Creating confident witnesses—A new strategy for church growth

The modern church is under intellectual attack. The university is the breeding ground of skepticism, secularism, atheism, and neo-Darwinism. In the past, this was a relatively non-toxic situation. Intellectuals at the university used to simply dismiss Christianity as anti-intellectual, but all that has changed. Today they are on the attack and they are aggressively recruiting students to their cause. Neo-atheists are now proselytizing with the zeal of evangelists. They have a coordinated effort and use the same language and the same arguments from Oxford to Appalachia.

What is happening at the university is a preview of what will happen to the culture at-large. Alvin Plantinga, a Christian philosopher said, “The contemporary Western intellectual world is a battleground…in which rages a battle for men’s souls.” That is the battle the church faces today. Out of necessity, the church must engage the culture intellectually, and that is why Christianity is heading into the Age of the Apologist.

Now that the neo-atheists are evangelizing our youth, some churches have begun to wonder what to do. Up until recently the church has largely ignored apologetics. But with young people leaving the church in droves, and church members hungering to have answers to the questions being poised by friends, neighbors, and even their own kids, some churches have started to look to apologists for answers. Yet, very few churches have sought to utilize apologists as part of their team strategy to protect their membership, or to reach their community for Christ. In fact, most of the graduates with Masters Degrees in apologetics find that churches have been a closed door.

Some churches have turned to apologetic ministries that offer speakers and material to train their people in apologetics, but the resources of these ministries are limited. Speakers can only travel so much, and books, DVDs and CDs cannot offer personalized training with discussions and question and answer sessions. Even though sales of apologetics material have become one of the fastest growing markets in Christian publishing, the church has few if any local resources.

Ratio Christi is one organization that is striving to place local apologists in communities all around the world. By first placing a trained apologist on university campuses, Ratio Christi trains Christian students: to trust the historical reliability of the Bible, that their faith (confidence) in God as creator of the universe is intellectually defensible and that the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ are the most well documented historical events in ancient history. In addition, Ratio Christi challenges the intellectual veracity of secularism and atheism right on the campus with public debates, lectures, and discussions that offer historical, scientific, and philosophical reasons to trust in Christ.

It is amazing to see the transformation of Christian students as they learn that their faith in Christ is supported by verifiable facts and reason. Many students actually become incredibly confident and effective witnesses for Jesus Christ. One student from Ohio State University said,

Ratio Christi…taught me how to share my faith more effectively. Before Ratio Christi I found it difficult to witness to others about Christ. Well, with Ratio Christi, every week was an adventure on campus to witness to people. We saw God work and bless us with great conversations and even a few on-the-spot conversions.

It is this work at the university that is the frontline of the intellectual battle for men’s souls. When students are taught that they can have an answer to the attacks leveled against Christianity, they become frontline evangelists in the war of worldviews. But how do churches take advantage of this opportunity?

When churches implement apologetics training, they get the same results that we are seeing at the universities. Marvin Patrick is a local pastor in Maryland with an M.A. that emphasized apologetics. He is also helping a team to start a Ratio Christi chapter at a local university. Marvin has seen apologetics training turn church members into outgoing witnesses for Christ. He said,

“Not every church has a trained apologist on staff, but using a Ratio Christi apologist could be very valuable for any church. We have been training our congregation in apologetics for several years. Many of our people tell us about the confidence they now have in approaching their lost coworkers. . . Training our congregation in apologetics has equipped our people to face the tough questions our culture produces.”

Most Ratio Christi apologists work at other jobs to support themselves while serving as a chapter director at a university. These apologists could be a vital resource for a local church to turn sheepish believers into confident witnesses for Christ. It is the apologist that is fulfilling the true office of an evangelist by “equipping God’s people to do his work, and build up the church, the body of Christ” (Eph.4:12).

Ratio Christi has developed a Community Apologist program which is designed to allow these local apologists to work with a local church without putting a strain on the church's budget. This program is designed to help these apologists raise their support for their work at the university so that they can serve local churches by providing resources and training for youth groups, parents, church leaders, and congregations to learn how to defend the faith. This is the first program in the country specifically designed to allow apologists to go into full-time ministry without wondering how they are going to feed their families.

At the beginning of every mass movement, God uses people to recognize what He is doing, and to lay the ground work for the future. Ratio Christi is a global grassroots movement that recognizes that God wants to place an apologist in thousands of local churches and communities around the world. Churches that catch that vision can ‘Adopt a College’ that is nearby, and partner with Ratio Christi to find a trained apologist to serve as the chapter director for that university. These host churches will broaden the scope of the work of these apologists to do the true work of an evangelist by training church members to be confident, effective witnesses for Christ.

Ratio Christi has set up the infrastructure for this work by partnering with seminaries and organizations that train apologists, and with apologetics ministries that provide training materials and speakers for debates, lectures and discussions. These partnerships could benefit the local church as the apologist uses his/her Ratio Christi connections to bring these resources to the local university. We believe that Ratio Christi can help provide the infrastructure for this new age of the church—the Age of the Apologist.

For all of this to have the greatest impact on our culture, Ratio Christi must continue to focus on the university first. Yet, there is no reason that these local apologists cannot work with a church to help reach the entire community for Christ. All that we ask is that the church works with Ratio Christi to develop the financial support for these apologists in a way that will not put a strain on the church’s budget.

We hope that churches all over the country will take advantage of this opportunity to advance the Kingdom of God by engaging a Ratio Christi apologist to serve as both a resource for the local church and for the university. For more information on how to partner with Ratio Christi to get an apologist in your area, contact us at info@RatioChristi.org.

Watch for part two of this article that will further explain the Ratio Christi Community Apologist model.