13 Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus.
Peter: Apostle, disciple of Jesus, author of 1 & 2 Peter, pastor, evangelist, theologian, apologist…
Think of Peter’s life for a moment. After he met Jesus, he was a changed man. Peter followed Jesus for three years and witnessed his miracles, listened to his teaching, and was one of his closest disciples. Peter was an authority on Jesus. He, under the superintendence of the Holy Spirit, authored inspired Scripture. He was the Apostle who penned the famous Apologetics verse of 1 Peter 3:15 right in the middle of his letter to the suffering Church. Peter stands beside Paul as one of the most prolific New Testament writers.
Peter: fisherman from nowhere (Bethsaida), nobody, no education, family man…
Now, think of the other side of Peter. Put aside your preconceived notions of Peter’s personality as an Apostle. Peter was basically a blue-collar man. He was a tough guy who worked outside. He was a family guy with a wife. He lived in fly-over country. He probably had very little formal education. He was definitely not as “qualified” as Paul to write inspired books of the Bible and to be an Apologist for the Faith.
You’re probably nothing like Peter if you’re reading this blog. People like Peter don’t read blogs. They generally don’t have time. Blog readers are usually academic types or at least white-collar people who are interested in academic progress. Apologists are some of the “headiest” of those types. Usually Th.M., M.Div., or PhD follows their names. You may be one of those, but don’t stop reading yet.
Now, I’d like you to think about the people in your church (if you consider yourself an Apologist but don’t have a church, rethink your title). Most of the people in your church are probably not like you. If they’ve finished college, they probably have a bachelor’s degree or maybe an associate’s degree. Most of the people in your church are probably not professionals in the classic sense of the word. There may be some doctors, lawyers, or professors, but most of them probably work with their hands. Their time is limited by long hours at work, children, and various chores at home. They are probably not trained in philosophy and probably see very little need of it. Even if they did have some desire to further their education for the purpose of defending the Faith they would be severely limited by time and money. Most of the people in your church are more like Peter than Paul, I’ll bet.
Think about your church. You may live in NYC or LA, but it’s likely you’re located in “fly-over” country. You’re from nowhere. It’s probably not the biggest church or the richest church. You may not have the most famous pastor or Chris Tomlin leading worship. Your church probably resembles Peter’s home town…Podunk.
If you’re reading this article, chances are you have a passion for Apologetics. Furthermore, you are either qualified to teach some Apologetics or are becoming qualified. So, can I ask you a question? What is your responsibility to your church and the people who go there? Are you, or how are you, as Greg Koukl puts it, “bloom(ing) where you’re planted”?
Let’s take a look at the probable future of your church.
Your church is and will probably remain under attack at all times. There will always be doctrinal challenges to your churches specific theological bent. As a member of that local church, you are responsible to fend those off. There are also bigger gospel truths that are always under attack and your church is responsible to protect the gospel. The future looks grim for your church if you are located in America. Soon, it will likely be illegal to “discriminate” against same-sex marriages and your church will not be allowed to practice anything that may do that. Sanctions against it will come in the way of fines, taxes, and maybe legal action such as jail for the leadership.
“He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.” (Titus 1:9, ESV)
The people who go to your church already face a tough climate in which to carry out the Great Commission. To be an effective evangelist, a person must be an effective apologist. They have to have some of the answers to life’s tough questions. Furthermore, the same persecution that will likely come to your church will come to its members as well. Their jobs, families, and freedom will be taken if they are not ready to recant on their positions on same-sex marriage. Persecution is coming, and those poor people will take the brunt of it.
If you are an apologist worth his or her salt, you will help those people. They need you. Your church needs you (whether they know it or not).
The question then becomes, how can you help “blue-collar” people become apologists? How can they become experts in Apologetics?
The good news is this: they don’t have to. They don’t have to learn to debate professors on college campuses to be considered “qualified” to defend the faith. Apologetics is much more than that. In fact, Apologetics is not concerned with whooping atheists into submission. Apologetics is merely giving a defense for the hope you have in you. That introduces a distinction that needs to be made here between what I call White-collar Apologetics and Blue-collar Apologetics.
Most of what I call White-collar Apologetics is this idea of debates, intellectual conversation, blogs, and books. William Lane Craig is the epitome of a White-collar Apologist (WCA). He is a supreme debater, writer, thinker, and instructor. He is heady. He is an expert in most philosophical arguments, especially those that deal with God’s existence. There are many others who fit into this category. Most of them have radio shows and podcasts. They’ve written both academic and popular level books and enjoy a robust following on social media.
WCA is the type of thing Paul did. He would fit into this category. He used often hard to understand, run on sentences that were of a academic nature. He was engaged in the philosophical debate that was interested in defending God’s existence, exalting the deity of Christ, explaining the theology of grace and the atonement, and promoting the Kingdom of God.
Blue-collar Apologists (BCA) are the grunts of Apologetics. They are not normally experts in each of the arguments for God’s existence. They have jobs and kids and do their apologetics at work and school or the local Wal-Mart. They don’t read William Lane Craig and don’t listen to any podcasts. Although they’ve never written a book on the Ontological Argument, they know God necessarily exists though. You won’t read their names on the backs of any essays but the Apologetic that they provide for the Kingdom is where the rubber meets the road. They use social media, but mostly to be social. Many of them have a greater following than many WCAs. They also suffer more. They take the brunt of the culture wars casualties.
Peter was a BCA. He was a plain and common worker. He knew Christ though and he eventually got grace. He knew suffering but he also knew the glory of God and the promise of the Kingdom. He was a man of plain truth and exuberant faith. After Christ’s resurrection, Peter was fearless. He was a mans man just like most of the men in your church, sword (gun) totin’ rebels who are so ready to tell the truth.
