Tom Gilson

One Easy Way You Can Help Advance Local Church Apologetics

It’s Giving Tuesday today, and today I’m inviting you to help propel a strategic new ministry forward.

National Ministry Context

Shortly before Thanksgiving I was in San Antonio for meetings, one of which was the for the apologetics leadership group whose founding I led three years ago. These semi-annual gatherings include a specially invited handful of writers, speakers, and educational leaders with national influence in Christian apologetics (reasons for belief in Christ).

Apologetics Leadership Group, Fall 2016
Apologetics Leadership Group, Fall 2016

This group’s ministry is as crucial as it gets. These are the leaders who are facing Christianity’s toughest current questions head-on. They’re tackling issues of marriage, morality, gender, life, religious freedom, and all the challenges of atheism and secularism, and they’re leading the way in showing that the questions have answers.

But Something’s Missing

Working with this powerful group of leaders over the past few years, though, I’ve noticed something missing. They’re well aware of it, too: Who’s passing along these excellent answers to the rest of the church — to people like you and me?

We all face today’s tough challenges. The situation is intensifying. The truth of our faith is literally under attack like we’ve never seen before, here in America. Youth are walking away from Christianity in large numbers— mostly because of unanswered questions. The percentage of religiously unaffiliated persons has doubled in recent years.

Wouldn’t it be great if there were at least one person in every church who could help coach, train, and equip parents and youth — everyone, actually! — in the answers they need, the reasons for confidence in Christ and in His way?

In fact, there is such a person. Not in every church, but in many if not most.

But there’s still something missing.

Leaders Needing Training and Encouragement

God has placed individuals in churches everywhere with a special interest in understanding reasons for confidence in Christianity. They’ve got powerful potential to help build and strengthen their fellow church members, but they’re often disconnected and not necessarily equipped for effective church ministry. Usually there’s only one or two in a church. They feel isolated.

The Thinking Christian Connection

I’ve been able to meet with more than a dozen such people in the Cincinnati/Dayton area. One of them is a local church leader hoping to bring an apologetics conference to Dayton. He’s been working mostly alone. Another goes to the bus station in Cincinnati to share Christ, and to train other people in how to share their faith as well. He feels alone.

Discipleship In Action

For that reason — for mutual learning and encouragement —  we’re forming a group here called the Thinking Christian Connection. It’s really just discipleship in action, with a particular group of people: people whose ministry of teaching and encouragement could spread throughout their churches and beyond.

What About Pastors?

Already there are three pastors in our local group. They need encouragement, too! I’ve had other pastors tell me they’d rather have another church member — someone with more time to study — take leadership in this part of the church ministry.

Local — and Across the Country

Even as I’ve begun this group I’ve been hearing from Christians in other parts of the country wanting the same kind of encouragement. I’ve had inquiries from Indianapolis and Milwaukee. I belive I’ve identified a qualified leader to start a group like this in southern California (that’s in process this week). The concept is simple and it could grow. There’s real potential for this idea to have a strengthening impact on churches everywhere.

(You can inquire about starting or joining a group here. There’s also a potential international connection in the works — but it’s too early to say more about that now.)

You Can Help!

The ministry is poised for rapid growth, but it needs resources. My work as an editor for the Christian website The Stream is a three-quarter-time job, leaving one-quarter time for this other ministry, but supplying only three-quarters salary and none of the expenses incurred through the Thinking Christian Connection.

I estimate that for the year 2017 this ministry will require $2,100 per month for my salary, for administrative and technical support, and for meetings and travel. That’s if the ministry expands to just a few other locations this year.  Some of those funds have already been committed, but not enough to take the ministry into the high levels of growth I expect as it really begins to grow nationwide.

So I’m asking you to consider whether God would have you be a part of it through your tax-deductible contribution of $100, $250, $500, or $1.000, given through Global Service Network.

Thank you! Your investment can help make a huge difference in churches across America — and potentially beyond!

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4 thoughts on “One Easy Way You Can Help Advance Local Church Apologetics

  1. Youth are walking away from Christianity in large numbers— mostly because of unanswered questions.

    I don’t think this is correct. This is anecdotal, but in my experience, pastors are full of answers to questions and are more than eager to give those answers to anyone asking. That was certainly the case when I was a youth, and I’d bet that it’s even moreso the case now. The real reasons youth are leaving church, I suspect, are twofold.

    First, they don’t agree with the answers provided. Not just on things like same-sex marriage and abortion, but on many other issues. Many pastors are older, and tend to have more politically conservative views in general than the youth attending church. And furthermore, they have more socially conservative views – on things like piercings, music, tattoos, etc. A pastor in a sweater vest who spends his evenings reading the newspaper is going to have a hard time connecting in any way with a teenager who dresses in black and hangs out in mosh pits on the weekends.

    Second, church is boring. Very few young people are going to get excited at the prospect of sitting still and being quiet for an hour or more while some stuffy old person goes on about some lines in an old book, interspersed with boring mid-tempo hymns from the fifties and dry, monotone call-and-response prayers.

    This isn’t always the case, though. Black protestant churches have a much better retention rate than catholic or white protestant churches (in the U.S.). That’s probably because black protestant churches aren’t boring. And black protestant church services aren’t just religious services, they’re cultural services as well. If you want to retain youth in your own church, go attend a black church and take some notes.

  2. Skep, there’s plenty of research supporting my statement.

    Some young people disagree with the answers they’re hearing, but the majority of those who leave say they’re dissatisfied with how few people will address their questions. Church isn’t boring when leaders take youth seriously.

    Thanks for the advice about the black church. People who know youth ministry best, however, tell us that the substance matters a lot more than style. See here, for example, or the Sticky Faith books by Powell and Clark. See also Christian Smith, Soul Searching: The Spiritual and Religious Lives of American Teenagers.

  3. This web page is a fund appeal. Skeptics and atheists who do not wish to participate in the appeal need not do so. It’s that simple. There’s no need to mount an argument against it. There’s plenty of opportunity on other pages to agree or to disagree. Thanks.

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