What will it take to bring apologetics into the local church?
I must have heard that question asked hundreds of times over the past ten years. Of course, I run in circles where people are likely to wonder. They know:
- Christianity is under unprecedented pressure.
- Most young people raised in solid Christian churches walk away from the faith when they leave home — which means most young people raised in reasonably solid Christian families walk away — and that one main reason is because they’re not convinced it’s true.
- Internet conversation on religion and values is dominated by counter-Christian thinking, and that the same is true in bookstores, on film and TV, and almost everywhere you turn.
- The Church is very poorly equipped to address all this effectively.
Thus I hear the question being asked again and again. Now, with the partnership of a team from Project 360, I’m leading an initiative to tackle that question head-on.
For even though it’s apologists who most often ask the question, it isn’t actually an apologetics question. It’s a church question — or in technical terms, an ecclesiological one. It’s also a local missions/evangelism (missiological) question. It’s a question of spiritual gifts (pneumatology). And it’s a motivation question.
Our team is approaching it from all those angles. We’re calling it the Spiritual Readiness Project.
The Goal: Apologetics in the Church and for the Church
Our objective over the course of five years is to produce a well-researched, validated, church-friendly set of answers to the question, What does it take to support and encourage apologetics in the church? We don’t expect one universal answer, except we know it will require real relational involvement with church leadership. Beyond that, we expect there to be multiple different answers, depending on each person and each situation.
And we plan to deliver results in multiple formats: the website, at least one book, and regional and national conferences. We suspect to learn about lay apologists’ equipping needs, including how to teach, how to have a true local ministry, and even how to practice good “emotional intelligence;” all of which we expect to be part of the equipping we’ll be able to deliver and/or coordinate. We’ll have ideas for pastors and even seminaries, too.
Progress So Far
We’ve just begun, but we’re making progress according to plan. We’ve been running the “Take Your Pastor to Lunch” initiative for just over a month now. Sean McDowell’s support has been most helpful; you can read much more about this project there on his website.
You can join in! It’s about connecting local lay apologists with their pastors, the better to understand their priorities and their challenges. As I’ve already said, we know that no ministry, including apologetics, will ever get a strong start in a church without integrating into leadership priorities.
But there’s more to it than that. We’re asking these lay apologists to return information to us on what they’re learning from their pastors, plus some additional info on their own apologetic interest and equipping. Those results are coming in now, and we’ll be sifting through them over the next few weeks.
We’ve kept the Spiritual Readiness website purposely simple so far. The next step will be expand it considerably, to gather and present articles, web pages, and white papers on all issues relevant to apologetics in the church. Qualified submissions are welcome and warmly invited — use the contact form there if you don’t already have my email address.
At the same time, over the next one to two years we’ll be moving into more well-defined research processes including focus groups and surveys with pastors and apologists.
That’s where we are for now. We need your prayers. If you want to join in on the project and you’ve got skills in any of the areas alluded to here, please let me know. Otherwise I’ll keep you posted.
Image Credit(s): Karl Fredrickson/Unsplash.