Apologetics in a Rural Setting
by Shelby Cade
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What are some approaches to doing apologetics in the Church and why engage in apologetics in the first place? I will tackle the second question first. First, it has already been stated that apologetics is necessary in order to give a defense against those who would promote a different worldview (2 Corinthians 10:5). A second good reason for doing apologetics is the edification of God’s people. Ultimately, we are interested in truth, and apologetics not only builds the body of Christ, but also provides confidence to the person engaged in apologetic ministry. The third and final reason we do apologetics is to lead others to Christ. We should never be so consumed with winning an argument that we miss the opportunity to share the good news of Jesus. Apologetics is not undertaken for selfish reasons, but ultimately to present Christ to a lost and dying world (see Acts 17:16-34).
I’m sure there are many approaches to making apologetics available in the church. I will share some of the ways I have brought apologetics not only to the local body, but also to the community. I live in a rural farming community and have found that apologetics needs to be tailored to the needs of my community. In other words, some of the issues in a rural community will play a little bit differently than they might in an urban area. Having said this, I must add that many apologetic issues cut across cultural differences and are helpful for all to share and think about.
The first technique I incorporated was to ask challenging questions. Those who would call Christianity into question constantly bombard us in today’s culture. I have found that challenging and relevant questions have drawn interest into a wide variety of apologetic subjects. When individuals in the church see the need for apologetics and understand that the Christian has solid answers, the launching pad for starting apologetics is established within the local church.
One of the specific ways I have addressed meeting the need for apologetics within the church is simply by starting Bible studies on a variety of subjects. For example, I have led studies on world religions, and have addressed or touched on a variety of different subjects. I have also tried to keep up with current cultural apologetic issues (abortion, homosexual marriage, orthodox Christianity, Darwinian evolution, relativism) in order to work them into lessons. Some of the lessons or Bible studies being taught may not specifically center on a current apologetic issue, but with the present skepticism in our society, apologetics can always be worked in.
There are many resources for conducting studies on apologetic issues. One of the best ways to start an apologetic study is simply to gather information on a certain topic and create your own curriculum. Many Internet sources can be utilized, and the best part is most are free. I have led studies in which the class receives both a handout summary of the subject at hand, and a separate sheet to fill in the answers to various questions. There are books that could be utilized, many with questions in the back. Videos are also useful for apologetic ministry. Lee Strobel’s Faith Under Fire series and Ben Stein’s video Expelledare both excellent resources. Many apologetic videos have curriculum that accompanies the video. One video series that has received high reviews is The Truth Project. This particular series, and its curriculum, addresses many relevant issues of our day. There are multiple other avenues for bringing apologetic lessons into the local church, including MP3’s and CD’s, which can be listened to and discussed.
One of the methods by which I share apologetics, with not only the church but also the community and beyond, is through writing. Serving in a rural community has afforded me the opportunity to write weekly apologetic articles (Just Thinking Apologetics) in the local paper. I initially thought this approach would have little effect in our small community, but was surprised to see that even in a small town, people crave answers for challenges to the Christian worldview. Individuals from various denominations – even some whom are not Christian – come to me with questions.
A blog titled Flatland Apologetics is my second form of writing that extends apologetics to the church and beyond. I encourage the church to check out not only my blog, but also others to gain answers to those who question Christianity. Starting an apologetic blog also encouraged me in God’s truth, having to do more intensive study, and provided confidence in the truthfulness of the Christian worldview as well. Anyone can start a blog and if one is interested in apologetics, this is a great outlet to challenge and dialogue with those who don’t know the Lord.
Preparing apologetic talks is just another tool for reaching out to the church and others who would be interested. I have developed a series of 13 PowerPoint presentations that can be shared with anyone. The talks center on relevant topics that frequently confront the Church, such as, “Did Jesus Rise from the Dead?” and “Did the Universe Come into Being by Accident?” Not only have I shared in the local church, but I’ve had the opportunity to share across denominational lines. One word of caution for those who present and teach – keep it relevant and short. I always need to realize that many do not share the same passion as I for apologetics, so my talks should be tailored to the audience I’m addressing. There is nothing worse that presenting a long-winded talk that flies right over the audience’s head. If you present an apologetic talk, make sure it has content designed to catch the eye and the ear.
Encouraging others within the church to take classes on-line, or through a local university, is just another way to bring apologetics into the church. Many courses are offered on-line, either free, or through a particular university. Many community colleges offer World Religion or Philosophy classes that can be taken to sharpen one’s perspective. It seems that many in the Church are sheltered, leaving them vulnerable to those who would question Christianity. If the Church is going to have answers, it is important to know “where the other side is coming from.”
The last approach, which I hope to take to the future, is to organize an apologetic conference or debate. Many large churches have done this and it is beneficial for God’s people to see that the Christian apologist has effective answers to those who are skeptical of Christianity. After all, we are fighting for, and defending, truth when presenting the Christian worldview.
Apologetic issues confront us daily, whether it’s in the news or at the office. Never before has apologetics been so necessary in America as it is now. If any Christian has a desire to start apologetic work in the church, he or she can find almost unlimited resources to do so. Having the heart and passion to bring apologetics to the local body is the first step.
The Apostle Peter said, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.” It is the last part that all of us need to concentrate on. Apologetics must be done with the heart of lost in mind. Apologetics is crucial for today, but not at the expense of turning someone away from the good news by simply trying to win an argument. There are many avenues for starting apologetics in the local body; all that is needed is the desire and passion to get started.