21 Evangelism Lessons for the 21st Century – Lesson 13
In the very first of this series of blogs, I wrote, “We need to do a better job equipping all Christians in the skills of evangelism and apologetics.” I want to expand upon that here. Since conversion is a communal experience, people on their way to faith interact with many Christians before crossing the line. They hear gospel content from many voices. And they don’t seem to give greater authority to “experts” than they do to friends. In fact, it may be just the opposite.
And so, we need to equip all Christians to answer questions with greater clarity and theological accuracy. The good news is that the apologetic and theological resources available today are better and more plentiful than before. The bad news is that the questions are tougher than before.
Apologetics is for all Christians and is both harder and easier than ever before.
First, apologetics is for all Christians. If ever there was the assumption that only “experts” needed to be trained in answering tough questions, those days are past. We need to equip all believers to “always be ready to give a defense” because, in most cases, the non-experts are more likely to be asked the questions. Outsiders don’t trust pastors, evangelists, campus ministers, and other polished professionals.
Along with grounding new believers in the essentials of the faith like assurance of salvation, means of grace for further growth, etc., we need to include things that are no less essential – preparation for persecution, equipping for answering skeptics’ questions, modeling of deep theological study, and strategizing for dealing with inevitable doubts. What used to be considered “intermediate” or “advanced” lessons now needs to be treated as “primary.”
Second, Apologetics is harder than it used to be. The questions used to gravitate toward historical issues (e.g. “What proof is there for the resurrection of Jesus?” or “Are the New Testament documents reliable?” or “Doesn’t archeology contradict the Bible?”) or philosophical issues (e.g. “What evidence is there for the existence of God?” or “How can a good God allow evil and pain?” or “Aren’t all religions the same?”).
But today’s questions are more accusations than questions (e.g. “Why are Christians so homophobic?” or “Aren’t Christians responsible for much of the world’s problems?” or “How can you be so arrogant as to believe yours is the only way?”) and more anger than inquiry (e.g. “Look at all the sexual abuse that is done by clergy” or “My brother’s gay and you’re not going to tell me that his love for his partner is any less beautiful than your heterosexual marriage!”).
Today’s apologetics includes far more pre-pre-pre-evangelism than ever. We need to train people to have a conversation about the conversation before having the conversation. I’ll elaborate about this in the next blog, Lesson 14.
Third, apologetics is easier than before because no one needs to feel they’re in the battle alone. There is a remarkable wealth of apologetic resources on the web. The young believers in your youth group or college fellowship may not need to know all the answers. How could they? But they could know a few places to point people so they can hear the answers from people like William Lane Craig or Greg Koukl or people who contribute to The Gospel Coalition and Ravi Zacharias International Ministries. Just sitting down with young Christians in front of their computers and going to some of these websites could introduce them to the “back up” they’ll need when they’re talking to their friends.
The fear of being stumped stops many Christians from starting the evangelistic process. They think they need to be as good at answering atheists as John Lennox. But they could “bring” John Lennox into their conversations by taking out their phone and playing a YouTube clip of him – anywhere, anytime. We can encourage them to consider their evangelistic encounters to be learning experiences for both them and the inquirers. It’s OK for them to say, “I don’t know. But I know of a YouTube video that might help us both.”
Things are more difficult than ever but the resources are more plentiful and accessible than ever. Better still, I think non-Christians are searching more than ever.