Community Apologetics – one model
by Paul Buller
This month the CAA has featured a series of articles on community apologetics. I throw my hat into the ring with this little piece describing the history of a community apologetics group I am involved in.
Back in 2009 the original “Atheist bus ads” came to Calgary, Canada. They were placed throughout much of Europe and North America. You may remember them, “There probably is no God…” etc, etc.
When the ads came out I was really curious what kind of response we could expect from churches in my city. I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that there would be a whole host of excellent responses at the many high calibre Christian apologetics websites on the internet, maybe even a book or two by the many top-notch authors in the field, but what would be the local church’s response? Well, it wasn’t particularly good. In fact, it wasn’t particularly bad either. Frankly, it just wasn’t. There was virtually no concerted response, though I do recall that there were a few minimalistic efforts of a response here or there, but I do not recall them being widely applied, widely received, or well presented. I think the Muslims did a better job if I recall correctly, but it has been a few years for memory to fade.
That bothered me. Here I was, neck-deep in Apologetics related material, able to intelligently dialogue with those who attacked my faith, yet the churches around me seemed utterly disconnected from my world. Then it dawned on me, they were disconnected because of the very nature of my Apologetics world. I read books written by authors from all over the world. I frequented websites from the USA, England, even Australia. My entire Apologetics world was geographically nonspecific. It occurred to me that the vast wealth of Apologetics material that existed in the virtual world of books and websites needed to be brought down to the local, geographic, church. A bridge needed to be built between the wealth of apologetics resources that existed in the “global village,” and the many souls that needed to hear about this material in my own backyard.
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How dire was this need? At about the same time I did a little speaking in various churches around town. When I would speak I would tend to focus more an academic subject matter, often (though not always) with an apologetics spin on the material. In every single case, without exception, I would have at least one or two people come up to me after and thank me, deeply thank me, for sharing on these tough subjects. They had been thinking about these issues but nobody else ever talked about them. Their gratitude extended well beyond customary pleasantries one expects after being a guest speaker. Yes, the need was great.
As if these factors were not enough, I had another motivation for establishing a localized apologetics ministry that exists primarily off the internet; the possibility of face-to-face interactions. It has been observed (for example, here) that internet discussions tend to get far nastier far quicker than discussions over coffee. I concur on this tendency for I have seen it in myself. People have a tendency to behave themselves, more or less, when they are in the physical presence of another person, but will be much quicker to fly off the handle when they speak from their platform in the virtual world. Having a geographically centered ministry brings the entire discussion right into the backyard of whoever you are dialoguing with, so it tends to stay far more cordial for much longer.
As soon as the suggestion was made to launch some kind of localized apologetics ministry it took off and hasn’t slowed down since. The Network of Christian Apologists in Calgary (NCAC) was born and continues to grow…
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Part Eight: How To Get Apologetics In Your Local Church 2