I’m a big fan of apologetics (the defense of the Christian faith), but I don’t think we should always treat it as a separate enterprise. It is good to have whole sessions on apologetics, especially because it is so often ignored in churches, and I’m a huge fan of sites like Apologetics315 and people like the Wintery Knight. But I prefer to integrate it into most of my lessons so people can grasp the basics and see that it is part of the fabric of our message.
We may not all have the job of evangelist, but as 1 Peter 3:15-16 notes, all Christians are to be apologists.
but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.
But that doesn’t mean apologetics can’t be a regular part of our lessons and sermons. For example, when teaching anything in church, or even in general conversations as appropriate, I aim to reflexively weave in basic apologetic themes.
- The minimal facts: “Virtually all historians agree on key facts about Jesus and his followers, such as Jesus death on a Roman cross, his followers’ belief that He rose from the dead, and Paul’s conversion and his authorship of key books attributed to him such as Romans. We have good reasons to infer that Jesus rising from the dead is the best explanation for these facts.”
- Distinctions about biblical faith: We don’t have blind faith; we have a faith grounded in evidence. See how the Gospel was shared in the book of Acts. Over and over it was based on references to Jesus’ resurrection, not appeals to believe without evidence or reason.”
- The robust transmission process of the texts: “Even atheist textual critics will concede that we know what the original writings of the Bible said to 99%+ accuracy, and 100% on major doctrines.”
- Our simple claim: “The original writings of the Bible turned out exactly the way God and the writers wanted them to. Yes, men can make mistakes, but they don’t always make mistakes. Our biblical claim is that God directed the process.” You can go on at length about the Bible being inerrant, infallible and inspired — and I agree with all of those — but I’ve found that the simple summation gets people to realize that if God can do anything He can surely communicate his original texts to us the way He wanted to.
Note how simple and brief those are. They can lead to deeper conversations, but those alone can help change people from the errant “blind faith” mindset and get them to think more carefully about apologetics.
I do the same thing with the basic Gospel message. No matter what I’m teaching, I try to note how we are saved by grace, through faith, and not by works. This needs to be a constant reminder.
I urge you to weave these simple apologetic and Gospel concepts into your lessons and conversations. Even if it doesn’t lead the hearers to deeper apologetics studies, at least they will have clear reminders of the basics and will hopefully keep them from saying incorrect things.
What simple themes do you seek to work into lessons and conversations?