Want to get apologetics into your church? Don’t think you’re too small to start something powerful that equips your people to defend the faith. Over the next few posts, Ill show you how I worked to get apologetics training into small, medium and large churches—both as a pastor and volunteer apologist.
The first time I did anything like this, I was a at a small church—a very small church. We didn’t have a budget to bring in professional apologists or even buy a curriculum, so I was it. Turned out to be better that way for our crowd anyway. We put together our own course and tailored it to our people. Let me tell you how this all happened.
A Small Church
While I was earning my M.A. in Christian Apologetics at Biola University, I assisted a church-plant of 35 people in Orange County. We primarily ministered to Vietnamese refugees and other new immigrants. At the time, I was a volunteer youth leader and spent lots of time hanging out with students at their apartment complex. We noticed the place was often visited by Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses and lesser-known cults of Christianity. It didn’t take long for our students to realize they had a problem defending the faith they knew was true. Then, 9/11 hit. People had all kinds of questions about God and the problem of evil. We needed to do something.
Here’s what we did
Recognizing this need, I developed a series of simple talks on basic apologetics topics like the existence of God, the problem of evil, and how to dialogue with cult members. I approached our pastor to make the case for an hour-long class on each of these topics before our Sunday service.
Keep in mind, we didn’t have anything going on before the service and nobody was used to coming early.
Still, I made up promotional cards and we talked about it as a church. This was a real need we knew we had as a church body.
Here’s what happened
We had about 10-12 people show up consistently throughout the series. Not bad for a church of 35! Soons, ACSI recognized our course and 3 local Christian teachers began attending to earn Continuing Education Units. Later, we made lecture CDs available for those who couldn’t make it to each session.
Here are the results
Close to a third of our church body was exposed to apologetics and discovered good answers to the hard questions. They also learned some basic talking points for talking with cult members at the door. Later, I learned that some of these people were able to defend the faith at their doorsteps when confronted with cult theology. One student even described how he was able to redirect a “steamroller” back to their original discussion directly refute false teachers at the apartment complex.
Here’s what we learned
Sometimes, churches have immediate needs—like when a cult group starts coming into people’s homes and confusing them. Customizing your apologetics training to obvious needs seems like a no-brainer, but it’s still worth stating. And don’t count people out, saying “they’re not gonna be into an apologetics class” or “this stuff is way over their heads.”
We had new immigrants and refugees who were still growing in their English language skills totally latch on to this.
One man stood up to protect his younger brothers from strangers who came into their small group and started teaching aberrant doctrine. It was amazing.
Next time, I’ll tell you about how a major felt need resulted in the first-ever apologetics seminar in a 500-person church where I was on the pastoral staff. In the meantime, I’d love to hear from anyone who has helped get apologetics training started at small church. Feel free to drop a comment below.