Thank you for raising this great question. It is an important conversation! I know there is a real frustration here. I think this is something to meditate on and perhaps be encouraged by. There is a good desire within you to serve the Lord. Hold onto that - you Heavenly Father is well pleased with you and has a good plan for your life.
I don’t think there is any tension between our calling and self-denial. After all, it was intrinsic to John the Baptist’s calling that Jesus became greater while he became less. It seems to me that John is a model for our imitation in this passage.
I think we need to surrender more and more to the idea that we must become lesser and Jesus must become greater. This is our joy! We just want to see our awesome God glorified! May God work this truth deeper into our hearts. On the other side of that struggle is the delight of humbly serving others.
So what gives? How do we let people know we’re available to proclaim God’s word - for His glory?
In the apologetics space, here are some general remarks on barriers that I have seen apologists face. I share them knowing that these may or may not be applicable to you! But perhaps they will be helpful to others with the question you’ve raised.
Insecurity and the counterfeit yes:
Positive feedback — “Great talk” “Good job” “Really important” — can be a way of avoiding an insecure person. The idea is, I’ll tell him (or her) that it was a job well done to avoid the unpleasant reality of discussing where it fell short, how it could be improved, and so on - advice which I may not be qualified to give and they may not want to hear.
Sometimes apologists have extensive knowledge of apologetics. However, this is not integrated with a wise understanding of human nature and culture. The narrow focus on apologetics creates an myopia that results in a lack of relevance to an audience’s concern. This is particularly ironic when an apologist (subtly or overtly) presents themselves as having superior understanding of reality (and worldviews) while not appearing to understand the significance of psychology, sociology, and other fields critical to navigating life with wisdom.
Weak theology and Biblical foundations
Sometimes apologists seem to care more about ideas - apologetic ideas or philosophical ideas - than the Scriptures. It can feel as if their apologetic is hunting for a Bible verse to quote than that they are steeped in the Scriptures and sharing God’s wisdom in an apologetically informed and persuasive way.
The apologist’s personal life and relationships
Apart from a life of integrity and kindness, an apologist is unlikely to gain a hearing for their message. The personal formation of our character, relational abilities, and way of life is the basis for the public presentation of apologetic messages.
Mismatch between personality and personal interest
A personal interest in apologetics is not the same as having a calling in apologetics. If we believe that “apologetics work is better than secular work” (e.g., banking or running a restaurant) then we may not be open to seeing God draw us into a line of work where our primary calling would be developed - and where apologetics would remain an engaging, but secondary interest. We need self-awareness to find the fit between our personal ‘wiring’ and our calling. It may be that we are very interested in apologetics without being called to be an apologist.
Poor communication skills
Sometimes an apologist has a keen understanding of their topic, but is not able to communicate in a powerful way. There can be great “logos” but the “ethos” and “pathos” is missing. Or they are not simple and understandable in their presentation. Or their talks are not illustrated in a way that makes the meaning clear and personal.
A lack of prayer and an absence of the Holy Spirit
Sometimes apologists depend so much on the power of reason and argument that they do not think that prayer is very powerful or important. However, we need to be broken hearted and dependent upon God in prayer. Then God will empower the use of our reason for his glory. The work of the apologist is to be done in the presence and power of the Holy Spirit.
A lack of community
An apologist needs to be part of community. We are formed in the local church as our brothers and sisters in Christ press into our lives and help us grow to maturity in Jesus. Sometimes apologists, feeling lonely due to their specialized interest, withdraw from fellowship. In doing so, they miss out on lessons they need for their own walk with God that would also be invaluable preparation for their greater service to the church.
Pride and vanity
Apologists sometimes appear to be full of themselves. The impression can be, “I am smarter and better than you.” This attitude comes across in relationships and in public speaking. It tends to push an audience away and results in few requests to speak again.
Sometimes apologists struggle with hidden sin. For this reason, God closes doors for ministry to protect them and others from the temptations of greater visibility.
Lack of purpose
Sometimes apologists want people to be better apologists. This is a good goal. However, in most cases, apologetics is a tool to help people be faithful Christians. The apologist may need to become a better apologist for the sake of their calling, but their work in this area is aimed to serve others as they follow their calling. At their best, apologists don’t want everyone to become apologists; they want everyone to know and follow Jesus as Lord. Apologetics serves a larger goal. Imagine a preacher who, in their preaching, wanted to convince everyone in the congregation to become a preacher!
An argumentative spirit
Proverbs 17:19 says, “Whoever loves a quarrel loves sin; whoever builds a high gate invites destruction.” Temperamentally, apologists are drawn to arguments. However, without the cultivation of personal maturity, this can lead to a quarrelsome personality.
A broken world and church
Even in the best of scenarios, a mature and faithful Christian who is gifted in apologetics may not find fulfillment of their calling. Due to the economic situation where they live, persecution, apathy and indifference, and a wide variety of other shortcomings and sin in their community, there just may not be interest in work humbly done in the power of the Spirit.
I hope this is helpful to you. Many of these points come from an examination of my own shortcomings. I would be interested to hear of other barriers that others in Connect have observed. I trust I will see more room for repentance and growth as I learn from the insights of others.
In the meantime, I am grateful that you are building friendships and making contributions to the discussions in Connect. I hope you will find this to be a safe and encouraging place to grow and to be helpful to others. I encourage you to stretch yourself to offer increasingly valuable and relevant answers; let each topic challenge you to new depths of prayer and new levels of service to the other members of Connect.