Testimony, Trials, and Triumph: The Demand for Apologetic Pastors

white church  Today, I had the great privilege of being included in J. Warner Wallace’s list of apologetic pastors, or pastors who engage and employ apologetics in their ministry. The article can be found at http://coldcasechristianity.com/2014/why-pastors-ought-to-be-apologists/. This website was referenced along with the church I serve due to my work in apologetics. Honestly, I was greatly humbled to be listed with the likes of Bobby Conway, Derwin Gray, Dan Kimball, Phil Fernandes, and Erwin Lutzer. In all honesty, their work far surpasses any that I have done. I was far and away the least of the pastors listed. Yet, what surprised me is that the list of apologetic pastors was quite brief. I earnestly expected to find a great directory of pastors throughout our land who engaged in the apologetic craft. Upon speaking to a layperson who is an apologist on social media, I was even more disturbed to find there have been experiences where pastors discouraged the use of apologetics in church. But, how can one proclaim one’s faith if that particular one can not defend it? 

If I seem passionate about apologetics in ministry, it is because of my testimony which is quite simple. I experienced a relationship with Christ at a very young age. I was called to the gospel ministry at 16. However, at the age of 18, I was confronted by the works of John Dominick Crossan and the Jesus Seminar. Crossan and the Jesus Seminar purported that one could not really trust the words of Jesus in the gospels. The fellows of the Jesus Seminar voted on which sayings were authentic and which were not. They published a book titled The Five Gospels: What Did Jesus Really Say. The book contained the four canonical gospels and the purported Gospel of Thomas. The sayings of Jesus were color-coded as to the Seminar’s acceptance or rejection of the sayings…red letters represented words which were authentic, pink letters represented works which were probably accurate, gray letters represented words which could have been based on Jesus’ real words, brown words represented those which probably were not Jesus’ words, and black letters represent words which were certainly not Jesus’ own. Needless to say, there were not many sayings of Jesus listed in red. Even more bizarre, there were more red sayings in the Gospel of Thomas than in the canonical four. My faith in the New Testament was rocked. My faith was rocked mainly because NO ONE in the church could give a rational reason to believe that Crossan and the Jesus Seminar were wrong in their assessments. For a time, my doubts succumbed to emotional and spiritual highs. In the end, it was as if band-aids were placed on a major gash because when I was in ministry and faced difficult circumstances, the doubts resurfaced and eventually swept me away from ministry. I never rejected my faith, but I did not promote it. At times, I nearly became an agnostic.

Five years later, I was driving in an urban area in our state when I came across a Lifeway Christian Bookstore. Something compelled me to enter the bookstore, so I did. There, I came across Josh McDowell’s The New Evidence that Demands a Verdict and Lee Strobel’s The Case for Christ. I entered the store not expecting to buy anything, but left the store purchasing over $70 worth of apologetic books. God used apologetics to strengthen my faith and to bring me back in the ministry. I learned that there exists more attestation for the New Testament than for any other work in ancient history. The books presented the evidences in favor of the resurrection of Christ. Also, other apologists such as William Lane Craig, Gary Habermas, and Ravi Zacharias were introduced.

My journey delivered a stronger faith and a hardcore devotion for truth. However, my absence from ministry may not have been as long as it was if there were more apologetic pastors and ministers in the church. When I asked questions, I was met with hostility and anger. What if things were different?

What would happen if more ministers were able to defend their faith?

What would happen if more ministers were devoted to stand upon the truth?

What would happen if more ministers took the time to answer difficult questions?

What would happen if more ministers spent less time worrying about numerical growth and more time worrying about spiritual discipleship?

What would happen? I think the following would take place:

Pastors and deacons would become beacons of truth, justice, and compassion.

Less heretical doctrines and “feel good” ideologies would enter the church. People would actually have reasons to feel good about their lives and their eternity by knowing their purpose and plan.

There would be a much lower drop-out rate among young adults.

Some churches would not be as large numerically; however, the church would be much healthier overall.

Leaders of the church. I am calling out to you. The church needs more defenders at the helm. Will you take the challenge and incorporate apologetics into your ministry? Apologetics in our culture is no longer optional…it is mandatory.

8 thoughts on “Testimony, Trials, and Triumph: The Demand for Apologetic Pastors”

  1. Pastor! Our stories are almost identical! jesus seminar, bart ehrman, john shelby spong–all that stuff rocked me; i got out of ministry for 3 years. Now im back as pastor because of guys like Licona, Bill Craig, Habermas etc. thanks for sharing!

  2. Great article Pastor Brian! I grew up the son of a Pastor and had a lot of questions about evolution, reliability of the Bible, etc. Of course I never got answers to the faith and it was not until many years later when I saw the Flew debate that my life forever changed. A few more events happened and now I am a student at SES and my greatest desire is to be a pastor and incorporate apologetics along with expository preaching to the pulpit!.

    Anyway, thanks for all you do and being a pastor us guys can look to as an example!

    1. Thank you Devin. Thank you also for your ministry and your commitment to truth. You and your wife are both inspirational and display courage in evangelism that very few would ever exhibit. God bless.

  3. Thanks Brian for sharing your story with us? we can save years of grief and doubt by being exposed to bold apologetics…

    1. Amen! Agreed. Yet it seems that many cannot see the need that we as Christians have to defend the faith that we share. The grace of God saves…but we must stand ready to give a defense for the hope that we have (1 Peter 3:15).

  4. You are a kindred spirit Brian. As those above stated, my walk as a young Christian mirrored yours. After several attempts to get apologetics integrated in various Churches (various degrees of success), a group saw what we were doing and called on us to help start a new Church. Borrowing from an article from J. Warner Wallace, we have strived to seamlessly integrate apologetics, theology, and application in to everything that we do, from my sermons to our classes and studies. As I am sitting here finishing up next Sundays sermon where I will introduce our congregation to the ‘Vertical Cosmological Argument’ I came across your questions. In an answer to your questions I can give you my observations from the four years that at our tiny rural Church has been in existence and striving accomplish what you envision.
    1. People grow. Not only spiritually but intellectually and emotionally. One of my older members who had never made it to high school is now reading Dr. R. L. Dabney’s Systematic Theology tome on her own time because her thirst for the knowledge of God has exploded.
    2. People are strengthened. Many in our congregation have experienced deep tragedies. To walk with them through these valleys and listen to their views while in the midst of these storms amazes me. Their resolve and insight is encouraging.
    3. They are exited to engage those outside of the Church. Each Sunday, before we engage in our roleplaying sessions, we take time to hear peoples encounters. Each success and failure is a learning experience for the whole class. Many people that are attached to our ministries are actively engaged in the transformation of their own local Churches.
    4. Our growth is slow in numbers but EVERYONE is active, especially in a desire to learn. Almost forty percent of our congregation attended the Nation Apologetics Conference this year in Charlotte NC where my seminary (Southern Evangelical Seminary) is located.
    I hope that our story can be encouraging to others that have struggled in this area. Thanks again for sharing your heart on this Pastor. 🙂

    1. Thank you for your comment and testimonial. I have attended the conference in which you speak. Hopefully, we can meet at one of the future conferences. Blessings to you and your ministry.

      Pastor Brian

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