestowing upon Christianity a good name in society. The stereotypical image of a Christian on a college campus is one of a Bible-thumping, Westboro Baptist ignoramus who is entirely out of touch with reality. The truth is, even if you bring no one to Christ with the campus discussion group, you are still making an impact with these visitors who will hear a good defense of Christianity and your lesson will eat away at their preconceived notions of Christianity. This plants a seed in their mind and, eventually, the culture as a whole. It is difficult to share our faith with people who, from the outset, believe Christianity is ridiculous. With these Bible talks, you are creating a Christian friendly atmosphere in the campus culture. You might not be able to bring someone to Christ because of your Bible talk, but it does give them the background belief that Christianity is intellectually tenable should another Christian approach them in the future.

As Christians, it is beneficial to go to conferences aimed at equipping and building up the Body of Christ. However, events that are distinguished in the minds and memories of my group were the anti-Christian events. I encourage other groups to fight at these spiritual frontlines. As Martin Luther realized:
“If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest exposition every portion of the truth of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at that moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Christ. Where the battle rages, there the loyalty of the soldier is proved, and to be steady on all the battlefield besides is mere flight and disgrace if he flinches at that point.” 
One of the more memorable events my group attended was a panel discussion hosted by a LGBT group. During the Q&A, we asked questions about some of the intolerance aimed at Christians, which was a nice turning of the tables after hearing about the intolerance they claimed to face! This made for a very lively exchange between some of the students in my group and the panelists. Almost everyone in the audience did not sympathize with our cause, and started heckling us. While it was intimidating to be in a den of lions, how invigorating it was to see Christ represented and defended amidst such hostility! If there are no events in your area, there will surely be a Mormon temple nearby with a visitor center, where you can talk with a guide about their beliefs; or maybe there is an atheist club on campus that you can invite over for a barbeque.

Another upshot to attending events that are not friendly to the Christian worldview is the personal heart check that accompanies them. Christians have a justifiable reputation for being supercilious. This pride may often lead to fruitless quarrels and debates. In an event we attended hosted by the Center for Inquiry, a well-established secular organization purposed to erode religion, one of my members came up to me with tears in his eyes because he was surrounded by so many people who are lost, and he did not feel we had enough man power to really make an impact. This was a humbling experience for me because I entered the venue looking for a fight. Seeing my friend’s strong emotion reminded me that many walking around me may have hell as their destination and it cut me to the heart. I had temporarily lost sight of the mission. Our mission, as ambassadors for Christ, is to save and love the lost as God has saved and loved us. God does not look to fight with us, and nor should we look to fight with others. We are servants, and we serve non-believers by providing them the information they may require from apologetics. As Paul admonished us, “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing” (1 Corinthians 13:1-2). You can have all the knowledge in the world and be the next William Lane Craig, but if you are not doing this because you love the lost, then you are failing your mission as an ambassador for Christ.

If you cannot attend events yourself, there is the alternative option of hosting smaller events in your own home. These can be very popular. You can have local Mormons or Jehovah’s Witnesses come give a talk to your group about their beliefs, and participate in these battlefronts in the comfort of your own home. I hosted an event where a gay minister came to give a talk arguing that the Bible does not in fact condemn homosexual relationships. In attendance were some visitors who traveled fifty miles just to come into my home and listen to this talk! This can all be for free unless you want to provide refreshments.

Hosting events like these have the benefit of testing and refining what you teach in your group. For example, when we had Mormon missionaries come to my home and talk, I prepped my group for about three weeks prior, teaching them about Mormon beliefs and giving them some talking points they could bring up (including their reputation of evangelism, which was a good point to bring up to reinforce why apologetics was needed), and then we brought in a real Mormon to test our knowledge. They are informative, and if you have the right spirit about it, they can be a lot of fun.

We must remember that apologetics is not for us. It is for God. I encourage other apologetic groups to not keep the glory of knowledge of God to themselves, alone in a room huddled with a book or on Facebook. Rather, step outside with real human beings who need to be saved. College campuses are fertile grounds for such sharing and friendly engagements (Matthew 9:37). To keep the practicality alive, I challenge apologetic groups to attend conferences that are not Christian friendly. In the spirit of keeping things entertaining and interesting, I encourage you to host small events with guest speakers who are not Christians and give talks about their beliefs. Above all, beware of pride. Do not let pride seep into your heart and blind you to the great commission. Do not glorify yourself, but rather glorify God.


Anonymous said...

You are very practical.Billy Graham always say "Don't keep the faith but share it."

Anonymous said...

That sounds really exciting, but I could imagine that there are many Christians who would have a problem of inviting Jehovas witnesses or Mormons to their home to give a talk to a group of Christians.


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