I have heard that there are those in the church who do not feel that apologetics should be part of the discipleship process for believers. While I find it hard to believe that anyone would articulate such a position, I must admit that for a large part of my Christian experience, there was very little content that taught me how to answer the questions that arise from those who do not believe.
A statement in the book of Nehemiah got me thinking about defending our faith and the need for such defense.
“Those who were rebuilding the wall and those who carried burdens took their load with one hand doing the work and the other holding a weapon. As for the builders, each wore his sword girded at his side as he built, while the trumpeter stood near me.” (Nehemiah 4:17–18, NASB)
The fact that they could be under attack at any moment did not deter Nehemiah and the Israelites from completing the work that they had begun. They kept focused on building the wall, but were ready to defend themselves if attacked.
I believe this is a fitting challenge to those who do not think that being able to defend our beliefs is an important part of Christian discipleship. The truth will always have enemies. There will be those who refuse to submit to God and His Word. They will not be content to allow us to continue on without a battle. They will try to win the hearts and minds of those who attend our churches.
This is especially true of the young people that are raised in the church. In high school and university, they will encounter those who seek to undermine or destroy their faith. In some colleges that are considered “Christian” this is also a danger. What should be a safe environment may not be so. We must be on our guard.
It is not enough to just be on guard, we must know how to respond to the attack. It is one thing to have the weapons available, but they do no good if we do not know how to use them.
Let us learn from Nehemiah that we should be able to wield our weapons in defense, but we should not get distracted from our main objective which is to build up the body of Christ. Nehemiah and his crew continued to build while being vigilant to dispel any attack that might come at them.
The ability to defend our faith helps in accomplishing our mission. But keep in mind that apologetics is not the goal, it is a tool to be used in achieving the goal of making disciples.