Throughout the month of January various posts are being published encouraging you to become a “community apologist.” A community apologist is helpfully defined here as, “someone with an interest in apologetics stepping up to the plate and making themselves available to teach apologetics in their church and community.” Maybe you see the validity and need for this, yet there is something, or some things, holding you back. I’ve been there myself. I’ve held back, procrastinating from fully stepping into this role. I’d like to share with you just a few of the personal obstacles that held me back from stepping up to the plate and how the Lord broke through them.
First you need to know….
Apologetics has been a passion of mine for a very long time. Throughout my twenties I managed to study the discipline both formally and informally, but it didn’t go much further than that. Then in 2010 I moved to England to study apologetics for a year at the Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics. While there I was equipped to share the reason for hope in Christ in the context of relationships. The program was focused on evangelism. What we learned was not given for us to sit on. We were meant to share it with others, introducing them to the richness of confidence in Jesus Christ. Needless to say, when I came home a year later I was pumped. I was on a mountaintop of excitement and ready to change the world for Christ with the training I had received.
Once home, the reality of life hit; life is hard down in the valley. With the hardships came obstacles to stepping into the role I felt God was calling me to. They weren’t surprising, but when you face them yourself they can seem daunting. My obstacles may not be yours specifically, but it’s my hope that by sharing them and the lessons I learned, you will be encouraged to step into the role of “community apologist” in the unique way God has in mind for you.
Obstacle #1: Fear
I am a fearful person. It is something I have struggled and wrestled with since I was a child. So as I looked to begin living apologetically fear hit me like a ton of bricks. What if I failed? What if I said the wrong thing? What if no one liked me? What if I let people down?
Obstacle #2: Feeling Inadequate
With the fear came deep feelings of inadequacy. Who was I to think I had anything worth saying that anyone should listen to? So many others were more capable. So many others are more capable! Even with training, I deeply felt (and feel) my lack of ability. I’m nowhere near smart enough for this! Sometimes I think the more you learn the less you know. I was definitely feeling the “less” side of things.
Obstacle 3: False Definition of Success
I also had a very wrong view of success. My inward conversation with myself went something like this. “I’ll never be as good or influential as… (fill in the blank with every famous apologist you can think of).” I had a mental and emotional image of what success looked like and it was one I knew I’d never be able to live up to.
Obstacle 4: Pride
Basically every personal obstacle I faced, and still face, can be summed up in the word pride. My personal obstacles were all based on an inward focus and emphasis on my influence. It’s unfortunate but true. Pride comes in all shapes and sizes. Those moments when I was at my fearful lowest had as much pride in them as the moments when I thought I was pretty special.
Overcoming the Obstacles
Thankfully God has a way of meeting our obstacles with both his grace and his discipline. His love was steady and his rebuke was firm. The best way to describe the lessons he taught me is through the conversation he had with me through Scripture. It went something like this:
Me: Lord, Who am I to attempt using apologetics for you? What if I mess up? What if I fail?
The Lord: You will mess up and you will fail. That’s not the point. My grace is sufficient for you. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. (2 Cor. 12:9; Josh. 1:9)
Me: Yes, Lord. But I’m so inadequate! I don’t know enough. I’m not smart enough. Why should anyone listen to me?
The Lord: Of course you’re inadequate. But I am not. When you are weak I am strong. You are not adequate in yourself to claim anything as coming from you, but your adequacy is in me. I have made you competent to share with others about who I am. Be bold. (2 Cor. 3:4-6, 12; 12:10)
Me: Yes, Lord. I understand. But… and I know I sort of already asked this… what if I fail? I’m not like Ravi Zacharias or all these other really good apologists. I’ll never have the impact they do or the success they’ve experience.
The Lord: Sarah, I don’t care about your success. I care about your obedience. Obey me and leave the fruit of your service to me. I am more concerned with your submission to me than whether your work impacts a few or millions. Success in my eyes is obedience. Don’t be like the lazy servant who buried his talent in the sand. Steward what I’ve given you. Do you love me? (1 Sam. 15:22; Matt. 25:14-30; Jn. 21:16)
Me: Yes, Lord. You know that I do.
The Lord: Then humble your pride before me and get to work. Are you greater than I am? Do I make mistakes? You did not choose me but I chose you. And the work I’ve begun in you I’ll be faithful to complete. (1 Pet. 5:6; Jn. 15:16; Phil. 1:6)
Me: Yes, Lord.
So then, by the grace of God I got to work and I’m a community apologist. I may only have one talent, but I don’t want to bury it in the sand. I’d rather be a small, yet faithful, servant than a lazy one who hides in fear. All of the personal obstacles I face that would hold me back from serving him are like throwing pebbles at a brick wall. They are insignificant in the presence of his glory and strength.
How is the Lord asking you to serve? What personal obstacles are you facing? In whatever way the Lord is calling you to step up as a community apologist, may you find his strength to joyfully obey.
Therefore I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. (Acts 20:24)