Doing Apologetics “within” the Church

wolf in sheepGuest Post by Jeff Mindler

[Jeff graduated from Lancaster Bible College in 2014 with a B.A. in Biblical Studies, as well as an M.A. in Counseling. He currently works as the Event Coordinator for the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals in Lancaster, PA. His wife, Joe’l, and he worship at Grace Baptist Church of Millersville in Millersville, PA where they both serve as members. He enjoys studying several different disciplines including Biblical Studies, Systematic Theology, Apologetics, Church History, and Practical Theology, while having a keen and passionate love for Apologetics and Systematic Theology in particular.]

“Doing apologetics within the Church” – this statement may sound strange at first, particularly to the reader who says, “I thought apologetics was done with unbelievers or those of differing religions?” While that is certainly true that we are called to practice apologetics to those of differing religions and unbelievers, there is another setting in which apologetics is to take place and that is within the Church. That’s right; apologetics is also to be done in the body of Christ. What do I mean by this? Read on, it’s in here.

To help us understand this topic, perhaps it is best to give a Biblical example of defending the faith within the Church, but before I do so, allow me to briefly define what apologetics is. Biblical apologetics is at its most basic level a defense of the Christian faith, giving a reason for the hope that is within us, just as Peter instructed in 1 Peter 3:15. This in its most basic form is what apologetics is. Now, let us consider the book of Jude, in which we see an example of defending the faith within the Church. Jude 1:3 states, “Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.”

This is one of the classic passages on practicing apologetics. Jude is directly commanding the Church to do apologetics, but to whom are we to contend for the faith in this passage? The very next verse Jude addresses the reason why we are to contend for the faith. Verse 4 states, “For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.” It is interesting to note, then, that the purpose and intent of this book is an encouragement to do apologetics. Scott Oliphant makes an astute observation on this point when he writes, “Jude writes to a church, or group of churches, to help them defend themselves against a specific attack on the gospel, an attack that is taking place within the church itself.” [1]

While these people are not exactly identified, Jude does give us many useful descriptions of these people, saying that they have “crept in unnoticed.” This is something we should take seriously today and must recognize the deceptiveness of sin, we should be on high alert for those who are amongst us but nevertheless pervert the grace of God. Jude also describes these people as those who “pervert the grace of our God” and “deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.” These people are false teachers to the core. This is why we must defend the faith within the Church, to protect the body of Christ from false teachers who would pervert the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Jude’s exhortations to defend the faith against those inside the Church who would attempt to pervert the Gospel is an exhortation to believers everywhere to stand firm and to fight the good fight for the faith once for all delivered to us. With this exhortation, we are to wage a battle, to practice apologetics not only to unbelievers outside of the Church, but also to those inside the Church. In the process we seek to apply biblical truth to unbelief, including the unbelief within our own hearts. An example of this is found in Titus 1:9 where Titus outlines one of the duties of an elder. Titus writes, “9 He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sounddoctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.”

To rebuke those who contradict sound doctrine is to engage in apologetics, the defending of the faith against those who would seek to undermine it. Elders must be ready to engage in apologetics and to lead others in the defending of their faith as well, and by so doing, they will protect those in the congregation against others who would seek to teach what does not accord with sound doctrine.

May we as the Church be strengthened daily, may we continue to preach the Gospel to ourselves every day, and may we engage in battle against unbelief while doing so with gentleness and respect. And finally, may our prayer continue to be “Lord, I believe, help my unbelief” (Mark 9:24).

 

1.         Oliphint, K.S., The Battle Belongs to the Lord: The Power of Scripture for Defending Our Faith. 2003: Presbyterian & Reformed Publishing Company

What I’m Reading Wednesdays-10/28/15

Gaining by LosingGaining by Losing: Why the Future Belongs to Churches That Send, J. D. Greear (Zondervan, 2015). 256 pages. $19.99

Frankly, I did not expect much from this book. I’m not a fan of the multi-site, megachurch pastor who writes books that become best-sellers simply by getting all his church members to buy the book. However, early in this book Greear says something that flies in the face of everything the multi-site megachurch has banked on for decades. He argues that “increasingly, in a ‘post-Christian’ society, unbelievers will simply not make their way into our churches, no matter how ‘attractive’ we make them.”

This is exactly what I have been increasingly talking about in my apologetics ministry. The days of the big “Come and See” events as the primary evangelism strategy is drawing to a close. As the culture becomes more hostile, people are simply not going to darken the doors of a church, no matter how “cool and relevant” we seek to become. Greear proceeds to say that “if we don’t equip our people to carry the gospel outside of our meetings, our events, our gatherings and programs, we are going to lose all audience with them. A few flashier and flashier megachurches will likely keep fighting for larger pieces of a shrinking pie.” His solution? We must teach our people to engage people outside the church. Exactly.

This book is worth the read and may serve as a kick in the pants to get pastors moving on equipping their people to confidently engage unbelievers in apologetic evangelism. Buy it!

The Healthy Church Is An Apologetic for the Christian Faith

3_questions_to_ask_when_building_a_racially_diverse_church_484869019The healthy church as an institution of apologetics has the advantage of being an explanation of the gospel by its very presence. The quality of life in a gathering of believers is a startling apologetic to a world that is critical, negative, competitive, and skeptical. Within the larger context of the local church, a broad variety of personal accounts of how dignity has been restored by the gospel and how marriages have been put back together by the grace of God stand in contrast to the apparent distress in the workplace and classroom. Add to this a code of ethics that works and a sense of belonging on the one hand and of purpose on the other.

The end of apologetics is not simply to bolster the credibility of the Christian faith for the believer, but rather to break through the incredulity of the unbeliever. And while there is overwhelming reasonable evidence for the Christian faith, because in the postmodern world reason is suspect and moral and spiritual values have been reduced to relativistic opinions, the existential power of the healthy Christian community is a powerful apologetic (maybe even more influential initially than any intellectual construct we have to offer). It’s as though the truth of the gospel must be existentially perceived–at least initially–rather than rationally grasped.

Ravi Zacharias, Is Your Church Ready? (Zondervan, 2003), 53-54.