Friday, September 24, 2010

How to Get Apologetics in Your Church: Getting Apologetics in the Local Church

Getting Apologetics in the Local Church
by Ron Pantalena

This essay briefly covers three main areas: How our apologetics ministry came about, some of things we have done, and some suggestions for starting an apologetics ministry in your church.

I have been blessed to be leading the apologetics ministry in our church since its inception in 2001. I was taking courses from Southern Evangelical Seminary and realized that the things I was learning needed an outlet in the church. I approached the person who oversaw the ministries at our church with the idea of starting an apologetics ministry. He gave me the names of others who may be interested and we all met to discuss the idea and what our ministry would be about.
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Since then our goals and activities have “evolved.” At first I essentially taught through a few apologetics books to the group of 3-4. My intention all along was to ground them to the point where we could team-teach an adult Sunday School class on apologetics. Some people dropped out for various reasons and others joined but my goal remained to teach apologetics to as many in the church body as possible. When I felt they were ready for the challenge I told them that we were scheduled to teach a class based on the book Unshakable Foundations written by Norman Geisler and Peter Bocchino. There is a CD available with a PowerPoint presentation for all the chapters for teaching purposes. The course was very well received and we have now taught the course 5 times and will teach it again starting Sept 2010. It is an excellent course as is, but we have made our own changes and have expanded it with classes that we have written ourselves.

Having been troubled for a long time about the statistics regarding students that no longer follow the faith after graduating high school, I approached the Senior High youth pastor about our group teaching a shortened course to the students. He agreed and we have now taught apologetics to the high school students twice. Again, it has been very well received and we have even had former students come up to us after they were in college to tell us how much better able they were to withstand the attacks posed by professors and other students. By God’s grace I believe that apologetics has improved the statistics of students from our church.

Realizing the potential impact The Da Vinci Code could have on believers, one of our pastors approached us about conducting a seminar for the church. We agreed but decided to expand the project by doing two seminars; one at our church and one at a neutral location for the public at large. One of the members of our church worked at a local high school and was able to arrange for us to use the auditorium to present the seminar to the community. A local reporter found out and interviewed us for a front-page article which allowed us to present the truth to anyone who read the paper as well as to advertise the seminar. We were also able to do local television interviews that aired as a 5 part miniseries, each part lasting 30 minutes, which gave the same rebuttal that was presented in the seminar.

Since then the apologetics ministry has grown only slightly. We are still tiny compared to most ministries, but that is intentional. We are a teaching ministry and there are unfortunately not that many who are competent enough in apologetics to teach. This is something we are trying to change but too many Christians are more concerned with the cultural concept of political correctness than with biblical mandates about defending the faith.

One of our more recent activities was to write a new adult course from scratch. We wanted to teach on the cults but wanted to do something different. We decided to make it as challenging as possible for our students so we took various doctrines and presented heretical teaching on them, “supporting” the heretical positions from the Bible, as if we were the cultist. We then forced our students to research the answers before we responded to those positions so that they could intelligently participate in the rebuttal. It was really interesting to see the students progress from weak, shallow initial responses (that we, arguing from the cultist position could easily defeat) to well reasoned rebuttals.

Recently we approached one of our pastors about having a meeting with the entire pastoral staff about how apologetics can be used to address current needs within the congregation. Out of this meeting came several ideas that will be developed into new classes, intensive teaching seminars, and lessons to be distributed to small group leaders. This sort of cooperation was achieved only because of the recognition by the leaders in our church of the need for apologetics teaching for believers.

One of the most exciting opportunities to come from the meeting was when the Children’s Pastor approached us about the possibility of developing an apologetics program geared for 5th graders. Due to the scarcity of material available, this is going to be developed mostly from scratch.

Getting an apologetics ministry started in your church is not easy. There are many obstacles. Here are some thoughts about starting an apologetics ministry in your church:

1. Most people, including many pastors, don’t appreciate the place or need for apologetics. I have yet to meet someone who is “bent” toward evangelism who truly understands the role of apologetics. On the flip side, every apologist I know understands the need for evangelism. So, be prepared to explain both biblically and logically the need for and uses of apologetics.

2. Don’t try to go it alone. As best as possible identify others, or at least one other, who shares a passion for apologetics. Start to meet and discuss goals and ideas.

3. Most pastors are overworked and taking on another task is not possible. Make sure they realize that you are not asking them to do anything; rather, that you are offering to come along side them. Ask them how you can help them in the area of apologetics. Perhaps you can do the research that they use in a sermon series.

4. Volunteer to be the chairperson to oversee an apologetics related conference. There are several good ministries that specialize in visiting churches to teach for a weekend (this can also give your pastor a Sunday off from preaching). In the beginning I oversaw two such conferences at our church. This has the related benefit of pointing out others in your church with a passion for apologetics. Several ministries to consider are: Watchman Fellowship (cults), Probe Ministries (general/youth apologetics), and TEAM. TEAM is a ministry of Southern Evangelical Seminary that sends seminary students to churches for a weekend to teach on various apologetic topics. As with the other ministries mentioned, you can tailor the topics as desired, but unique to TEAM is that it is free of charge. They ask only for help with housing for the weekend. Southern Evangelical Seminary can be reached at 800-77-TRUTH.

5. Put an announcement in the church bulletin that you are going to lead a study on an apologetics related book. The Case for Christ is a great choice and is the first book I taught through when starting our ministry.

One of the original members of our apologetics ministry and I have a great passion to see apologetics ministries in place in churches throughout the country and the world. We conceived of what we call 3E Impact. He has since taken a position at Southern Evangelical Seminary and has launched 3E Impact with the purpose of helping people get apologetics ministries started in their local church. This leads to my final suggestion:

6. Contact the 3E Impact for help. They can be reached at www.3eimpact.org or by contacting SES. Although God used me to help plant the seeds for 3E Impact and I wholeheartedly support it, I receive no compensation of any kind. I simply desire to see the church strengthened and believers equipped with a reasoned defense of the faith.

2 comments :

reasonsibelieve said...

I tried to encourage our youth pastor to incorporate apologetic teaching for the Jr & Sr High School kids at church. I offered to teach some sessions. They were not interested. Not to be denied, I sought other market places, and discovered that one of the local high schools has a weekly FCA meeting at lunch time. They were all over it and have already allowed me to present a couple times with more presents on the calendar this year! The kids seem very engaged and interested in the discussions. Don't give up. Bloom where you are planted.

Brian Auten said...

Thanks for sharing that!

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