As a young teenager, I was introduced to apologetics. I think it was a little like love at first sight. I was fascinated by this story woven from facts and logic that presented evidence for a Christian worldview. Immediately, I began to think of people I knew who needed to hear this information. I brainstormed ways to present the case to them as I furiously scribbled notes.
Apologetics, in my mind, meant going on the offensive. I was going to destroy arguments and topple secular ideas. Apologetics, then, was for “them.”
Thankfully, in the days since then, I’ve grown wiser. Although at times I miss that youthful zeal, I now have a better understanding of what apologetics is and who it’s for. And it’s not just the unbeliever. All the fascinating facts you learn and the deep understanding you gain can be used to grow your own relationship with God.
Besides your personal growth, though, as a corporate whole the Church needs apologetics. Here’s why.
The Church Needs to Know What We Believe
Have you ever experienced a time when a debate was raging about some hot topic, you were hanging on the outside of the circle just listening, then someone turns to you and says, “Hey, what do you think?”
And you completely freeze up. Totally caught off guard.
The whole group twists to stare at you, awaiting your answer. You feel like a kid in school again, when the teacher calls on you at the worst possible moment. You feel trapped, and start wondering if there’s a way to trigger the smoke alarm without anyone knowing.
This is a majorly uncomfortable situation to be in, yet it’s all too common, isn’t it? If you ever venture outside your Christian circles (or even within them!), people with differing positions certainly ask you for your thoughts, opinions, or beliefs. How many times in the past 3 months have you found yourself caught off guard, unsure what your answer would be?
The Church needs apologetics because we need to diligently work to establish our foundation in the truth. It’s vital for our spiritual growth and our daily lives in this world.
The Church Needs to Know How What We Believe is Different
In today’s world, two extremes tend to be popular ways of viewing the truth. The first is to attempt to blend all religions, worldviews, and opinions into “one truth.” This often manifests in arguments that “we’re all basically saying/believing the same thing.” Another common perspective is to celebrate the diversity of each person’s unique truth, and validate them all as equal. We know that neither of these perspectives is accurate, but do we know how to explain difference?
It’s not enough for us to know what we believe. We also must be well aware of how what we believe differs from what others believe. It’s even possible to start within the Christian faith. Do you know what your denomination believes that’s different from other denominations? If you’re non-denominational, this still applies!
Turning to other worldviews and religions, how would you answer if someone asked you what the difference was between Christianity and New Age spirituality? Between Christianity and Mormonism?
You don’t necessarily need to become an expert on world religions. You should, however, have a basic understanding of what others believe differently than you. The good news is, you don’t always have to break out the textbooks or resort to Google’s rabbit holes. Just ask a neighbor, coworker, classmate, or friend! Or even that pesky person on Twitter. Practice asking great questions and active listening and you will learn much about what “the other side” believes. Then jot down some comparison notes. What are the differences at an underlying level? What does the other person believe about evil, hope, and justice? This will affect everything else they believe, do, and say. The Church needs apologetics to help us understand others’ situations and how their beliefs differ from our own.
The Church Needs to Know How to Communicate With the World
You’ve heard it before, but it’s worth repeating: God left His Church in the world for a mission–to share the truth with others. Our primary means of sharing this truth is through communication, so it’s vital that we all seek to improve in this area. Having the foundational knowledge described above is essential, but once we have it (and indeed, while we’re developing it), we must apply it.
Going beyond mere social skills, we the Church need to know how to navigate sticky situations that will arise and how to steer conversations to the truth. Recently, Christian media has been abuzz with differing reactions to singer Lauren Daigle’s response about homosexuality in an interview. My reactions were varied, but my takeaway is simple: Lauren needed to be better prepared to handle tough situations like this. She should’ve anticipated “trap” questions, just like Jesus dealt with constantly, and should’ve been planning how she would respond. We “ordinary people” should, as well.
In closing, I’ll share a brief personal example that encapsulates all three of these areas. Some frequent visitors on my college campus are a small group of radicals, who stand with provocative picket signs that say something about God hating all gays and “you’re going to hell.” They position themselves strategically in front of a busy building around lunch time, and yell, preach, and get into shouting matches with students. Students either ignore them completely, rushing by; stop and engage, by cursing and insulting the protesters; or they chat with other students about what’s going on. The third group provides an excellent opportunity for the Christian to communicate what he or she believes, how it’s different from the protesters, and in so doing, share the gospel.
Opportunities like these can be prepared for, and each member of your church can encounter and take advantage of opportunities in their own lives. How is your church doing on training its members in this area? What could YOU do to help prepare others?