I’m always struck by the realization that apologetics is such a little known field of Christian study every time that I mention the name of an apologist that I think everyone should know to a pastor type and they just stare at me like I’m from outer space. It’s both a surprise and an epiphany when that happens. It’s surprising that the people that I listen to everyday and are so well known in apologetics circles are so undiscovered in the Christian culture. It’s an epiphany to suddenly realize that these folks are dancing on glass that’s’ cracking under their own weight and they don’t even know it.
That’s’ not to say that they don’t hear the cracking and see the fissure. Young people are leaving church after high school and not returning. The laity is concerned with what the History Channel had to say about the real Jesus. There’s considerable concession if not capitulation given to the high-pressure rhetoric of the pro LGBT push to change the Gospel. And there’s just a general uneasiness when it comes to some of the hard questions everyone has.
The problem is that most small churches haven’t put two and two together. Its’ not that they don’t care or that they aren’t willing to begin some apologetics ministry to equip their people. I believe that the main problem is that they don’t have any idea of how to approach these fissures and that there is an apologetics army growing for the purpose of helping them. The way to kind of turn the tide here would be to merely unite those churches with people in that army.
I wonder though, are those of us attempting to make this push to increase the availability of apologetics in smaller local churches just spinning our wheels?
There are two thoughts I’d like to explain.
As I began southernbyhisgrace.com last August, I really had no idea what I was doing. I wasn’t proficient at using social media (I’m still not) and I had no idea how to get what I was writing in front of the people in the pews. The normal procedure I learned was to write, post to Twitter and Facebook, friend people on those platforms, and repeat. I found that I needed to write as often as I could and post as much as I my time allowed. Furthermore, to establish any real viewership, I needed help re-posting by an already established writer.
It’s been seven months of very slow growth, partly because of my start from scratch attitude. I’m not big on buying views and I began with a very meager Facebook following and no Twitter account. One of my goals was to write well enough and often enough that would provoke readers. This has given me a more pure picture of what’s going on.
The very little success that I’ve had has caused me to become aware of another problem.
As I sit and look at WordPress stats, Twitter Analytics, and Facebook insights, I’ve noticed that most of the apologetics material is only being consumed by apologists. Whether by academic or accomplished professional apologists or by lay apologists, much of the material being produced remains in the tracks of apologetics tires. Other than that, I admit that there are some churches building apologetics ministries that benefit from this plethora of material. There are those conferences that draw a few youth groups as well. But for the most part, the small (average) church remains isolated from apologetics.
The other thought I have about this actually compounds the previous observation. Most of the Church in America is made of small churches.
A study by Barna Group illuminates this.
Overall, the research found that the typical Protestant church has 89 adults in attendance during an average weekend. In total, 60% of Protestant churches have 100 or fewer adults on a typical weekend, while slightly less than 2% have 1000 or more adults. Examining the figures in terms of where adults attend, however, the statistics show that about four out of ten church-going adults (41%) go to churches with 100 or fewer adults while about one out of eight church-going adults (12%) can be found in churches of 1000 or more adults.
That study is from 2003, but the stats are relatively unchanged.
A couple of interesting facts revealed by the same study are as follows.
Small churches are less likely to attract academically minded people; mid and large churches attract aggressors; mid and large size churches tend to be more conservative in their theology.
There are some questions here that need to be satisfied.
If most American Christians are attending small churches and most small churches are not engaging intellectually, then most of America’s Christians remain un-baptized in the waters of apologetics.
Although we see evidence of large churches (1000 plus) holding apologetics conferences, etc., those churches represent less than 5% of the entire Church in America.
Here are some questions that many of us in this apologetics army need to ask ourselves.
How can I help small churches begin an apologetics ministry that they can sustain both financially and logistically?
Am I willing to serve in a small church?
Is there a way to unite groups of small churches to work together for apologetics?
Are gifted people already attending a small church that I can help disciple as apologists?
The strength of the American Church probably does not reside in her mega-churches and she will need all of her strength to endure the likely persecution that is coming. Can we help equip the people who sit in the pews of the thousands of small churches in America? I hope we can find a way to bridge the disconnect between apologetics and the small church.