A Lighthearted Approach

Does apologetics always have to be all stuffy? Craig Hazen says “No.” Last Friday, I attended a BBQ for area pastors before the Bayside Apologetics Seminar officially began. Dr. Hazen spoke to about 30 people who showed up to this event, saying that “apologetics is a tool in the hands of the Holy Spirit and we need to ramp up the intellectual life in our churches.” The need is super-serious. Our tone doesn’t always have to be.

First, Dr. Hazen analyzed ideas in Callum Brown’s The Death of Christian Britain and related the situation to what could happen in America if we do nothing to challenge things like the feminzation of the church and the denial of knowledge in our culture.

But he also told a lot of entertaining, real-life stories about speaking at secular colleges. Like the time he dressed up in a lab coat and “played the role of a creationist,” playfully saying, “Let’s put some of these creationist arguments on the board and analyze them.” After he did, people ended up going, “There’s more to this whole creationism thing than people give it credit for.” Here’s what we learned: Students connect with an attractive, disarming method that makes Christian apologetics seem less scary or stuffy. That’s why Dr. Hazen suggests a lighthearted approach that comes with knowledge. He reminded pastors that:

Giving reasons for faith doesn’t have to be stuffy. We need people who can translate it to the Jr. High level…and every level.

His talk really resonated with my current ministry emphasis on providing accessible apologetics to local churches—especially student ministries. As a former youth pastor, I know exactly what he means. Jr. High kids are asking the tough questions. We need to be equipped to give them real answers. Case in point: I actually met an 8th grade boy named Zach who attended this entire weekend and loved it.  I’m excited about the local connections I made and look forward to what God does in our area as a result of this event.

I’d love to hear your comments. How has a lighthearted approach worked for you? Stay tuned for more reports from the Bayside Apologetics Seminar.

Discover Craig Hazen’s book: Five Sacred Crossings.

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4 Responses to “A Lighthearted Approach”

  1. Wally Keller September 3, 2010 2:19 PM
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    Dr. Hazen did a great job of laying out some excellent suggestions on how to engage non-believers in a disarming and thoughtful manner. One particular highlight was when he pointed out that it doesn’t take a master’s level trained apologist to offer good responses to the average kinds of questions offered by skeptics and doubters that we may encounter. They are often not that particularly hard or even well stated. It was funny listening to him tell about having Q and A with a somewhat hostile audience, and having to help them formulate their question in order to offer a cogent repsonse. It should give the average Joe and Jane confidence to go ahead and share your Christian World View with a lost and struggling world. You may have better success than you think.

  2. Mikel September 3, 2010 2:27 PM
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    Hi, Wally. Great to see you there. I especially liked the story about the “Grill the Christian” event where someone asked, “Do you believe in baptism?” His response: “Not only do I believe in it. I’ve seen it done!” Gotta love how that disarmed an initially hostile crowd. Then of course there was the lady who kept waving the chicken wing in his face! Craig’s a great storyteller. Thanks for the comment, Wally!

  3. John September 3, 2010 10:10 PM
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    Great reminder, Mike. I graduated from Biola’s apologetics program and developed an apologetics curriculum for middle school students that is fun. I have taught it for six years and the kids eat it up. Apologetics doesn’t have to be stuffy and when you teach it to middle schoolers, you need to make it engaging. We do rap songs, debates, even charades. When I speak at churches I try to keep it light too, even playing games with them. Sometimes I think we apologists take ourselves too serious.

  4. Mikel September 3, 2010 11:31 PM
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    Hi, John. I like the way you think. Still got a bunch of cheesy raps I made up in my head to remember stuff in grad school! Sometimes the silliest stuff sticks the most. Good to connect with you, John! Thanks for posting this! :-)