Tom Gilson

New Strategic Initiative: The Thinking Christian Connection

The first local Thinking Christian Connection meeting will be this weekend.
The above photo comes from a strategy session I co-led in California last month with Stand to Reason and Sean McDowell.

God Keeps Answering “Yes!”

On February 17, 2009, I entered the following brief question in my prayer journal: “Apologetics Strategy Initiative: That God would guide me whether to pursue this idea…”

God answered yes then, and he keeps answering “yes!” Since I first began to pray that prayer He’s given me the opportunity to pioneer multiple new strategies and even new ministries. (Yes, there’s a reason I keep doing new things: it’s because part of God’s calling and gifting for me is to help start new things.) It’s happening again now.

Up until now my work in apologetics strategy has been on a national leadership level. Among other things I’ve been part of the executive leadership team with the start-up campus ministry Ratio Christi, and I founded one major apologetics group, a semi-annual gathering of top speakers, writers, and scholars in the field of Christian confidence-building (apologetics).

Now both Ratio Christi and the apologetics leadership group are in other leaders’ very capable hands — and now I’m reversing course, and going local. This month I’m launching the Thinking Christian Connection, a local fellowship of apologetics-interested believers uniting as a network for the express purpose of learning how to integrate more relationally and more effectively into our own local ministries.

It’s local for now, that is. Here’s the current draft of the vision statement:

Vision for a New Ministry

The Thinking Christian Connection envisions churches nationwide enlivened, encouraged, and equipped in true discipleship of the mind through the work of apologetics-trained believers who have learned that knowledge is for the sake of service, and who have developed the skills and mindset necessary to serve alongside their church’s ministry leadership, resourcing their churches humbly yet effectively through their ability to teach, persuade, and answer.

The (draft form) two- to five-year expectation, by God’s grace through prayer is that:

  • This network will have expanded to major metropolitan areas whose reach covers the majority of North America,
  • With a multi-role core leadership team and regional and local leaders, equipped and deployed as needed to serve local network locations everywhere (Note: this is the one key factor that will determine how quickly or slowly the network will grow).
  • With curricula in place for personal study and practical ministry training.
  • With apologists’ training conferences held regionally each year, with non-apologist ministry leaders (pastors and mission leaders) doing a large share of the training.
  • With an active online community interacting through forums on topics including ministry strategy, resources, shared learning/best practices, and so on.
  • With up-to-date graphics and design structure for the website.
  • With a separate, church- and lay-person friendly search portal for the best apologetics resources based on crowd-sourcing (site currently under independent development).
  • With adequate funds for the core leadership team, and a feasible funding model worked out for chapter operations and leaders’ needs.

What makes this so strategic?

Christians face hard questions we’ve never had to face before. Do we really believe God is real — so real, so true, and so good, that we’re willing to sacrifice everything for him? Christians in America are losing their jobs and their livelihoods already, simply for standing up for the truths of our faith. It takes confidence in Christ to do that. And apologetics more than any other ministry — except possibly that of mutual encouragement — is the ministry of confidence.

Can apologetics-minded people really make a difference?

Yes. They have to. Because the American Christianity needs what they have to offer.

Up until now, though, no one has given much systematic attention to helping them connect relationally and effectively within their churches for ministry to others. Sure, there are a few really good seminary programs that can help — but what about the majority who can’t attend seminary? The Thinking Christian Connection exists for a new purpose in apologetics. It isn’t for knowing the right answers, but for knowing how to be relationally present for ministry with others when explanations and confidence are called for — as is already the case like never before in recent memory, and as I expect will increasingly be the case.

Getting started

The Connection will have its first meeting this weekend. Already, one to one, I’m meeting some really interesting people with incredible potential:

  • The assistant principle of a Christian school, who sees opportunities for further student training in reasons for faith.
  • A single man who was part of the Ratio Christi apologetics fellowship in college, and wishes he had more like-minded fellowship today.
  • A young father who was raised in a church where questions were discouraged, which led to a crisis of faith when he ran into unbelieving professors in college — and who wants to help equip others to make it through their own crises of faith.
  • A mom whose daughter has caused her heartache, and believes good answers to hard questions may provide power to heal relationships
  • Two pastors who are convinced high school students need to be prepared for the anti-Christian onslaught most students face when they go to college — and that they also face almost every time they connect with social or entertainment media.

Prayer requests

Even with this kind of momentum, launching a new initiative can be slow. It’s hard to get a group together for a meeting, so the first meeting is being split into three different meetings, at different times and places. So please pray for wisdom during the uncertainties of the launch. Pray, too, that God would guide me in how fast to let it grow into new regions — I’ve received inquiries from Indiana, Wisconsin, and even California. And pray that God would raise up the right co-leaders as quickly as possible, for I know I’m not the right person to do everything that needs doing.

And pray for resources: time and funds. I’m working three-quarter time as a writer/editor with The Stream, which means I get just three-quarter salary from there, for one thing, and this new initiative will require funds to grow. Giving is possible through Global Service Network.


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