Thursday, November 03, 2011

An ApoloWhat?

This week, in partnership with the International Society of Women in Apologetics, Apologetics315 will be featuring a series of essays from women in apologetics. This following essay has been contributed by Judy Salisbury, entitled: An ApoloWhat?

I think most of us will agree that men dominate the Christian apologetics ministries. I am perfectly comfortable with this fact, and I thank God for these wonderful gentlemen. They produce excellent materials so that many of us can stand on their shoulders in our attempt to lead people to Christ.

Yes, most apologetics ministries are predominantly male; so when a woman states that apologetics is the focus of her ministry, folks scratch their heads and ask, “How did you become an apologist?” I chuckle when people ask me this question since I never set out to become one. It happened by listening to one of the best apologists as he offered not simply an answer, but the answer to my greatest question and obstacle to conversion: Was Jesus truly God?

I must return to 1991 when I traveled as a salesperson and spent considerable time on the road. Driving and surfing through various radio stations one afternoon, the Lord used one radio broadcast in particular to pique my curiosity and settle that longstanding question. The answer became clear as I heard the late Dr. Walter Martin’s debate with a cultist. It was an embarrassing defeat for the cultist, but it was a big win for me as I finally heard evidence for the deity of Jesus Christ.

Back in my hotel room, I immediately reached for the Gideon Bible tucked in the nightstand drawer. It was late in the afternoon when the Lord – in His grace and mercy – led me to the book of 1 John and revealed my lost condition. At that very moment I fell to my knees and gave Him my life, my ambitions, my dreams, my sin—everything. By the time I got home, my husband had a brand new wife… and a year later, the Lord gave us both a brand new baby girl. Goodbye corporate world – hello full time, stay-at-home mom!

During that first year of my spiritual infancy, I devoured the Bible along with tapes and CD’s from learned apologists, Bible teachers, and other resources. What struck me the most was the fact that there were actually answers to the questions that plagued me. Nagging concerns were finally settled in my mind; questions that others were previously unable or unwilling to address were now answered. I rejoiced to know that when my daughter would eventually have spiritual questions of her own, I would be able to answer them. In fact, that was the main reason I became equipped: I did not want some neighborly cultist (or occultist) to beguile my little girl with a lie – promising her a good life that would actually lead to her spiritual death.

By April 1993, the Lord gave me an opportunity to share a talk with my local congregation during a Sunday evening service. My presentation was based on 1 Peter 3:15 and the basic evidences for Christianity. Yes, my first speaking opportunity as a Christian was as an apologist.

About a month after my apologetic talk, I went to our local Pregnancy Resource Center to donate baby clothes and to see if there was a way I could serve them. I met the director at the door with my bag of blessings and confessed, “Not long ago the Lord Jesus Christ saved me from my sins and from myself. Silver and gold have I not, but maybe you need someone to clean your toilets?” She gingerly informed me that they already had a person who handled that; then she suggested I attend an upcoming counselor training seminar. Through that training, I learned so much about those wonderful ministries – the women who serve in them and what they are up against. The Lord also showed me that I was not to become a PRC counselor; instead, I would train individuals who had a desire to educate their communities on matters of human life. My work would be to help impart skills that would equip them to communicate their message effectively, powerfully, and with love.

After a short while, I began helping a variety of CPC’s and PRC’s with their speaker’s bureaus. What qualified me to do this? I had been an award-winning salesperson who had extensive training before I left the corporate world to become a mommy. I had also trained many salespeople and assisted them in creating effective presentations. Couple that with an unusual background in improvisation, stand-up comedy, and acting – that was the formula needed to persuade and argue for a particular position or product in an engaging manner. However, aside from all the worldly knowledge and training, it is the Lord who calls and equips us for His service.

By His grace – along with some unusual circumstances, which He no doubt orchestrated – I produced a training video. At that time, my baby became a delightful toddler and I believed this video would greatly reduce the amount of travel required to train various centers. With my video in toe, I founded Logos Presentations in 1994.

With the founding of a ministry comes the desire for a logo. Since I was only teaching presentation skills, I kept trying to create something with a microphone. Yet my mind continually returned to a much different design: I imagined a pillar with the ministry name upon the top and a scroll across the front. On the scroll was written Isaiah 1:18a, “Come now, and let us reason together.” I recall thinking that such a design would be more appropriate for an apologetics ministry – certainly not mine. Nevertheless, that image persisted in my mind so I felt it must have been from the Lord. After sharing my thoughts with a graphic artist, she added a lovely feminine flair to the pillar… and Logos Presentations, along with its puzzled founder, officially had a logo.

The training video I produced did indeed circulate, and I later added a workbook. The video/workbook package then evolved into a communication-training manual. Before long, other organizations who address moral issues liked what they read and saw; and I began training a variety of groups on a variety of issues.

To help these ministries communicate their message more effectively, I researched each moral issue and learned to anticipate arguments for and against each position. This was imperative in helping them answer appropriately; especially during a question and answer session when their exchanges often became heated.

After an invitation to share my training during a lecture series at Simon Greenleaf University in 1996, I found myself training present and future apologists as well. What fun! The response was wonderful. I helped them to better frame their arguments and reason beyond the emotion of a particular position to get to the real objection at hand. However, at that point I still did not see myself as an apologist.

I soon began giving youth talks to help them defend their faith and to help move them to critical thought. Scattered among those teen talks were women’s retreats, parenting talks, and Sanctity of Human Life presentations. Yet, I still did not see myself as an apologist even though I always presented evidence to support what I shared.

