Recently, in response to my blog, “What is Christianity without Apologetics and Missions?”, I was asked why I believe churches are not able to connect apologetics and missions. My initial thought was how could churches not connect apologetics and missions and fulfill their purpose as the bride of Christ? Let me explain.
I believe many churches today do not see a connection between apologetics and missions because of a missing foundation; they don’t see either (i) the need for apologetics in the church, or (ii) the need for missions in the church. If the Church does not initially understand the importance of apologetics and missions as each individually critical to the Church, the Church will never understand how apologetics and missions should be connected within the life of a believer and ultimately the church.
The real missional heart of the Scriptures, as God outlines it from Genesis to Revelation, has been lost by many churches. Often, missions is watered down to something that most Christians can justifiably embrace without having to actually sacrifice their comforts, or God forbid, their life. I have heard many times that the Church can do missions, including reaching the unreached, without ever having to leave the comforts and safety of home. This lie is believed by many in the Church today. The evidence is that of the 2 billion professing Christians worldwide, only 10,000 intentionally work amongst the unreached. The Church can and must certainly reach out to the few precious souls in their surrounding neighbourhoods, but the 2.4 billion unreached are almost entirely apart from Christian communities. We must be obedient to the call of Christ and go wherever He calls us, be it in our workplace at home or the jungles of Asia. Many of us believers, not just westerners, must leave home if we are to reach ALL nations!
Assuming now that a church embraces the command of Christ to go into ALL the world, what happens next? We make disciples, of course! How? May I suggest that this is where apologetics becomes critical to the Church.
Making disciples involves exposing people to the reality of a possible relationship with Christ, first as unbelievers and then as disciples. Romans Road, The Alpha Course and other evangelistic tools are great, although not useful in every situation. There is no western curriculum or program I am aware of that fits every culture in every country. Apologetics overcomes this problem and gives us the ability as individuals, across cultures, to share and defend the Scriptures from first principles. Why don’t we then use apologetics, be it in our home culture or at the ends of the earth?
I believe the Church rejects this skill to defend the Scriptures for two reasons. The first is our misunderstanding of what apologetics is. My definition of choice is, “a reasoned argument or writing in justification of something, typically a theory or religious doctrine.” I have unpacked this misunderstanding further in In The Cultural Apologetic Box? The second reason for rejection appears to be the fear that if we use logic, history or philosophy to defend our faith, it somehow reduces our faith to some sort of Gnostic, knowledge-based heresy. The opposite extreme, as generally adopted by the Church today, is intellectual ignorance. Both extremes require realignment. It is possible not to compromise our faith or the complete saving grace of God while studying fields of academia that support and give additional evidences for the reality and reliability of the Scriptures.
As we embrace this idea of apologetics for every believer, not only scholars or pastors, we suddenly have a worldwide church, consisting of individuals capable of exposing people to the reality of a possible relationship with Christ; we have a church capable of making disciples!
Assuming the church now understands and embraces apologetics and missions, the church has the ability to consider how these fields are connected. The outcome will be transformational to the church and the world. The concluding result will be the ability for every individual within the church to make disciples across any culture, everywhere from their own backyard to the ends of the earth. Isn’t that what we desire as the church? Isn’t that the role of the church?
In all of this, we must remember that it is not the apologetics or missions that cause people to be saved. They are merely tools God can use through us if we are prepared and willing. An example is the testimony of Guillaume Bignon, once a French atheist and now Christian scholar. As God pursued him, Guillaume found himself talking to a man called into pastoral ministry with a basic ability to defend the Christian faith in a humble manner. The point here was that (i) God initiated and led the conversion, (ii) an obedient servant of God was right where God sent him (it wasn’t luck or coincidence), and (iii) the servant of God was able to explain and defend the Scriptures. This allowed Guillaume to continue his struggle with God and ultimately to his glorious inheritance in Christ.
If our own churches are not able to connect apologetics and missions, let each of us be a catalyst to ask why. As long as the church fails to connect, embrace and practice apologetics and missions together, are we really able to be prepared to share and defend our faith (apologetics) while going into ALL the world (missions)? If we, the church, fail to undertake both of these practices in union, I fear we are missing opportunities worldwide on a daily basis to share the gospel of Christ and see the glory of God revealed; our purpose in life!
Cross posted on “When Worldviews Collide”