From the website "Dyer Thoughts: Coffee Table Apologetics" by Billy Dyer. Reprinted with permission.
Chances are if you are reading this blog post then you are interested in apologetics at some level. Also, it could be that you consider yourself an apologist and love to teach this stuff. But we have all run into "THE PROBLEM"! That is, the local church doesn't share our same passion for Apologetics and even looks at it with disdain. The leaders are skeptical, or even hostile, to the idea of having it taught at church. At this point we are lost at what to do next.
I am a Preacher by profession and an Apologist by hobby. I have been successful at getting apologetics accepted into multiple churches and I teach it on a regular basis at Severn Christian Church (Severn, MD) where I preach. So I want to give you a few tips from a Church Leadership perspective on how to get the church to accept their need for apologetics.
1. Become A Servant--Jesus said we needed to become servants of all (Mark 9:35) if we want to be first. I cannot stress this enough. Teaching is a privilege not a right. I want to see that you have been actively engaged in our other classes before you decide you want to teach your own. The Church is not an outpost for you to build your ministry. That is a selfish mindset. If there is one thing that gets on my nerves it is the person who doesn't show up to any church Bible study but then wants everyone to come to his event. Reality Check...you and I are not the Savior of the Body. I am the preacher of a church that averages around 300 people but I still sit in Sunday School class because I learn from our teachers. When it is my turn to teach I believe they have more respect to learn from me because I have learned from them.
2. Become an Active Member--As a church leader I don't care if a guy wants to come in and teach theology. If I don't know him as an active member then I will always be skeptical of him. Why is this guy here? What motives does he have? Remember the church leaders are there to guard the flocks from wolves so don't get mad at them. If, on the other hand, I see that you have been engaged in other classes and serving behind the scenes then I will know your motives are pure. Also, when people continually see your face then they get to know you. If they get to know you then they are more willing to come to your class.
3. Build Relationships--The old axiom is true; People won't care how much you know until they know how much you care. The Church is not the same thing as the College. We all aspire to be a Bill Craig or Gary Habermas. But people in the church don't always need or want syllogisms. They need others to help them bear their burdens (Gal 6:2). If you are only there to teach a class and go home then you might as well just go straight home. Apologetics are only useful to help people accept the Word of God so that the Word can do it's work in their hears (Heb 4:12; Rom 10:17). People won't want to hear your syllogisms until they hear you pray for them first.
4. Be Humble--As apologists our engines run on the fuel of cold hard facts and we have the knowledge to burn some tires. With this mindset we are easy victims for the sin of pride. Sometimes the lines between confidence and arrogance get blurry. Are we really that arrogant to think we are that important? We see our names on a list of Sunday School teachers or Small Group leaders and think everyone needs to be in our class because we are the best!! We might be the best but nobody wants to be taught by an arrogant snob. Therefore, guard yourselves.
5. Be Patient--Yes, we would all love to walk into a church and start teaching our class on the Teleological Argument or the Minimal Facts Case for the Resurrection. But let's get real. No organization works like this. Everyone must pay their dues. Jesus said we need to be faithful with a little if we want to be responsible of much (Lk 19:17). You have to give it some time for people to get to know you. You also have the give the leaders some time to warm up to your idea. One of the best principles I have learned as a leader is that TIMING is sometimes more important than what you are doing. Let us realize as apologists we might be a few years ahead of the curve. We need to approach it as low pressure constantly applied rather than come in guns blazing.
6. Establish the Need First--As much as I love to teach apologetics, I also need to be sensitive to the need. It is not wrong for a person skip all the apologetics arguments and believe directly upon Jesus based on the Scriptures. God has set eternity and a moral law code on our hearts to point to Him (Ecc 3:11; Romans 2:14-16). If you are in a smaller church, made up of mostly elderly people in the country, then chances are they won't see the need for apologetics because there isn't one. At this point praise God, don't get discouraged. I love meeting people who already accept the Bible and want to worship God because that is who God is looking for (John 4:23). Be happy and move on until you find a place that does need it.
7. Approach the Leaders--After you establish the need you must approach the leaders before you start anything formal. If you want to crush your goals before you get started then just start your own thing without approaching the leaders. Remember it is their job to protect the flock. All leaders are not evil and stupid simply because they disagree with your assessments. Maybe we are the ones wrong sometimes!!! If you approach them you automatically gain respect because you show a willingness to submit to their authority (Heb 13:17). Give them a chance to feel you out and understand your position on the major areas. This will make them a lot more comfortable to support your class. If you have done the previous steps then you will have a greater likelihood of success when you reach this point.
8. Explain how it fits into the mission of the local church--All organizations, including the church, needs a vision. At Severn Christian Church our mission statement is, "Equipping Saints to Make Disciples". Our five-year goal is to pay off our debt and begin church planting. I was able to perfectly weave apologetics into the church's mission which gave the leaders every reason to accept it. I explained the diversity of our congregation culturally and in age. I showed how our people want to evangelize but they are intimidated by the questions of the skeptical world. Then I gave them a brief sample of how an apologetics class can help Equip them (notice I used the key word) to Make Disciples (key words again) by being able to more effectively evangelize. If they evangelize more then we have a greater chance of growing numerically. If we grow numerically we can fulfill our mission of church planting.
9. Be willing to accept a no--How does this help us teach a class? Because it shows maturity and respect. As a leader I am a lot more willing to work with someone I know is able to lay aside their personal convictions in order to achieve what the collective leadership has decided is best for the church. If, as apologists, we accept a No at first then we can be patient, continue to build report, and maybe one day the No will turn into a Yes.
10. Pray--I hate to sound cliche but oh well, I said it. We often forget the ability of God to turn the hearts and minds of people. Keep praying that God will help a congregation see the need for apologetics if they really need one. Never underestimate the power of our God to answer prayer.
Billy Dyer is a leader for Ratio Christi at Morgan State University, a preacher, and a teacher.
Content in blogs does not necessarily represent Ratio Christi’s views. Details