Today is the official release of my newest book A New Kind of Apologist. One of the unique chapters, written by my friend Mark Mittelberg, is about how to motivate people in the church to care about apologetics. Enjoy part 1 below, in which Mark focuses on equipping church leaders. Part 2 will be about motivating church members.
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By Mark Mittelberg:
How can we help more and more Christians catch the infectious spirit that we’ve already caught? What can we do to motivate our brothers and sisters in Christ to “be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks… with gentleness and respect”?
Let’s look at some ways we can motivate several different groups of people: church leaders, church members, parents and grandparents, and students. Then we’ll end by discussing what should motivate us to do all of this.
Motivating Church Leaders to “Give an Answer”
Whether or not you’re a leader in your church, a key to helping any congregation reach its evangelistic and apologetic potential is helping its top leaders, especially the senior pastor, to increasingly adopt and live out these values in their own lives.
There’s no getting around the axiom: Speed of the leader, speed of the team. People don’t do what the leaders sayas much as they do what the leaders do. That’s why evangelist and apologist Lee Strobel says that senior leaders invariably “set the evangelistic high-water mark” for their church or ministry.
As Jesus explained in Luke 6:40: “The student is not above the teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like their teacher.”
So how can we “lead up,” helping those who shepherd our churches to set the bar high in these areas? Here are some ideas.
Give Old-Fashioned Encouragement
While many leaders will be guarded about being challenged in an area outside their expertise, almost all are receptive to genuine encouragement. So, as Ken Blanchard advises in his classic book The One-Minute Manager, try to catch them doing something right! Whenever they teach, tell a story, or recommend a resource in the area of apologetics or evangelism, affirm them. Tell them how encouraging you thought it was, or how you saw it helping someone else. Reinforce what you’d like to see more of. Your enthusiasm alone will help energize them.
Provide Key Information
Leaders will be spurred to action if we expose them to studies and statistics that show how our society is becoming increasingly secular, and how so many church members—especially students—are walking away from their faith. For example, research by the Barna Group revealed that intellectual concerns underlie half of the top six reasons that young Christians gave for why they are leaving the church.1Information like this, gently delivered, can heighten the leaders’ awareness of this problem and stir their desire to do something about it.
Expose Them to Great Information and Tools
Many teachers and leaders avoid apologetics, not necessarily because they don’t find it important, but because they don’t feel equipped in this area. Often that’s because they’re not aware of the many articles, books, seminars, and online resources that could quickly help them come up to speed. You can become a solution to this problem. If you provide timely, relevant, and measured information to help them with upcoming messages or classes, you’ll help them succeed in this area and feel a growing sense of excitement to teach about it further. But don’t miss a key word in that list: measured. That means you need to be careful not to overload them with too much information. They might need a chapter, or an article, or even a well-crafted paragraph or two—but rest assured they don’t want you to haul your five-volume encyclopedia of philosophy into their study!
Provide Living Examples
They might not come right out and say it, but some church leaders suspect that apologetics is mostly an intellectual exercise for eggheads and not highly relevant for the average believer. We need to prove them wrong—first, by showing how the evidence often helps clear the path for people to come to Christ, and second, by introducing them to the stories of people who have come to faith, in part, by having their intellectual questions answered. These could include classic testimonies of people such as Lee Strobel (The Case for Christ), Josh McDowell (More than a Carpenter), J. Warner Wallace (Cold-Case Christianity), Holly Ordway (Not God’s Type), or Nabeel Qureshi (Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus). Ideally, you should also feature people from your own church or community whose journey toward Christ has been helped by apologetics. Hearing such accounts, and seeing the examples right before their eyes, makes it hard to argue about whether or not apologetics is still relevant today.
Offer Godly Exhortation
This must be used sparingly, and only after prayer and preparation, but there is a place for challenging a leader to do more in these areas. This must be done in private and in a spirit of humility—and always with the offer to help become part of the solution to the problem you’re raising. Don’t go to complain and lay a burden on them; instead, go to raise an important need and to help them seize opportunities to make a difference.
Practice Focused Prayer
It’s interesting to note that the passage we quoted earlier, where Paul talked about demolishing arguments and taking thoughts captive, begins with a discussion about spiritual warfare. One verse earlier, Paul said, “For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds” (2 Corinthians 10:3-4). Paul explained elsewhere, “Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12). So while the intellectual angle is important, we must engage in the spiritual battle as well by praying for God’s wisdom and intervention—including in our efforts to sound the alarm about the importance of apologetics and evangelism.
Check out tomorrow's post for Part 2 on how to motivate church members to care about apologetics. And if you're interested in learning more about how to do apologetics effectively today, check out A New Kind of Apologist.
Learn more about Mark Mittelberg, including his writing and speaking ministry Here.
Sean McDowell, Ph.D. is a professor of Christian Apologetics at Biola University, a best-selling author of over 15 books, and internationally recognized speaker, and a part-time high school teacher. Follow him on Twitter: @sean_mcdowell and his blog: seanmcdowell.org