Apologetics Church culture General Perseverance Perspective Theology

Fly-over Country Apologetics

One of the great things about America is its vastness. America is an expanse of land that is a beautiful testimony of God’s creativeness. From the Atlantic Coast of North Carolina to the Northern Pacific in Washington, America spans the width of a continent, from sea to shining sea.

Folks who reside in other nations often think of America as being a nation of cities. New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, and San Francisco epitomize America to much of the world. Although these great metropolitan areas are of great significance to her, America is much more than cosmopolitan.

God has blessed this nation with another group of natural resources, most of which lies in less developed areas on the map. By that you may think that I am referring to wonderful places like the Rocky Mountains, snow capped and stretching into the sky of the West. Maybe I mean the Great Plains, endless seas of grass and grain that feed the world? Could I mean the ancient Appalachians that roll from the pages of history as the first wilderness conquered? No. As valuable as these places may be, they are only the abode of America’s persona.

One of the most important resources in America is what holds her character captive. It is her conscience. Yes, I said her conscience.

The United States is a Republic, at least what’s left of one, and her strength of character is in the hard-nosed, common sense, moral people represented mostly in the middle. These are the places where folks still go to church on Sunday and eat supper together during the week. They’re numbers are fewer than they were 50 years ago, but their influence on America is immense. The people who live between New York and Los Angeles may be outnumbered by those who live in the coastal cities, but America is who the middle makes her to be.

Middle America (fly-over country) doesn’t decide the direction of the country, but the country has a hard time deciding without it. If America moves in a direction that the middle oppose, then it’s almost certain that America is moving in the wrong direction.

When the coastal and metropolitan toddler throws a temper tantrum to get its way, its usually the more mature middle that’s whispering “no, its no good for you” in the background. Fly-over country is where the conscience of this country is located.

Why?

Most churches are in the middle. Most churchgoers are in the middle. That’s the brut fact.

Small churches are far and away the majority of churches and people who attend them are significantly greater in number than others. Most of these are in fly-over country. Let’s call them fly-over churches and fly-over Christians.

Now lets get to fly-over apologetics.

Listening to Greg Koukl’s Stand to Reason podcast last week brought me to the brink of tears yet gave me a new vigor. A caller named Benjamin Nagel from Indiana called in with an apologetics method question for Greg. As they worked through presuppositional vs. evidential apologetics, Benjamin expressed his frustration with the seemingly forgotten land between LA and NY when it comes to apologetics. It was tough to listen because on one hand, Benjamin was fully engaged but spinning his wheels as an excited apologist in a land barren of other apologists or apologetic conferences. On the other hand, I could feel his pain as he described his loneliness as someone who can see the need, is willing to help, but cant seem to land the big one.

It’s frustrating to have such a passion for the beauty of the Church, the glory of God, and the march of the Gospel of Christ as defended by apologetics, but to be unable to convince other people to buy into that thing that you know they need.

It’s easy for some of us who run in these apologetics circles to see the encroachment of an anti-Christian culture upon the Church, know the result of 100 years of not loving God with our minds, have the fix ready to go, and not understand when the leadership doesn’t take an immediate vote to build a new apologetics study wing complete with a library behind the sanctuary.

O be not too quick to bury the church before she is dead! Stay till Christ has tried his skill before you give it up for lost.-John Flavel[1]

There are a few observations I’d like to share.

First of all, the Church usually moves slowly. I am beginning to see progress in several churches though. Little by little they’re waking. Small churches are beginning to see the need to prepare themselves to give reasons for their hope and they’re moving toward solutions that fit their context. Their solutions may not look like small Biolas but at least they’re moving. The sleeping giant is rolling over.

Secondly, million dollar apologists are getting closer together. Every year, every time another tent maker goes to Frank Turek’s Cross-examined Instructors Academy, Stand to Reason conference, J. Warner Wallace lecture, or Ratio Christi program, another small town gets a new apologist. One more small church gets an excited case-maker. One more hermeneutic hot shot lands in fly-over country.

Finally, the closer we get, the stronger we’ll be. Fly-over country apologetics is beginning to look more like a web than dots on a map separated by 100s of miles. Dropping back into their hometowns like paratroopers, a million one dollar apologists are filling in the spaces between the others. The gaps are filling, slowly, but surely. One church at a time, one University at a time, one coffee shop at a time, the web is being built, not by accident but by providence. This means more support infrastructure will be in place in the future and the Church may react more as a unit than it does now and small town apologists may enjoy some of the big time apologetics perks of strength in numbers.

For the Church is like a city of which all believers are the inhabitants, connected with each other by a mutual relationship[2]-Calvin

Be faithful. God is at work.

Our job is to be faithful and to be patient. God is working out the big picture. We must be faithful to take care of our responsibility and to trust that he will preserve his Church.

Like I said in my last post, apologetics is a means to this end. Sometimes it’s a slow process. That’s just the way it is with fly-over country apologetics.

Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” (Colossians 4:5–6, ESV)

 

 

 

 

[1] Ritzema, E., & Vince, E. (Eds.). (2013). 300 Quotations for Preachers from the Puritans. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

[2] Calvin, J., & Pringle, J. (2010). Commentaries on the Epistles of Paul the Apostle to the Philippians, Colossians, and Thessalonians (p. 225). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Donnie
I was born in the mountains of Southwest Virginia, born again at a very young age, married a beautiful and likeminded woman, moved to Tennessee, and raised two children in the Southern traditions of loving God and neighbor, exercising manners, and being stewards of the land and its bounty. After becoming involved in youth ministry in our local church, the need of teaching people "what they believe and why they believe it" became painfully apparent, especially in my immediate context (rural Southern churches). We began an apologetics/theology ministry there but have since moved on. After serving in church leadership and being called to faithfulness and duty to protect our congregation from a rogue pastor under church discipline of his previous church, my experiences in this biblical process shape much of what I believe about how churches in the South have become weak and why nominal Christianity is prevalent. I love the Church and Southern culture so you can expect to read about apologetics and theology as well as church and culture here, written southern style, by the grace of God. Deo Vindice
http://www.southernbyhisgrace.com

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