Brothers, sisters, and fellow apologists: how many times have we ever heard, “This is really interesting stuff, I’m glad someone is doing it.” Or maybe, “I just don’t have the brain for remembering all those facts; I haven’t been blessed with that.” Or even, “I don’t really feel called to be intellectual about the Bible, but I’m glad someone is called to talk to college students and skeptics about science and history.”
I have noticed when I speak about apologetic issues there are some people who eat it up and others who think it is a waste of time. However, I think the majority of people fall into a category of understanding what is being said, loving the information they are hearing, being glad they came to church that day, but then never doing anything more apologetically, or even using this information in conversations with others. Why?
I think it is because many people believe there is a division of labors in the church and a distribution of different gifts to different people. That does in fact seem to be the case. Some are compassionate and love to help those on the street find food and clothing. Some lead a women’s Bible study. Others count the money from the offering and propose church budgets. Still others are great 1st grade Sunday School teachers, piano players, door greeters, and missions directors. Then there are those who are evangelism team leaders, apologists, and intellectuals.
Yes, God has gifted us in different areas, but does this mean we can neglect other areas? God has gifted me with the ability to speak and to discuss arguments about Christianity with others, but does that mean I can turn away the cold and hungry man showing up at my door asking for my cans and bottles (we get a 10 cent refund when recycling cans and bottles in Michigan)? Should I say, “Sorry, my gift is not hospitality and outreach to the poor. I don’t feel called to spend my holidays at the Gospel Mission serving mashed potatoes. But Joe down the street does that, go talk to him. Come back to me if you have a question regarding the Problem of Evil.”? Certainly not! This would be despicable. So how then can those who are called to hospitality turn away those with intellectual questions? Is this not just as despicable?
Of course not everyone in the church is going to be a professional apologist, just as not everyone in the church is going to spend all their free time at the homeless shelter, but when the opportunity presents itself, we should all be ready to perform other people’s roles, even if it is only to a small extent.
The early church had something similar. In Acts 6, there had been a problem with the Hellenistic widows being overlooked in the daily portions of food. So what did the Disciples do? They said, we are gifted in praying and preaching, so let’s find someone else to take care of these widows and the distribution of food. So they found a few good men to carry out this role, and the problem seemed to get resolved. Those men were almost certainly ones who had been gifted in the area of hospitality and probably also in managing resources. The first one of those people listed was Stephen.
Stephen, while out doing wonders and signs, was approached by some from the Freedman’s Synagogue. When they confronted him on what he was doing, did he say, “Oh, those are Theological questions. Sorry, I’m just the food guy. You need to talk to Peter or John, they are the ones who preach and teach.”? NO! He stood up and preached a bold sermon, and he was put to death for it. Stephen died doing something that was not “his thing.”
If I am an apologist, I have no excuse for not helping the poor or worshiping when the opportunity presents itself. Similarly, our worship leaders and Deacons should not be able to make excuses for not always being ready to give a reason for the hope that they have.
I hope this helps. If anyone that you present apologetics to ever tells you that they are not cut out for apologetics, and therefore are not going to read any more about it or prepare anything in case things come up in conversation, just remind them that this is what God asks them to do, and this is what God gave them a mind for. Apologetics is not beyond the comprehension of the layman, nor is it just our job.
I had a martial arts instructor once tell me that one does not have to have all the fancy moves learned. He said, “Just learn a few basic moves really well.” I think the same goes for apologetics. If we have anything to say, it will be more than the person we are talking to would have otherwise gotten. Have at least a few tools in your tool belt. This way you will not be left empty handed when the occasion to defend the faith arises.