in light of God’s grace, how might you steadily grow as an apologist? In particular, I want to talk with you about feeling overwhelmed. When we feel overwhelmed, how does God’s grace speak into our weakness and limits?
So, a quick recap: we launched this incredible series on January 1st with a challenge to be a community apologist. But a challenge without equipping is not realistic. And so an amazing, diverse team of contributors has provided some really incredible, totally free articles about how to actually do this, in daily life, with your limitations, because you love God and you care about your friends (and their doubts).
Looking back, I am thrilled with all the good resources the team developed!
This series has included…
- Advice on using pop culture as a starting point for apologetics conversations
- Encouragement to say “I don’t know” along the way
- Discussion on some common personal obstacles and how to overcome them
- The importance of our character in doing apologetics
- A plan to become prepared for the people you know and love
- What to do when you only have a little bit of time
- The significance and the cost of apologetics
- The Bible’s emphasis on learning apologetics
- Some Biblical examples of apologetics in action
- Ideas for starting apologetics conversations with your family
- Wisdom for women entering apologetics: come dance!
- A reminder to connect apologetics with evangelism in the local church
- And to keep apologetics rooted in your walk with God
- A personal story of starting an apologetics network
- Links to two other series on how to get apologetics into your local church (here’s Part 1 and Part 2)
- And a petition to indicate your support for apologetics in the local church
Wow! Whether you feel like you are at the “I don’t know stage” 80% of the time or ready to start an entire apologetics network, a man or a woman, young or old, these are some great resources for your development! My sincere thanks to everyone who contributed! (I encourage you to drop them a comment with your appreciation as well!)
Here’s what I sometimes feel: overwhelmed.
First, I feel overwhelmed by all my limitations. As a full-time campus minister at Harvard and Boston College Law School, I get asked some hard questions. If I got a dollar for every time I had to say, “I don’t know,” sometimes it feels like I wouldn’t need to take any additional salary.
Second, I feel overwhelmed by all the resources. When visitors come over to my home, they notice the bookshelves are sagging with piled up books. My Kindle account is deluged in electronic versions of even more books. My Twitter feed and Facebook timeline and Google+ network are all clogged with important articles that seem like they should be read now. Just to read everything, much less organize it in my head and remember it when I’m talking with a friend, feels like a full-time job (and for me, it is!).
If you are feeling overwhelmed, I hear you. If I feel this way as a full-time minister, I know that others who are learning apologetics in the margins of their lives deserve a great deal of support and encouragement to keep going. All of us need a supportive community (and hopefully a supportive church) in this effort.
In 2 Corinthians 12, the Apostle Paul records for us a few words the Lord spoke directly to him: “But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” One commentary notes on this verse:
In the distressing weakness inflicted at various times by his ailment, he would never lack sufficient grace to be more than a conqueror (cf. Rom 8:35-37). This grace of Christ (13:14) was adequate for Paul, weak as he was, precisely because (gar, “for”) divine power finds its full scope and strength only in human weakness—the greater the Christian’s acknowledged weakness, the more evident Christ’s enabling strength (cf. Eph 3:16; Philippians 4:13). But it is not simply that weakness is a prerequisite for power. Both weakness and power existed simultaneously in Paul’s life (note vv.9b, 10b), as they did in Christ’s ministry and death. Indeed, the cross of Christ forms the supreme example of “power-in-weakness.”
With this spiritual lesson well learned, Paul would gladly boast about things that exposed his weakness (“insults … hardships … persecutions … difficulties,” v.10) rather than pray for the removal of the “thorn” and its attendant weakness. It was not, however, in the weaknesses themselves that Paul took delight but in the opportunity sufferings endured “for Christ’s sake” afforded him for Christ’s power to reside and be effective in his life (v.9b).
Here’s what I’ve come to realize: the struggles we experience in wrestling with doubts, both our own doubts and the doubts of our friends, are incredibly redemptive when done as part of our experience of God’s grace.
The struggle shows that we care. It breaks us of arrogance. It creates the humility to listen. It means we rely upon God. We find ourselves earnestly praying – for our own minds to be strengthened, to think vigorously and clearly, to communicate accurately and persuasively.
It places all of our ministry endeavors in the context of God’s love for us and our love for our neighbors.
Struggle leads to growth. To intellectual maturity. To true compassion. To a wisdom in relating to others.
Apologetics is about loving God and your neighbor with your mind. It meets an incredibly practical need: it means you can give real answers to real doubts.
Think about it. If you were a skeptic (and maybe you are), but then realized that Christianity was an imminently reasonable faith, wouldn’t that be a step towards actually following God? If you were a Christian with intense doubts (and maybe you are), wouldn’t those doubts be a step towards walking away from the church?
But if you were a community apologist, wouldn’t you be equipped to lead the seeker closer to faith and explain why the Christian has no need to be afraid?
So imagine with me: what if every church had a team of community apologists? Would that help people meet Jesus? Would that help Christians grow in their faith with confidence?
My experience, and the experience of everyone who has contributed to this fantastic series, is this: by working through people’s questions from a position of weakness, fully dependent on the grace of God, you will provide a vital ministry for many others. Community apologists have a unique opportunity to do evangelism, strengthen the church, and greatly honor God. Finding reasonable answers to our genuine questions is incredibly encouraging!
Maybe you still feel overwhelmed. I do too!
But would you join me in struggling to grow as an apologist in 2013?
If you are, please let me know what you plan to do in the comments below. I look forward to struggling with you, by the grace of God, for the benefit of our friends and church homes.