Apologists in Church

by Tom Gilson*

I made a new friend over lunch today, the missions pastor at the church my brother attends, about half an hour from our home. Among other things we talked about the up and down sides of dealing with apologists in church. There are both.

The Apologists’ Vocational Hazard…

I was the one who stated the down side, ironically enough. Shawn kept coming around to why it was important anyway. The problem as I see it is not with apologetics but with how it’s presented. We apologists like to have answers. It’s a vocational hazard of our business. And that’s okay when it’s connected with the right questions.

What’s annoying, in contrast, is the person who comes along and tells the pastor, “I have the answer to your problems — and by the way, I know what your problem is, too: not enough apologetics.” I asked Shawn if he had encountered that, and sad to say he had to say yet.

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… and the Pastors’

Where this approach goes most obviously wrong is in forgetting that every pastor has as many bosses as he has church members (maybe even more!), and most of them think they know his job better than he does. It is a hugely difficult task, probably even impossible, to tailor a message to the wide range of people in most congregations, or youth groups, or whatever part of a church any pastor may be responsible for. Compare that to how easy it is to criticize, and to tell a pastor something is missing, and you get an idea what a pastor’s job must be like.

So for someone else to come along with some bright idea for apologetics isn’t likely to impress most pastors — especially if that person has been inflicted with that other great apologists’ hazard of thinking he’s smarter than others.

Working To Help One Another

Still, as Shawn insisted (and of course I didn’t disagree!) apologetics must be part of a church’s ministry. It’s crucial to members’ strength of faith. It’s vital to youth. Presented rightly, they love it! I don’t recall exactly how he put it, but the idea was that if we put good questions before them, they’re all over it. Parents are key to students’ growth in this area, too, he said, and I strongly agree…

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RC*Tom Gilson is the National Field Director for Ratio Christi, responsible for training and supporting the Regional and Chapter Directors. Tom was on staff with Cru (Campus Crusade for Christ) for over 30 years and has wide ranging experience as a ministry strategist, writer, teacher, HR leader, blogger, and apologist. He has a Masters degree in Industrial and Organizational Psychology from the University of Central Florida. He has served ministry strategist and writer for the the Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview, also known as BreakPoint and has done strategic and organizational consulting work for Josh McDowell Ministry, the JESUS Film Project, InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, and other ministries as well as local churches. MORE >>>