Thursday, June 21, 2012

How to Get Apologetics in Your Church 2: A Call to Action

A Call to ACTION by Chad A. Gross

I recently had the opportunity to meet with an atheist relative and share with him some of the reasons that I had decided to become a follower of Christ 10 years ago. [1] The conversation was enjoyable and thought-provoking. Upon reflection, one particularly interesting part of the conversation was when I shared my conviction that the Bible encourages and models critical thinking and defending one’s beliefs with reason and argument. I shared the biblical directive for the Christian to “…always be ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you…” [1 Peter 3:15]. Moreover, the Bible models the Christian “destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God” [2 Cor. 10:5] and instructs us to “…examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good” [1 Thess. 5:21]. Further, throughout the Old and New Testament, we see apologetics used and modeled by various figures; most notably Jesus and His apostles. You the reader may not be surprised by these facts; however, my atheist friend surely was! He seemed to marvel at the idea that the Bible actually taught some of the things I mentioned. He seemed to have been under the false, but widely believed, impression that "faith is the great cop-out, the great excuse to evade the need to think and evaluate evidence. Faith is belief in spite of, even perhaps because of, the lack of evidence." [2] He said at one point, “Most of my friends who are Christians haven’t even looked into what they believe as much as I have.” He is not alone.

[MP3 | RSS | iTunes Index]

The above conversation adequately highlights a real problem in the Evangelical Church- we have failed to educate. We have failed to educate those who walk through our doors about what we believe and why we believe it and the consequences have been dire. Some of the consequences that I myself have witnessed or experienced are:

a) People who claim to be Christians don’t really know if what they claim to believe is true. If they are not convinced that Christianity is true, beyond reasonable doubt, can they truly embrace and shape their lives around the risen Christ?

b) People seek experiences instead of truth and then are left disappointed when their experiences don’t meet their expectations.

c) Believers are ill-equipped to defend their convictions and as a result don’t share their faith. Or, when they are challenged with questions and don't have answers, they begin to doubt their faith. Doubt can be healthy, but it can also be cancerous to one's faith if not handled properly. [3]

d) People seek out answers to their many times heartfelt and sincere questions and are merely told, “You just need to have faith.” Consequently, they seek answers elsewhere, concluding that Christianity is irrelevant and/or false.

e) The church as a whole is viewed by the culture as irrelevant and out of touch. It seems to them that we have nothing of value to say. For example, when a tragedy such as a school shooting occurs, who does the media seek answers from? Perhaps the psychologist or the scientist, but certainly not a pastor. The pastor is more often than not simply asked to go off in a corner and pray.

f) As the conversation I alluded to above suggests, nonbelievers see Christians as people who blindly hold to their convictions and have no rational grounds for believing as they do.

Many men and women more qualified than I have sought to explain why the church finds itself in its current anti-intellectual state [4] so I will not spend time here defending this assertion. I believe that in most churches this fact is evident and if you are currently attending a church that values and esteems the life of the mind, consider yourself blessed. [5] However, my observations and experiences lead me to conclude that this is a problem that must be addressed.

The local church needs apologetics. I started an apologetics ministry at my church approximately 5 years ago and have seen God use it in various ways. [6] During that short time, I have learned much from our successes and our failures. Perhaps you see the need for an apologetics ministry or small-group in your local church, but don’t know where to start? Maybe you know that your church needs an apologetics ministry, but you don’t feel adequate enough to start it yourself? It is with you in mind that I have written this essay.

I have put together 5 steps that I believe will sufficiently equip most anybody to start an apologetics ministry or small-group with confidence. I will present them using the acronym ACTION. Because really, who in the apologetics community doesn’t love a good acronym?

Please keep in mind that prayer and Bible study are a pre-requisite to these 5 steps.


I believe it’s important to admit from the onset that you will not have the all the answers to everyone’s questions. Just because you have decided to teach apologetics doesn’t mean that you automatically know all the answers. I know that this seems obvious; however, when I began leading apologetics classes at my local church, I remember being fearful that someone would ask me a question that I might not know the answer to and then be seen as ignorant on the subject matter being discussed. I would have thoughts like, “I don’t have a formal degree in this stuff. Perhaps I shouldn’t be teaching.” Or, “Maybe I should learn more before I actually teach?” Please do not misunderstand me. You should know your subject matter as well as possible and preparation and study is crucial; yet, you have to start somewhere and if you are going to wait until you have totally mastered the content before you teach it is my suspicion that you will never start!

