Dear Pastor: Apologetics is a standard operating feature of Gospel-centered ministry
by Ross Inman
Let me begin by making a claim that many will find rather contentious: Apologetic ministry—the ministry of commending and defending the “faith which was once for all handed down to the saints” (Jude 3)—is a vital and essential part of Gospel-centered, New Testament ministry. To many evangelical laity and non-laity alike, this claim not only lacks the clear ring of truth, but it is much too strong, as it needlessly saddles “ordinary” followers of Christ with the responsibility of being seriously intellectually engaged with ideas. Here, I briefly underscore the Scriptural grounding of apologetic ministry, and why the consistent New Testament witness is that such ministry is an essential component of impactful, Gospel-centered ministry.
In both its noun (apologia) and verb (apologeomai) form, the word “apologia,” from which we get the English word “apologetics,” is used a total of 13 times in the New Testament. To give an apologia for the truth of Christianity both as a set of beliefs and as a way of life is to speak (lego) away (apo) charges brought against it. The word “apologia” is most frequently translated as “defense” in the New Testament and is often used in a legal context as a defendant’s reasoned reply to various accusations (see Paul in Acts 22:1; 25:16; 26:1-2).
I am convinced that the consistent New Testament witness is that pastoral ministry minimally involves both the engagement with and the refutation of ideas and patterns of thinking that are contrary to the Gospel. While a fully-orbed, New Testament portrait of pastoral ministry involves much more than apologetic ministry, it most certainly involves nothing less…
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