I am excited about your ministry in Australia - I’m looking forward to hearing how God works at the upcoming Understanding and Answering Islam conference and the Apologetics Symposium at Hillsong! Keep it up mate!
To your questions:
1. What is your dream vision for apologetics and the church?
For the past four years, a number of apologetics leaders have met for a biannual gathering in the US to discuss this question. At our last meeting, we discussed that we believe apologetics leaders in the United States should take responsibility for at least three objectives:
- For apologists to be mature in Christ,
- For apologists to serve the whole church, and
- To pray for revival.
If that sparks any comments, wisdom, questions, or thoughts from you, I’d be very interested to hear your perspective!
2. What strategies can you see leading to it? How would you develop apologetics in the Church?
One area where I think that apologists - including myself! - have often been foolish in their wisdom is a myopia about history, sociology, psychology, and anthropology. For instance, a very narrow focus on logical arguments for and against theism, plus some discussion on the resurrection, is characteristic of some approaches to teaching apologetics.
This approach gives insufficient attention to who the apologist is. Are they mature in Christ? (How do we understand what maturity in Christ looks like?). There’s a tremendous difference when the apologist is humble and when the apologist is arrogant.
It also addresses a very narrow spectrum of the church. How do apologists humbly come alongside pastors, to serve them, as they teach the whole counsel of God? How do apologists work side by side with youth ministers as they pastor teenagers through the complexities of the adolescent experience? How do apologists serve with hospice care workers as they comfort and minister to families and individuals in a time of grief? How do apologists equip university students to lead evangelistic movements on their campuses and business leaders to start investigative Bible studies in their workplace? And so on…
Finally, I think that apologists need to see that apologetics is a tool that needs to serve a greater purpose. In addition to the discipleship needs within the church, apologetics is one of many effective means of evangelism. As apologists pray for revival, I believe God will provide opportunities for the apologetics community to serve as evangelists and in support of evangelism.
From my point of view, I think if apologists will start with repentance for the ways we have not participated well in the life of the church, if we will listen to godly counsel from pastors and church leaders, and if we will demonstrate that we are here to serve as Christ has served us, for the glory of God, then we may be granted opportunities to bring our unique gifts to strengthen the overall working of the Body of Christ.
In brief, I think the best strategies will come as apologists are mature in Christ, which includes a depth of relational trust with leaders in the church, and they demonstrate a humble desire to serve the church and pray for revival, with a clear and shared desire to honor God. I think the theological angle is most fruitful here; the diversity of ways that we will see the church flourish as apologists increasingly serve well within the Body, showing honor to the other parts of the Body, is well beyond what we can imagine.
3. What stories do you have where this has been done well?
I know that you and the RZIM team have so many stories of pastors who are leading with excellence in this area. There are so many brave, winsome leaders in the business, art, university, and political communities who have partnered with our team. I would celebrate their talent, maturity, and capacity to introduce people to Jesus. I think of the OICCU at Oxford, Tim Keller in New York City, the Business Leaders Conference at the Zacharias Institute, the Still Point Gallery at our headquarters, and all the stories we hear at Founders each year… stories from the Middle East… positive reviews of the Everyday Questions small group curriculum… there are just too many stories here; the main problem will be narrowing it down?
I don’t think we have seen tremendous success yet, but I have been very encouraged by the Ask Your Question Sunday community that I lead at my church home. We have about 20-40 people participate in a conversation around a different question each week. I co-teach the class with another member of the church. Every four weeks or so we have a panel Q&A where we take any questions from anyone in the class. We’re very grateful that some skeptics and seekers have consistently participated in the community. Our senior pastor has been supportive of the initiative. One way we try to serve is to coordinate some of our talks with the sermon series of the church, speaking in other Sunday communities, and being available to other leaders in the church as needed. But we are still in the early days; we will celebrate our one year anniversary of starting the class in a couple of months.
Dan, when your talk is given, if it is possible, I would personally love to be able to see the text or listen to you deliver it. I think this would be an invaluable resource for the RZIM family in Connect!