Apologetic Evangelism

Evangelism without apologetics = likely rejection

by Ken Speer
via Luke 4:18 Ministries, PO Box 1516, Bedford, Indiana 47421,
e-mail:  concertsforchrist@insightbb.com

Walking up to someone and saying, "You should give your life to Christ!" or "You should be in church!" is kind of like shoving a plate of distasteful (to them) looking food under their noses and saying, "You should eat this!" How do you think they would respond? You just might get a plate full of food shoved back in your face.

Now, what if you took the time to make the food look attractive? What if you talked first about how good it tastes and how enriching it is for the person? What if you warmed it up and let it sit near the person, giving off a wonderful aroma? Think you would have a better chance of getting the person to take a bite? You would have a better chance if you used that approach on me. Now, think of Christianity being like that plate of food. It works the same way.

This is a pretty good example of apologetic evangelism. Apologetics is about making the food attractive. Evangelism is about inviting the person to take a bite.

Evangelism involves an invitation to a person to make a decision about Christ. It is somewhat confrontational as it causes the person to take a stand, either way. Apologetics, on the other hand, is a sort of pre-evangelism. It prepares the person to make the decision and makes clearer why a decision in favor of Christ makes sense. You will have a better chance of getting a positive response if you lay a little groundwork before extending the invitation.

Evangelism was simpler years ago when Christian principles were assumed and the Christian worldview was predominant. But, that is not the case today. Pluralism rules. All religions are seen as legitimate and all roads lead to the same God. Your truth may not be my truth but they are both equally true. There are no absolutes. It is seen as arrogant to claim that your truth is THE truth. Today, the work of a Christian evangelist is much more difficult. Add to this the general distaste many have for the Christian message or the Christian way of life and you really have your work cut out for you. Today, apologetics is essential to success.

The definition of the word, apologetics, is "the branch of theology dealing with the defense of Christianity" (Webster). There are two main responsibilities of apologetics; (1) identifying the attractiveness of the Christian faith and (2) clearing the obstacles that block one's path to that faith. Apologetics does not have to involve big words and years of study. It happens on many levels. You have performed apologetics many times just by testifying of the goodness of God. That, you see, makes Christianity attractive. Now, if you want to debate Christianity with a college professor in front of a college student body, you will need to be more sophisticated.

So, anytime you, in any way, do or say anything that makes the Christian faith attractive, you are performing apologetics. Whether or not it convinces anyone to accept Christ depends on the person and that person's particular obstacles to faith in Christ. If what you say does not address his obstacles, you may not make much of a dent, but keep testifying, anyway. You just never know. If, however, you decide that you would like to make a dent in the person's objections, you will have to do a little more work. That is where many of us draw the line.

There is often much guilt and discouragement when witnessing appears to be failing. Such should not be the case. First of all, its not your responsibility to get the person to repent and accept Christ. It's merely your responsibility to do what you can and let God be God. It's His job to convict, not yours. It's His job to turn the person around, not yours. Witnessing is not so much about soul-winning as it is about glorifying God. One should never judge the success of witnessing by the number of "conversion" notches on our belt. Not even Jesus was able to win over everyone, and He walked on water. If, after you have witnessed, they still have not come to faith, then there are obstacles that need to be cleared from their personal road to faith.

For some, the road to faith may be short with just one or two obstacles. The jailer in Acts 16 was quick to come to Christ; but, then again, he had been exposed to Paul and Silas for awhile. The Ethiopian in Acts 8 was a quick sell by the time Philip approached his chariot. But then, the Holy Spirit had been dealing with him beforehand. If some seed has been planted beforehand, it makes the job of the witness so much easier. (So, do not knock seed planting.) For others, the road may be long with many obstacles in the way, such as King Agrippa who still was not persuaded even though the great Paul had worked on him for some time (Acts 26).

If there are obstacles in the road, guess what, you'll have to try to nudge those obstacles out of the way. You do this by first, finding out just what the obstacles are. Ask the person what it is that keeps him or her from embracing Christianity. What turns him off to it? You might even phrase a question this way, "What is it about church that makes you not want to be a Christian?"

They tend to see God, Christianity, and the church as one big conglomerate, anyway. (That is why, when someone gets hurt by a Christian or a church, God often gets the person's anger.) Now, his obstacles may lie in a perceived lack of intellectualism in the Christian belief. Maybe, in his opinion, science and the Bible are incompatible. It could be that he had a bad experience when he did get involved in a church. In our area, almost everyone has experienced church life in some form and, if they no longer attend, have walked away from it. It could be that they are dealing with an addiction and feel they must conquer the addiction before they can approach a holy God. They may be too ashamed to go to church. They may not want to give up their lifestyle or their friends. They may have bought into the world's assessment of Christianity, that it is a religion for weak losers who cannot cope with life or that it is full of people who are out of touch with reality. Who knows? The obstacles can be all over the chart. Your job, as a Christian apologist, is to identify the obstacles blocking the person's path and start moving them aside by satisfactorily addressing each obstacle. If you address one obstacle and he still will not budge, do not despair. Just let him ponder what you said. Do not rush him. The Holy Spirit needs time to work or he may have other obstacles that need to be addressed. Take all the time needed to attack obstacles until that last obstacle is removed and the person, finally, says "YES."

Witnessing is not always easy but it is a real joy when you finally see the person take that last step that leads to eternal life!

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