I have learned through teaching that I gain more knowledge through interacting with my peers than I ever would simply sitting at my desk reading. When you are able to think along with others about topics such as the arguments for the existence of God or common objections against Christianity you gain “on the job” training that is invaluable. In short, when you teach, you learn.

Still, what does one do when they are asked a question they don’t know the answer to? Simple- Be honest. When I am asked a question that I’m not sure about I either let the person know that I will look into it and get back to them or recommend a great resource I’m familiar with that deals with the topic.

I let my class members know from the onset that I am a fellow learner and that we are all learning together. It is my hope that this approach also liberates them to ask the questions that they are struggling with.


It is critical for the apologetic minded person to connect with like-minded individuals within the body of Christ. If we are being transparent, sometimes when you are interested in apologetics it can seem like you are marooned on an island. I have found that finding and connecting with like-minded believers and having intellectually challenging discussions and debates is an excellent way to keep the apologist focused on the task at hand and a great opportunity to learn from your fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. Further, it is many times encouraging to listen to others work through issues that you yourself have wrestled with.


As I look back on my beginnings in apologetics, I wish I would have spent more time training in the areas of logic and engaging in conversations purposefully and tactfully.

Logic is not only critical in understanding arguments, but also for recognizing the various fallacies that inevitably come up when discussion your Christian convictions. I highly recommend Robert J. Gula’s Nonsense. This book offers an outstanding study in logic in a very readable and informal format. Apologetics315 also offers an excellent Basic Logic Primer found here that I encourage you to checkout.

As well as becoming familiar with logic, I believe it vital that the aspiring apologist begins to tactfully think about how to maneuver through conversations and interactions with unbelievers of all stripes. Greg Koukl’s book Tactics: A Game Plan for Discussing your Christian Convictions will equip you to do that very thing. In this short book, [7] you will learn to thoughtfully and effortlessly maneuver through conversations with unbelievers while challenging them to sustain each and every assertion they make. The result being that you will be more confident while sharing your Christian convictions.


Not only do you need to begin interacting with like-minded individuals, but you must also begin discussing the arguments for and against Christianity with unbelievers. Admittedly, this can sometimes be a tough thing to do, but if you are to learn and grow in the areas we’ve been discussing, it is a must. I have learned many valuable lessons over the past 10 years interacting with those who disagree with my beliefs. There are many avenues in which one can accomplish this goal. Co-workers, neighbors or online communities such as Facebook are great places to begin corresponding with unbelievers and challenging them with the truth of the gospel.


Once you are ready to start your apologetics small-group, ministry or Sunday school class, I encourage you to obtain some of the excellent resources that have been created just for these types of settings. I will recommend a few below, but the great thing about many of these resources is that they allow the person heading up the class or small group to simply facilitate the discussion. This is a great way to get familiar with the content while exposing others to it as well!

I recommend the following resources:

1. TrueU: Does God Exist? - This is a DVD led by Dr. Stephen Meyer that builds a scientific case for God's existence. Dr. Meyer presents the arguments in an easy-to-understand format and also covers a number of the main objections raised against these arguments. Although TrueU is geared toward high school and college aged students, I have found it to be helpful for people of all ages. It also comes with discussion questions for each session.

2. TrueU: Is the Bible Reliable? - This is the second DVD series in which Dr. Meyer builds a historical case for the reliability of the Bible. Meyer challenges the listener to examine the historical and archaeological evidence that sustain the veracity and accuracy of Scripture. This set includes a 96 page discussion guide.

3. William Lane Craig's On Guard Book and companion DVD - Through this book and DVD study you will learn how to defend your faith. Over the weeks of study you will learn eight apologetics arguments and learn to apply them.

