By Rachel Baker, Crosswalk.com
A couple of years ago if you had encouraged me to incorporate apologetics into my women’s ministry, I probably would have shrugged my shoulders and asked, “what’s that?” So, it comes as little to no surprise, that when my team and I launched an apologetics study for our church’s women's ministry this shoulder shrugging and question-asking was the response of several of our attendees.
We were challenged with questions about what apologetics is, why it’s relevant (or irrelevant) to women’s ministry and how we might be stripping away the heart of the gospel with intellectualism. In my very humble opinion, all of these questions are valid, however, I think they fell short of our directive and obligation as Christ-followers.
Once we belong to Christ we are bound by Christ’s mission for the world as laid out in Matthew 28:19-20, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely, I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
How we go about doing that could easily be summed up in the words of Jesus from Matthew 22:37-39, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.”
If we are Christ-followers and love God and ourselves enough to study God’s Word—as we’ve been doing consistently in the context of our women’s ministry—shouldn’t we also love our neighbors enough (meaning the people that God has placed within our sphere of influence) to be able to have intelligible conversations about faith with them? This question has drawn me, and therefore the ministry in which I serve, towards the topic of apologetics.
If you find yourself pondering these questions as well, perhaps consider the following points as reason enough to incorporate apologetics into your own life and into the ministry contexts in which you serve:
Sometimes We Need to Inspire Intellect over Emotion
I know a lot of people who have come to faith because of a heart transformation. Something powerful occurred in their spirit and they were drawn to Christ. To be fair, I fall into this category. While I grew up in a Christian home, I fell away from my faith as a young adult.
I spent my junior year of college studying abroad in the south of France. During that time, I was invited by a flatmate to attend an English-speaking church service. I didn’t go because I wanted to return to Christ but more so out of desperation to have a few blissful hours amongst English-speaking people.
Nevertheless, that spring I found myself having a literal “mountain top” experience during an Easter sunrise service. As it turned out God was working on my heart the whole time and I attribute that service to my return to Christ. I returned, re-placed my faith in God’s hands, but I still had doubts.
My doubts led me to pursue the validity of the resurrection of Christ, the reality of this earth’s divine creation, and the amazing and sometimes harrowing stories of our Biblical doctrine. While I didn’t realize at the time, it turns out that I was studying apologetics throughout that whole season.
The study of apologetics stoked my intellect in ways that I had never experienced as a young person growing up in the faith. The deeper I engaged in apologetics the more my doubts waned. As we serve in ministry and do life with our community the reality is that we’re probably going to rub shoulders with more “doubters” than not. They have valid questions and serious issues that are blockades to faith. If we’re to take Matthew 22:37-39 seriously then shouldn’t we be prepared to have direct and deep conversations about those very issues?
I have a sneaking suspicion that the answer to this question is a resounding and universal, “yes.”
Faith is More Than a Feeling
I love the way that the Holy Spirit moves and convicts me. I can feel the power of the Holy Spirit in worship services and in prayer gatherings and in my own quiet time with God. Allowing the Holy Spirit to lead and guide us is a significant part of our connection to Christ.
While it’s powerful and profound, keep in mind that those who are not in Christ are not experiencing the Holy Spirit like we are, if at all. This may be painful to consider, but the reality is that a lot of our culture has completely dismissed the idea of God’s existence. We are living in a post-modern, post-church and practically post-truth society. So, while sharing the way that our faith makes us feel might be understandable to another Christian, it could be completely unrelatable to an atheist or agnostic.
If we share how our faith makes us “feel,” or why we “feel” our faith is true with a doubter or unbeliever the response could most likely be, “well good for you,” or “that’s your truth but not my truth.” If we want to have deep and meaningful conversations around faith and why we believe that there is a God and why our faith is in Jesus Christ, we better be ready to give a better answer than, “I feel like it’s true.”
Preparing the women in our ministries to give a good defense and to have conversations that are intellectually led rather than emotionally charged can create a whole new level of evangelism. It can create confidence and excitement to share the “why” behind our faith. Being able to articulate that “why” and give a good reason for our faith can help break down walls and pierce doubting hearts.
Intelligent Faith Is Countercultural
Historically, Christianity has always been countercultural, but if you grew up in the United States anytime between the 50s and early 80s you may have been blissfully unaware of just how countercultural Christianity should actually be. As a child of the 80s who grew up in the sweet innocence of the Christian community, I didn’t really understand the premise of atheism or agnosticism until confronted with my own doubts as a young adult.
For me, Christianity and culture were one and the same. It wasn’t until my eyes were opened to other cultures and ways of thinking that I realized that there were whole other philosophies out there that didn’t stack up the way that I had been raised. Up until my fall from faith (or deconstruction) and subsequent rebuilding of faith, I would have identified as a “cultural Christian.” I grew up in a Christian home, as a part of a Christian community and therefore I too was a Christian.
How many “Christians” do you know fall into this category? They classify themselves as Christian and yet are more or less asleep at the wheel. You ask them difficult questions about their faith and their response is emotional or defensive. To be a Christ-follower, propelled by the Great Commission, we need to be fully awake, ready to engage. If we continue looking just like the world or resting in the comfort of our cultural Christianity, we won’t be having difficult or deep conversations around faith, maybe for this one reason alone: Our faith looks apathetic. No one will be interested in asking us deep questions, because there just isn’t anything that deep under the surface of our shallow faith to begin with.
As true followers of Christ, it’s time to wipe the sleep from our eyes and dig into the deep and beautiful reasons that we know that there is a God and that he actually does love his creation. Pressing into apologetics can help us as we wake up and engage fully with the world around us. Let’s not forget, actual lives are at stake here.
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Rachel Baker is the author of Deconstructed, a bible study guide for anyone who feels overwhelmed or ill-equipped to study the word of God. She is a pastor’s wife and director of women’s ministries, who believes in leading through vulnerability and authenticity. She is a cheerleader, encourager, and sometimes drill-sergeant. She serves the local church alongside her husband, Kile, in Northern Nevada. They have two amazing kiddos and three dogs. Rachel is fueled by coffee, tacos and copious amounts of cheese. For more on her and her resources to build your marriage, see her website: www.rachelcheriebaker.com or connect with her on Instagram at @hellorachelbaker.