Tom Gilson

Ministry Update: God at Work Through the Cincinnati-Dayton Area Apologetics Fellowship

The Apologetics Fellowship at a special-invite luncheon with conference speaker Alisa Childers.

It’s time for an update on ministry, especially for prayer and financial supporters. It’s time, too, for thankfulness to God and to you, because I am seeing my most fruitful period of local ministry ever.

I’ve been a musician, a leader in national roles at Cru and Ratio Christi, and a writer. These have been my “jobs,” my “vocation” as a full-time Christian worker. They’ve all had a nationwide reach. Of course I’ve served in churches like any other Christian. Vocationally, though, I’ve often longed for work with more human contact, nearby, and without needing to get on an airplane for it.

Now I’m gratefully excited to see God working more locally. Real people! How amazing!

The Apologetics Fellowship

The core of it is a new apologetics fellowship for the Cincinnati/Dayton area. We meet once a month, two hours on a Saturday morning, with the usual bagels and coffee. It started when I asked Cade Cover, Ratio Christi director for the University of Cincinnati, to join me in asking people who enjoy apologetics if they’d like to gather for fellowship.

Not only did we find such a group of people, we found some who wanted to do things with it. And they have, in a very short time.

Ministry Exploding

A Cincinnati pastor was (and is) deeply concerned about his denomination’s theological drift. He’s worried about how it’s affecting his own church members. With the support of our fellowship, he has already hosted a conference, with Alisa Childers as the main speaker. I opened the conference with a talk based on Too Good to Be False My friend Bob Perry spoke.

A large Dayton area church has been developing a Christian confidence/apologetics ministry for some time. Now they have classes on it, with about 50 people attending each Wednesday night. They’re one of two churches we’re currently sending people to for more in-depth teaching.

Another Cincinnati-area church has been named next year’s national training center for the apologetics-focused Cross-Examined Instructors Academy.

All this is either the direct result of our fellowship, or the indirect effect of our work. And to top it off, we’ve got a half-dozen or so people in the Fellowship working on strategies to extend our reach. It’s the fruition of work I’ve been building toward for some time. Now I can say with gratefulness that it’s taking real shape.

Why It Matters

There’s a point to all this, of course. Our world is increasingly hostile to the faith, or if not hostile, then apathetic. They don’t know if it’s true. Worse yet, they’re not sure it’s good, especially Christianity’s sexual ethic.

I’ll give you just two examples before, one old and one new.

In Christianity’s earliest years, word went out among the Romans that believers practiced cannibalism and child sacrifice. (Yes, believe it or not, it’s true.) Christian thinkers had to help them understand that Communion wasn’t at all what the rumors said it was, and that the death of the Son of God wasn’t “child sacrifice.”

Today, word is going around that our faith is arrogant, bigoted, intolerant, and on the wrong side of history, especially regarding sex. We can show them faithful marriages and healthy, holy single living, but will they understand that isn’t just different, but really good, too? That God knew what He was doing when He designed us to live that way?

Vision, Prayer, Thankfulness

So here’s my vision for our apologetics fellowship. It’s started locally, but I think it may end up being reproduced in many other places. Who knows but that I may end up in another national leadership role?

I don’t aspire to that so much anymore. What I dream of instead is this: That every church of a couple hundred members or more would have someone in their midst who can help answer today’s hard questions: How do we know the faith is true? How do we know that it’s good?

That person may be the pastor, but I’ve found that even pastors who want to study these things have trouble finding the time. So it may be someone else in the congregation. I’d love to see these “local apologists” connected, encouraged, and trained not just in the answers but especially in how to minister to others with answers.

And there you might say I saved the best for last. My dream is local apologists everywhere who know how to use their skills in real ways, in real ministry with real people. It’s starting to happen here. We expect more to come, and I ask you to pray with us for it. Thanks be to God! And thank you for your part in it!

P.S. Check back soon at my podcast page for a conversation with Pastor Tim Waugh, the Cincinnati-area pastor who hosted our first conference.

Image Credit(s): Tom Gilson.

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