The turn of the new year is an important time for many people. It’s a time where you give up ice cream and start exercising for an average of three and a half days before reverting back to old habits. Some of us may do better. But as you go about making resolutions, and hopefully a few that stick, here are some resolutions that will help us be better ambassadors for Christ.
I resolve to ask questions more, and lecture less
All too often, discussions on apologetics become the subject of unhealthy debate, with both sides talking past each other in angry tones. This is always going to be present to some degree, because the subject of theism versus atheism is a highly passionate one, and rightly so – it is very important. But sometimes, we talk past each other so much because we’ve made assumptions about the other person’s views, and are accidentally (or, God forbid, intentionally) misrepresenting their view. By asking questions, you direct the conversation, but in a way that lends attention to the other person, allowing you to understand their view more fully, and respond to it more appropriately. Additionally, by asking leading questions, you allow the individual you are dialoguing with to be led to the conclusions, rather than feeling like they’re being force-fed.
I resolve to read more from both sides
This is a resolution I will be working harder on this year, as well. This is a great time to be a Christian apologist, with more and more helpful resources coming out every year. God’s Crime Scene, which was released last year, is one of the most helpful introductory apologetics books I’ve read. Greg Koukl is releasing The Story of Reality next year, and that’s not even counting the numerous books that have been published in recent history or in years past. But just as we should be reading more books by apologetics, we should also be reading more works by atheists and agnostics. We cannot appropriately respond to the charges of skeptics if we don’t know them, and we cannot know them if we only hear them from other believers. Read what the skeptics have to say, so you can respond to their claims honestly and intelligently. Paul occasionally quoted pagan poets, and we, too, should learn to dialogue with those in the culture.
I resolve to start more conversations with unbelievers
Sometimes it’s very easy to be an internet apologist. We can write posts, retweet quotes, respond to comments, and engage in Facebook debates. Online communication can be a powerful tool. But are you using the same principles and engaging with those you know through face-to-face contact? These people are probably more likely to listen to what you have to say than strangers on the internet. Resolve to start more conversations for these people, even if it’s as simple as “What do you think about the Bible?” or “What do you think happens when you die?” As Jesus instructed the apostles to preach the good news to every creature, so should we be sharing it with everyone when we find the opportunity – face-to-face as well as through a screen.
I resolve to edify more Christians
The church needs apologetics just as much as it ever has. The challenges that Christians are facing from the culture are varied and numerous. From secular university campuses to political forces to a growing body of “nones” (the non-religious) among Millennials, Christians need to know that there are reasons for their faith. In some local congregations, there is minimal support for apologetics, either because church leadership has not prioritized it, or because most members are not knowledgeable in it. Especially if you find yourself in one of those local churches, start making efforts to help more Christians to be knowledgeable about apologetics. Talk to your elders or your minister about starting an apologetics study group. This could be done using curriculum by any number of apologists, or it could be as simple as reading through a book together and taking notes. In whatever shape it comes, do what you can to encourage learning apologetics among your fellow believers. Apologetics is not about fighting with atheists. It’s about sharing evidences for why we believe what we believe, and that’s just as necessary for those who are already Christians as it is for unbelievers.
I resolve to think of unbelievers as souls
Far too often, it’s easy for us to focus on being right, rather than being helpful. If we’re not careful, our efforts in apologetics can turn into an effort at winning an argument, rather than being an ambassador for Christ. This year, resolve to think first and foremost not about who is winning a particular argument or debate, but how you can be most helpful to the other person in whatever discussion you may be involved in. Pray for that other person. Think about things from their perspective. Ask questions so that you can understand their view as fully and completely as possible. Think about how you would like to be approached. Thinking of people as souls, whether we have disagreements with them or not, will help us to be the best ambassadors for Christ that we can possibly be.