Why Christian Apologists Should Study Preaching
by Matt Rawlings
I’m a raging nerd who loves to attend Christian apologetic conferences and to hear noted defenders of the faith speak. Unfortunately, as a preacher of fifteen years and an attorney with more than ten years under his belt, what I have discovered is that a lot of great apologists are not so great communicators.
I’ve seen the best Christian minds try to present too much, assume too much knowledge from their audience, speak too long, etc. I have become convinced that all apologists who present in public need to take some time to study the art of preaching (or what pretentious seminarians call “homiletics.)
If an apologist could only read one book in the field, I would recommend Andy Stanley and Lane Jones’ Communicating for a Change (Multnomah 2006). I may not agree with Andy’s approach to church but he is a gifted communicator. In Communicating for a Change, he and Lane Jones have essentially condensed the fine work of preaching professors like Fred Craddock, David Buttrick, William Willimon, Walter Brueggemann (isn’t that name fun to say?), Haddon Robinson and others.
Here are the seven points Stanley and Jones argue every preacher should follow:
1) Determine your goal;
2) Pick a point;
3) Create a map;
4) Internalize the message;
5) Engage your audience;
6) Find your voice;
7) Start all over.
Now because there is a lot to cover and because, as you will see from point number two, that it is wise only to discuss one point per presentation (and I’ve seen even the best apologists try to cover as many as eight in an hour…BIG MISTAKE), this will be a seven-point series on what we lowly, under appreciated apologists can learn from preaching professionals. We begin with “determine your goal.”
Before you even begin to work on your apologetic presentation you must determine your goal. In other words, ask yourself, “What is it that I am truly trying to do when I speak on an apologetic topic?” (and, again, it should just be one but more on that tomorrow).
Stanley and Jones challenge a pastor to consider the following questions before writing out their sermon: “So what?” and “Now what?” We should not seek to inform without making sure that our audience can do something for the Kingdom with our presentation.
Let’s say you are going to teach on the Kalam Cosmological argument for God. The argument, as you know, goes something like this…
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