Sean McDowell | April 21, 2018

Why Isn’t the Church More Eagerly Embracing Apologetics? Here’s an Idea!

Why Isn’t the Church More Eagerly Embracing Apologetics? Here’s an Idea!

Tom Gilson is a friend of mine. He is a blogger, writer, speaker, and church strategist. Like me, he cares deeply about the next generation. We are both convinced that apologetics training is vital for equipping this generation. Yet many churches resist. Why? To answer this question, we need YOUR help. Tom has a great idea to help figure out some of core reasons. Please enjoy the interview, and if you are a youth worker or apologist, consider helping us out. Trust me, it will be both fun and interesting.

SEAN MCDOWELL: Why is it important to introduce apologetics in the church?

TOM GILSON: Church members need to know there are good reasons for belief. We’ve always been instructed to be equipped (1 Pet. 3:15), but the urgency is growing in these days as education, the media, and social media become more saturated with anti-Christian messages. Young people are leaving the faith because they’re not convinced it’s true, and even not convinced it’s good. But it isn’t just young people. We all need that confidence.

MCDOWELL: Why hasn’t apologetics been well integrated into church ministry up until now, and what can be done about it?

GILSON: There’s a huge range of reactions to apologetics from church to church and pastor to pastor. Some welcome it, but some doubt it’s helpful, or even think it’s “argumentative.” One pastor told me he’d like to do more but he just doesn’t have time to study; which points straight at one crucial part of the problem: We expect too much of pastors. Or maybe they expect too much of themselves.

One way to help would be for churches to identify, equip and empower the members I call “lay apologists” — people who aren’t necessarily in church leadership, but care about apologetics and enjoy the study.

MCDOWELL: I find lay apologists in churches everywhere I travel, but I don’t always find them being effective in bringing apologetics into their churches. How can they do better with this?

GILSON: That’s a great question that deserves study. I’m working with a team of people at Project 360 and the Spiritual Readiness Project to launch a five-year plan to research why apologetics ministry hasn’t always been welcomed in churches, and what makes it work well when it does.

I’m sure there’s no single, one-size-fits-all answer, but if there were, it would be this. The more lay apologists can connect relationally with their churches’ pastoral leadership, the more effective they’re likely to be. Also, the more they can get on board with their pastors’ needs and concerns. Almost every pastoral concern includes some reason component that apologetics can speak to. Lay apologists need to become skillful in relationship-building and in matching their interests to existing pastoral concerns.

There are lots of other answers from the pastor’s side, things the pastor can initiate. More emphasis on evangelism would be one example. But that’s the one best answer I know of from the apologists’ side.

MCDOWELL: Is there anything lay apologists can do right now to help with your research — and to help bring apologetics into their own churches at the same time?

GILSON: Sure! We’re encouraging lay apologists everywhere to join in our “Take Your Pastor to Lunch” project during April. It’s a guided approach to a relationship-building connecting with their pastors, and with the feedback they bring us, it will give us important initial data for our five-year research project.

And honestly, it’s a lot of fun. It has been with the pastors I’ve connected with, that’s for sure. And it’s also a bridge to growing their own church-based apologetics ministry.

So join in with hundreds of other lay apologists, and take your pastor to lunch!

Sean McDowell, Ph.D. is a professor of Christian Apologetics at Biola University, a best-selling author, popular speaker, and part-time high school teacher. Follow him on Twitter: @sean_mcdowell, TikTok, Instagram, and his blog: