Two days ago, I graduated from Amarillo College. It took me four years, but I finally reached a halfway point in my goal to get a B.A. in Mass Communication and a Masters in Apologetics. Over the past four years I’ve had some considerable ups and downs, but one constant that has been ever present is my love for apologetics and apologetics-related campus ministry.
Looking back at the past four years and the growth that took place in my life as an apologist, I felt compelled to write about three essential lessons I learned from my time at Amarillo College. These points are not profound or deep, but I believe they are essential to the apologist on (and off) the college campus. I know they were for me.
1) Making relationships can be more important than winning arguments.
Your faith is going to get challenged in some regard – count on it. It could be as mild as a sacrilegious jab or as severe as a “God’s Not Dead”-type professor lashing out in a lecture. You are going to have plenty of opportunities to speak up for your faith in class and outside of class – but you don’t have many opportunities to make relationships if you’re more concerned with winning debates and arguments than showing Christ. I had my fair share of showdowns with various professors and students, but after seeing that my arguments weren’t always building friendships with unbelieving classmates and professors, my main concern became getting to know the people sitting around me. You don’t always build good relationships with arguments – you build them by sharing in everyday victories, concerns, struggles, and accomplishments with them and pointing back to Christ in your own life. Arguments are good, enjoyable, and sometimes necessary, but don’t throw away potentially lifelong relationships for the sake of showing off your brainpower.
Since day one I’ve been a part of my campus’s Baptist Student Ministry. I’ve led Bible studies, participated in campus outreach and evangelism events, led worship, and more – all the while experiences an unforgettable and life changing community of believers and fellow classmates. If I did one thing right in my four years at Amarillo College, it was plugging into the BSM – I can’t even begin to list the blessings that came from it. Obviously not every Christian club on every campus is a healthy club to be a part of, but in addition to serving your local church (if you’re not, get on it!), try to find a group of theologically sound and missionally minded believers to join up with. Maybe you need to start a club, maybe you need to plug into one – either way, don’t neglect Christian community on your campus.
3) Christ is your foundation, and the Gospel is your message.
Apologetics is awesome. I love it. But apologetics is not Christ. We do not live on bread alone, even if it’s intellectually enriching bread – we live ultimately on “every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). If you want to make an impact on your campus with your apologetics training, your relationship with Christ is what will make or break your efforts. Don’t neglect Bible study, Scripture memorization, prayer, confession, worship (both private and corporate), and giving – if anything, put these first. Don’t sacrifice the essentials of the Christian life on the altar of apologetics – it is not a substitute for any of these. Don’t forget the point of apologetics either – the Gospel is what saves, and it’s the message we are all called to proclaim. Do not underestimate its power to raise the dead to life.
There’s many other things I could list, but I think these three are among the most important. The university is one of the most important sectors of today’s culture and we need Christians who are prepared to defend, explain, and proclaim their faith in any situation they may find themselves in. I hope this brief set of reflections will further enable even one student to do so.