Don Johnson Interviews Lee Strobel on Evangelism and Apologetics
Recently I had the privilege of sitting down with Lee Strobel to talk about evangelism and apologetics.
Donald Johnson: Thanks very much for joining me, Lee.
So we are meeting right now at an apologetics conference where you are the keynote speaker. I’m sure that’s no surprise to anyone, as you are widely considered one of world’s premier defenders of the faith. Interestingly to me, though, the last time we were together, you were speaking at a conference for a group of evangelists. There you shared that you actually consider yourself first and foremost an evangelist rather than an apologist. I really resonated with that, as it describes my own approach to ministry as well. How important is it, do you think, that apologetics and evangelism be tightly intertwined?
Lee Strobel: I think apologetics without evangelism is a bit of a wasted effort. When I was at Willow Creek Church, we had an apologetics team called “The Defenders,” but we didn’t just say, “Go study in a room and learn a bunch of stuff.” We wanted them using that knowledge to really lead people to Christ. It’s been said that apologetics is the handmaiden of evangelism and I think that’s true. I’m passionate to reach people for Christ; that’s my goal. It’s not to win an argument, it’s not to try to play point-counter-point with a skeptic but to try to reach them with the gospel and try to lead them into a relationship with Jesus Christ. So I do see myself not as an apologist but as an evangelist who employs apologetics.
For example, in my evangelism class at Houston Baptist University my emphasis is on how to naturally and effectively share your faith with unbelievers and along the way help them find answers to tough questions that are keeping them from putting their trust in Christ. We definitely cover apologetics, but in the service of evangelism.
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So I think you are right, the two have to mix; the two have to complement each other. It’s kind of sad when we see apologists who know a lot but don’t know how to share it in a meaningful, natural way to someone who’s got authentic questions. One of the aspects of your ministry that I really appreciate is that you actually engage with skeptics. That is a skill set we need to develop more in the Christian community. That’s one of the reasons, by the way, that I’ve made your book How to Talk to a Skeptic required reading in my class. It really does a great job of using apologetics evangelistically.
DJ: Your heart for the lost is really clear in this quote from your wonderful book, The Unexpected Adventure: “This is what gets me up in the morning: the thought that somehow, in some way, God might take this seemingly routine day and surprise me with an opportunity to tell someone about the good news that has the power to turn their life inside out.” Could you comment on that and how apologetics plays a part in opening those doors to adventure?