4. The Truth Project - As the website states, “The Truth Project is a DVD-based small group curriculum comprised of 13 one-hour lessons taught by Dr. Del Tackett. This home study is the starting point for looking at life from a biblical perspective. Each lesson discusses in great detail the relevance and importance of living the Christian worldview in daily life.”

This is just a small sampling of the vast array of resources available to the apologist. It has never been easier to get started!


Finally, it is important to notify the leadership in your church that you are interested in starting an apologetics ministry. I am blessed to attend a church headed by a pastor who understands the need for apologetics and promotes our ministry. Whether you are starting a small group, a website or leading a Sunday school class, it's important to get your pastor's blessing and input.

What if you approach the leadership and they are not interested? Perhaps they don't see the need for an apologetics ministry? If that is the case, I strongly encourage you to leave that church and find one that does! I know that may seem bold, but there is a culture war going on and we are losing. We are losing our youth. We are losing our voice. We must rise up and the church that doesn't understand this isn't worth attending.


My goal in this essay has been to suggest 5 steps someone can take, no matter what their skill level, to begin getting apologetics into their church. I want to once again encourage you not to wait. Get started now! God will richly bless your efforts and your own faith will be strengthened and enriched.

Apologetics is a challenging discipline that is not for the faint at heart. However, we are called to it and, as philosopher J.P. Moreland has pointed out, is has been modeled for us by the one we love and follow:

“To my mind, Jesus was the greatest thinker who ever lived. And while he did not come to develop a theory about logic or to teach logic as a field of study, it is clear that he was adept at employing logical forms and laws in his thinking and reasoning. We who are his followers should go and do likewise.” [8]

Courage and Godspeed,


1. I've written about some of these reasons briefly here.
2. This is of course an idea propagated by atheist celebrity Richard Dawkins. As I demonstrate here, it is also a completely false one.
3. Dr. Gary Habermas offers two free books on his website about how to deal with doubt. You can find them here and here.
4. J.P. Moreland, Loving God with All Your Mind, 1997.
5. I myself am encouraged when I hear philosophers such as William Lane Craig or John Mark Reynolds discuss the renaissance that is going on in upper level philosophy on the university level in regard to theism. Theism has once again been given a respectable place in the marketplace of ideas and these men contend that this will eventually trickle down to street.
6. I've written on this here.
7. We had the opportunity to review this wonderful book here.
8. J.P. Moreland, “How Did Jesus Argue,” 2007.


rogertharpe said...

Love must be the overarching motivation in every interaction and interwoven within every relational discussion.

Chad said...


I couldn't agree more and I hope that my essay didn't imply otherwise.


Thomas Larsen said...

"If that is the case, I strongly encourage you to leave that church and find one that does!"

Even if the leadership of a church aren't interested in apologetics, I don't think someone should leave (all else being equal) if there are non-leaders who are interested. The best course of action might be to try to get into church leadership and promote apologetics, or start some casual group with other members from the church and begin to foster apologetics in that setting.

Chad said...

Hello Thomas,

Thank you for the comment.

The best course of action might be to try to get into church leadership and promote apologetics, or start some casual group with other members from the church and begin to foster apologetics in that setting.

I think that this is an excellent idea and perhaps should be one's first course of action.

However, if a church does not recognize the biblical mandate to do apologetics and evangelize, I have to question how seriously they take the gospel message in the first place.

Also, I would encourage you to consider my comment in it's context. I wrote:

"What if you approach the leadership and they are not interested? Perhaps they don't see the need for an apologetics ministry? If that is the case, I strongly encourage you to leave that church and find one that does! I know that may seem bold, but there is a culture war going on and we are losing. We are losing our youth. We are losing our voice. We must rise up and the church that doesn't understand this isn't worth attending."

Meaning, if your church doesn't understand that there is a culture war going on that they must be engaged in it, even after you have pointed out the need for apologetics, I believe one would be wise to consider attending one that does.

Finally, I hope that is not all you got out of my essay!

In conclusion, I completely see your point and I think I agree; however, we must not allow a dead or indifferent church to hinder to progress of the gospel.


Post a Comment

Thanks for taking the time to comment. By posting your comment you are agreeing to the comment policy.

Blog Archive