29 But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men
So, how can you help them?
First, realize their value to the Kingdom. They are God’s army, not you. In fact, many of them will see much more of the battle than you ever will. Because of that, they have the opportunity to do the most good. They are great in number and strong in will. They are usually hard working people with what’s called fortitude. They don’t back down. What they may lack in knowledge, they probably make up in zeal and common sense. Don’t underestimate them.
Next, don’t sell them short. Give them the most robust teaching you are able. Give them the big words and the heavy arguments. The enemy will. Inoculate them to his cunning semantics. Teach them logical fallacies and critical thinking. Teach them to love the Lord with their minds. Dumbed down Christianity is exactly that, dumb. Don’t condescend to your church and assume that they are dumb. Peter was a stinking fisherman! Jesus didn’t cut him any slack when it came to teaching. Peter rarely understood him. Yet, in the end, Peter got it. So will they.
Third, teach them a tactical approach. Give them the conversational tools they need to feel comfortable evangelizing. Give them what they need to be confident in any conversation. Teach them Greg Koukl’s Tactics and role-play with them to make them comfortable. Take them on field trips and expose them to real people with real questions. Some folks use this with young people. I’d say it works with adults as well.
Turn them on to the media tools of Apologetics. Podcasts, YouTube, and lots of websites are available. Find the Apologists who fit your people’s personality and your churches view of Apologetics and immerse them in information that they can explore on their own. Everyone has a smart phone these days. Provide links to great podcasts and apps that will provide them with learning opportunities. You already use these technologically advantageous media. Don’t be selfish.
As far as equipping them to actually give a defense, don’t let them believe that they must wait until they complete a four-year program in Apologetics. There are some tools that they already have at their disposal that you can illuminate so that they will be confident while using them.
- They have a testimony. The most effective apologetic for the Christian Faith for the past 2000 years has probably been the changed lives of Christians. Although many scrutinize Christians for not living up to the supposed demands of Christianity, the fact is that Christians have a testimony about what Christ did rather than what they’re doing. “I once was lost, but now I’m found” are words that most people recognize. It is the grace of God that is truly amazing and that simple truth combined with their real life story of conversion is powerful. Help them to develop a clear and Christ glorifying testimony about what Christ did for them and they will immediately have an apologetics tool to use.
“But Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them: “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give ear to my words.” (Acts 2:14, ESV)
- Remind them of the Word of God. Most seasoned Christians have already memorized enough Scripture to give a basic apologetic and we know that it is the Word of God that will eventually transform people into believers. There are a few passages that are extremely important for them to know though. I believe that Gen 1:1 and John 1:1 and John 1:14 are invaluable. They teach of God the creator of the universe, Jesus who is God, and Jesus the God man. Team these up with Eph. 2:8 & 9 and they will begin to develop a Biblical apologetic for the Faith. From these few passages people can learn about God, Christ, and the need and provision for salvation. This is just a start, though. There are many passages that are helpful to memorize. These are merely a few that are probably already in their arsenal. Remind them of that huge sword that they already yield and do the work to give them more.
“for he powerfully refuted the Jews in public, showing by the Scriptures that the Christ was Jesus.” (Acts 18:28, ESV)
- Teach them one easy evidential argument. Most people are not scientists or philosophers, but they can grasp concepts of both. That being said, I probably wouldn’t begin with the Ontological Argument (although its one of my favorites). The simple arguments of “why is there something rather than nothing” are good ones and easy ones to remember. There are basically five possible answers. There is nothing, all is an illusion; the universe has always been; the universe came from nothing; the universe exists by chance; and the universe is an effect of an uncaused cause. It’s pretty easy to wade through these simple answers and even left unanswered, this is a pretty powerful problem to leave the skeptic with.
But upon his individual works he has engraved unmistakable marks of his glory, so clear and so prominent that even unlettered and stupid folk cannot plead the excuse of ignorance.
- Teach them the Biblical process of Apologetics. Pray, be ready, and do it with grace and gentleness.
“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)
- Teach them the basics of informal logical fallacies. Just a few of these will usually do for most conversations. If you can teach them the concepts of circular reasoning and syllogisms on top of informal fallacies, you will have equipped them with the tools a God of logic provides. They probably already understand what’s wrong with most people’s arguments. They only need to be able to articulate the problems in a winsome way to others.
5 We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ
There are lots more you can do of course. This article is not meant to be a robust description of what an Apologetics church ministry should look like. I would only like to encourage you with these few paragraphs to stop making excuses, stop letting others make excuses, and do something.
We each have in us the Holy Spirit, the third Person of the Trinity. We each have at our disposal the testimony of his work in and for us, the Word he has placed in our hearts, and the evidence he has left of his majesty. Stop getting ready. Be ready. Trust God and defend that hope he has given you. Equip the people in your church. You are not the church Apologist, but you may be called to teach the church to be apologists, even the BCA’s.
Peter was no scholar. He was a fisherman. Most of the people in your church are not scholars. If they only had the courage of that Apostle and a measure of his faith, the Church of the living God would be more of a force to reckon with today. Encourage them, teach them, and give them the tools to be ready to give a defense. It is your duty and responsibility.
 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). (Ac 4:13). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). (Ac 5:29). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
 Calvin, J. (2011). Institutes of the Christian Religion & 2. (F. L. Battles, Trans., J. T. McNeill, Ed.) (Vol. 1, p. 52). Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press.
 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). (2 Co 10:5). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.