Get Into the Game of Apologetics and Evangelism

How do we get in the game of apologetics and evangelism?

Several years ago, I read a book by Norman Geisler and his son David titled Conversational Evangelism. It’s subtitle was how to listen and speak so you can be heard. I was attempting to deal with a problem of my own in which I had become self-aware. It’s hard for some people (sometimes including myself) to evangelize. The point of this book by the Geislers, was to inform people of the importance of evangelizing and to give them the confidence to do it.

The fact is that there are many of us who need to get into the game of apologetics and evangelism. Whether we’re afraid of the tough apologetics questions that come with giving the gospel, or we’re simply intimidated by beginning or having a conversation, many times we allow fear to keep us from doing what it is that each of us are commanded to do. Relational or conversational evangelism and apologetics can be a helpful and practical way for many of us to overcome that.

Unhelpful Christian attitudes

Now, I recognize that there are those who belligerently oppose any system of so-called relational evangelism. I recently listened to a podcast in which the host berated those who would develop relationships with people for the purpose of evangelizing. He used the Great Commission to prove his point. “We are not called to relationships”, he said. Neither are we commanded to “go”, he proposed. “We are commanded to make disciples”, he argued.

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”” (Matthew 28:18–20, ESV)

All of that is fine, but I believe he is missing the point. There is no way to make disciples without being in a relationship with the people who we are discipling, is there?

A distinction to be made

I know that this person, a pastor, means something a little different when he complains about relational evangelism. His main complaint is not that people shouldn’t have relationships but rather that people should get on with evangelizing regardless of the relationship. The evangelism shouldn’t be contingent upon the relationship. Just give the good news as written in the Word of God, he might say. The problem is that he built a straw man and called it relational evangelism. Most of the time when people are talking about relational evangelism, they are not trying to say that the evangelism should be contingent upon the relationship.

The reason that I brought up his attack on this method of evangelism is that’s what people hear quite a bit when they’re struggling to evangelize, and I don’t think that that kind of rhetoric is very helpful to those people. In fact, the very people who are offended by such rhetoric are not the people like Geisler who write books, but the people who are struggling with their own guilt of not evangelizing. The podcaster who attacked relational evangelism failed to disciple the Christians who actually want to follow Christ in this thing, but need help doing so.

Don’t sweat it

I want to say that however you come to the place where you are actually giving the gospel to unbelievers and making disciples, you are obeying God’s Word and that any guilt that you may have over not doing that has been dealt with on the cross. You are forgiven by the atonement of Christ and the grace of God.

Go and make disciples!

Because it is true that if we allow our fear to keep us from obeying Christ’s command, then we make whatever our fear protects (our image, our job, our relationship) our god, the thing that we value over Christ.

Some much needed help

The purpose of this article, aside from clearing your possible guilty conscience, is to recommend one book that will help you evangelize and defend your faith in a winsome and confident way. The name of the book is Tactics by Greg Koukl.

There are many good books out there to help with this particular problem. The one I mentioned at the beginning of this article is a great one. But Tactics by Koukl is maybe the best simply because it not only helps people deal with the problem of starting and being comfortable in conversations with complete strangers, but it deals with the guilt people have over not being “effective” evangelizers and/or apologists.

Get into the game
Get into the game of apologetics and evangelism

One of the main points Greg makes in his book is one of the most controversial. He makes the case that we are not all ‘closers’.

How many times do you have a conversation with an acquaintance and it ends with you walking away feeling as if you should’ve done more? You might say to yourself, “I should’ve gotten Jesus in there somewhere.”

Well, the truth is this; not every conversation lends itself to outright evangelism. Not each sentence can be the gospel. And we shouldn’t feel guilty about that. As Christians, we should also know that there is no guarantee that someone will listen, much less become a believer. Our job is to tell not convert. Koukl puts it this way

 

”I am convinced that most Christians-including me-are not harvesters. Instead, we are ordinary gardeners, tending the field so others can bring in the crop in due season. Some Christians, aware of their difficulty of harvesting, get discouraged and never get into the field at all. If this describes you, then you need to know it’s okay to sow, even if you don’t reap. In fact, there’d be no harvest without you at all. Ironically, I think harvesting comes easily for some because many ordinary gardeners proceed them…”[1]

 More roadblocks

I once heard a pastor brag about the “many” people he had lead to Christ, exclaiming that he would receive a crown for his efforts. He then admitted that others had taken part in this by their giving and praying to his church and that they also would receive a reward. After that, he proudly proclaimed that those who hadn’t given and prayed for him would receive no reward for those conversions.

This kind of total and complete misunderstanding of the gospel, how it works, and our responsibility to share it dampens the efforts of those who simply don’t understand their role. That kind of narcissistic behavior is in fact opposed to the gospel. Unfortunately, that kind of attitude resides behind many pulpits and suppresses the efforts of already guilt-ridden Christians. One reason that we have so many nominal Christians is that we have so many oppressive preachers so consumed with their own self-righteous behavior that they forget to care for the flock that God has given them.

I would like to say that it’s alright if you haven’t always carried your weight when it comes to evangelism. Our God is gracious and he knows our weakness. He is also sovereign and has made you in such a way that he will use you for his purpose. Furthermore, he is powerful enough to bring about his sovereign will so that he will bring about his plan despite your weakness. Don’t sweat it.

Our responsibility

That being said, you have a role and not all of our roles are the same. We are not all preachers, but we are all called to proclaim God’s truth. We are not all teachers, but we are all called to disciple others. We are not all evangelists, but we are all called to do our part, giving the good news of Jesus the best we can.

And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues.” (Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles?) (1 Corinthians 12:28–29, ESV)

Know this. You are not Billy Graham. But you are responsible to evangelize and give a reason for the hope that is in you.

So, what kind of evangelist/apologist are you? Hopefully, if you have only been a benchwarmer, you don’t desire to remain one.

Greg, in his book, teaches that it may be more effective for many of us who realize that we are not always harvesters, to learn to be effective gardeners by doing what he calls “putting a stone in someone’s shoe”.

“It may surprise you to hear this” he writes, “but I never set out to convert anyone. My aim is never to win someone to Christ. I have a more modest goal, one you might consider adopting as your own. All I want to do is put a stone in someone’s shoe. I want to give him something worth thinking about, something he can’t ignore because it continues to poke at him in a good way.”[2]

There’s a lot that can be said about what Greg wrote there. I’ll leave it up to you to buy the book. The point I would like to leave you with is one of Greg’s.

Get in the game!

Don’t be intimidated by conversation. Don’t be minimized by unhealthy attitudes by more aggressive Christians.

It’s time to stop wishing you could, feeling guilty that you don’t, and just giving up.

I highly recommend Greg’s book, TacticsA Game Plan For Discussing Your Christian Convictions and I would like to encourage those of you who realize “I’m no William Lane Craig or Franklin Graham”, don’t feel bad. It’s time to start doing something though. It’s time to place a stone in someone’s shoe.

Get the book and get in the game.

[1] Tactics-A Game Plan For Discussing Your Christian Convictions copyright 2009 by Greg Koukl Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI pp. 38

 

[2] Tactics-A Game Plan For Discussing Your Christian Convictions copyright 2009 by Greg Koukl Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI pp. 38

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  1. Pingback: mid-week apologetics booster (4-2-2015) « 1 Peter 4:12-16

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