It was also during this time that the Lord blessed us with a wonderful baby boy in 1999. I was busy raising my kids, home schooling, and volunteering with my husband on our local fire department. I also witnessed to anything that moved; making the case that Jesus is Lord, God, and King. I enjoyed when the friendly Jehovah’s Witness knocked at my door so I could show my children – and the cultist – that Believers can and should defend the Faith lovingly, passionately, and intelligently.

With regard to my ministry, I soon discovered another need. As I purchased materials that were supposed to help me become better equipped to share my faith, I was greatly disheartened at what some training materials suggested. Many were offensive; the win-the-argument-while-crushing-the-opposition’s-spirit type of training. Other evangelism training materials I reviewed were rather shallow. They simply taught how to draw folks to an intellectual ascent instead of a place of brokenness over sin, true repentance, and a sincere desire to love God with all heart, soul, mind, and strength, as we ought. They were rife with techniques on how to move folks quickly to a decision. Perhaps the goal is that the more decisions you got the more notches you could carve into your leather-bound Bible.

In one sad case, I watched a video where an atheist expressed his entire worldview full of postmodern inconsistencies. How wonderful it would have been for the evangelist trainer to lovingly expose those inconsistencies, then compassionately present the truth and the firm foundation of the Gospel. Alas, that did not happen. In this actual witnessing encounter, the trainer simply responded, “Okay, well we’re not going to talk about that right now. But have you ever lied?” The trainer then proceeded full force with his own agenda. The expression on the atheist’s face was unmistakable. Here I revealed my most intimate thoughts on spiritual matters and you couldn’t care less. My heart broke for that man and the missed opportunity. No doubt he didn’t listen to another word that the evangelist said.

I also listened to recordings of simulated witnessing scenarios that were so unrealistic they made me sick. After the Gospel was presented, the amiable lost person would joyfully proclaim, “You know, I believe you’re right!” Then they’d expound upon what the Christian had shared with them. As we know, this is not how it works in the real world. Witnessing opportunities can become very heated and believers needed to know how to handle those situations. I realized it was time for me to create another helpful resource for folks who have a heart for the lost; so in 2002, I created a CD series with various realistic witnessing scenarios to better equip believers.

Experience proves you cannot properly train in evangelism without sound apologetics. People have questions and they deserve answers; we are to give them those answers or many convincing proofs. That’s what 1 Peter 3:15 is all about. One year after I released the CD series, I wrote the only book on Christian apologetics designed specifically for women. I found that when you write a book on Christian apologetics, you cannot avoid the label apologist. The label became official after I was asked by Dr. Norman Geisler and Dr. Ravi Zacharias to write a chapter in their book, Is Your Church Ready? Just then, I recalled the words of a speaker I had recently heard at a Christian convention. With great passion in her voice, she advised the crowed room filled with ministry leaders: “Look at your logo. Your logo says it all.” I now humbly confess that it certainly does.

The ministry of Christian apologetics often involves a lively exchange or a healthy debate. This may discourage some women from the ministry of apologetics – but not me. As a former corporate salesperson, I had to argue for a living. I also had a cynical father who was born and raised in Brooklyn and who prompted arguments on spiritual matters long before I knew what true Christianity was, let alone apologetics. We had animated discussions where he held more of a pantheistic worldview. He would ask me questions such as, “If you were the god of your own world, what kind of a god would you be and how would you exact punishment?”  Looking back now, all I can say is:  thank God I am not God. Over a dozen years later and ten days before his death, the Lord used Christian apologetics and His abounding grace and love, to lead Dad home to Glory.

So when I’m asked, “How did you become an apologist?” My answer is this: I was an apologist long before I ever realized it. I also think we acquire the label of apologist when folks observe the fruit of our work. In an endorsement for my latest book, The Conversation, I was referred to as a “seasoned” apologist. Now don’t worry, I won’t let it go to my head. I realize the word seasoned simply means I’m getting older and now need to color my hair. And the word apologist simply means I refuse to remain silent when someone bashes my Lord and my faith. I will not be silent before individuals who sincerely seek spiritual truth. And I will certainly and eagerly answer a believer’s question which might hinder their spiritual growth. I trust that most believers reading this feel the same.

I firmly believe many faithful women may look at me cockeyed and ask, “An apolo what?” They may have never heard the term “apologetics”… but they are actually effective apologists themselves. They realize, as I have, that it is imperative to pass the torch of their faith on to their children because the alternative is frightening. They realize that having the right answers – regardless of whatever trials rage in their lives – gives them security because their foundation is built on the Rock of Jesus Christ and His Word. And when these women provide their lost friends and family with answers that remove obstacles to their conversion, they are effective apologists who do not need an official label. They are women who want to be faithful to answer God’s call – with or without a label – and I am proud to stand with them as we continue to fight the good fight of faith.

For me, apologist is fine if that’s how folks would like to identify me. However, I’m much more comfortable with the label of servant… and I hope to be faithful and courageous enough to serve and follow wherever my Heavenly Father leads.

Judy Salisbury is founder of Logos Presentations and serves the Lord in multiple capacities. She is a certified lay counselor through the American Association of Christian Counselors, and for four years co-hosted two radio programs interviewing a variety of guests and sharing her thoughts on a broad range of topics that concern believers today. She on the board of directors for the International Society of Women in Apologetics as a trainer and an advisor. Judy shares her heart for evangelism by equipping believers to become effective apologists.


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