Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Restoring Apologetics to Evangelism, Part 2: The Model for Public Action

Now that I’ve "torn down" the current model of evangelism, I’d be rightly expected to put a new one up, and I will. Evangelism has both a public and a private component, and today I’ll lay out what I see as the public model. Tomorrow we’ll do the private one.

I’ll preface by saying that I lay this out with little expectation that in will ever be adopted. Today’s leaders in evangelism are generally so misinformed, or self-glorifying, or so stuck in the old rut and fearful of anything new that threatens the status quo, that such suggestions as I have will be well beyond their abilities to either comprehend or adapt to. A new generation of evangelists will be needed to fix the mess they’ve put us into; a system based on personal testimony, with its dramatic stories and functions, will be very hard to uproot.

So what do I see in the new public model? We actually have some components out there already in place – they just need to be expanded and used more.

A greater effort to use media and public events to spread the Gospel. There are two models for this I have in mind. One was Lee Strobel’s TV show Faith Under Fire. That lasted around a year and I have no idea why it stopped. I never even know it existed until after it was gone. But it doesn’t matter: We need more programs like this, more public confrontations in the form of depth debates (even as much as I find those lacking, they’re a good place to get people started, at least), more public events.

Let's get Christian scholars involved in this. Let’s clean all the crap off Christian TV (like we have all over TBN) and replace it with sound teaching and sound defense of the faith. Let’s get rid of the current ways of doing “crusades” and turn them into factual presentations of the Gospel and its evidence.

Let’s also eat up some space in secular venues. In my area at least, the Alpha Course has purchased billboards picturing Bear Grylls as a spokesman for questions like, “Is there more to life?” Let’s buy more ads like that in all sorts of venues. Let’s challenge people to look at the facts, and present some of them while we’re at it. Let's also make wiser use of Christian celebrities -- as the Alpha Course has done with Grylls here. Instead of some Christian baseball player presenting his "personal testimony" how about we teach him about how to defend the Resurrection's historicity? It may not be as dramatic as "I got off drugs praise Jesus" but it'll sure make for more solid converts.

None of this should be hard to do, theoretically. As it is, we’re all spending plenty of money on garbage/entertainment, supporting such things as Christian music radio stations, Joyce Meyer teaching crusades, and so on. To imitate the old bumper sticker, it will be a great day for Christianity when an apologetics conference draws tens of thousands of people in every city (not just people in one city from all over) and music groups like Philips, Craig and Dean or singers like Amy Grant have to hold a bake sale in order to get a concert going.

Bottom line is, the new public model requires a greater public presence. And that means getting off our duffs – all of us. Not just the tiny percentage who are now on Front Street. The failure of action is in some part a failure of leadership as well.

I’ll close this entry with a side note. I have refused to approve a Ticker comment that came in yesterday from one of my “trollish” opponents, who in spite of all I have said here has had the audacity to ask me to offer my own personal testimony. Well, I don’t have one. Christianity didn’t change me at all, qualitatively speaking. I was raised to consider it to be a clownish, intolerant faith and nothing I knew of persuaded me it was otherwise. I cobbled together the truth on my own through various resources of more and more advanced nature, and that included Skeptical sources. I used to read The Humanist, for example, when I worked in the Orlando public library. It worked better than most Christian sources to convince me that there was some truth to Christianity.

Bottom line is, if you can’t swallow the notion that I came to my conclusions objectively and reasonably – too bad.

Now answer the actual arguments and leave the psychoanalysis at home -- eh?


  1. I definitely agree with this. Christians need to get it out there that you don't have to leave your brain at the door when you come to church.

    Though, I think the church would have to start smaller. Probably in the realm of putting apologetics into bible study classes, and moving it into the pulpit. As the movement gained steam, I could see it going in that direction, though, and it would an appreciated change.

    I'm just a little bit tired of the Purpose Driven Life.

  2. @Justin: Me too. Mrs H and I thought we'd found a secondary church home of late (for when we don't have time to travel to the primary one) until one lady invited us to their Wednesday evening series....based on PDL.

    Which, she said, she was now going through a second time.

    Did it not take the first time?

  3. Took me 40 minutes, and then I went looking for something with meat on its bones... although that's not a dig at Rick Warren, I could stand to lose some weight too.

  4. I have to confess I was hoping you'd have a lot more to say JP, but this is a good article anyway. I've been looking for this sort of planning document for the future of evangelism for some time. Your articles here seem to be the only thing in existence - it's astonishing. Apologetics is great for telling us what it all means, but not so good at applying the knowledge.

    On Christmas day I had to listen to our new pastor preach about the evolution of bees. I've now run out of church options in my little town. There is a lot of work to do to sort out the mess we're in. Keep up the good work in 2011 - the great thing is that we can depend on the light never going out.

  5. Thanks for the good word! I probably could have done some more specific suggestions but I figure people have a better handle on what will work in their situations and churches. I'll certainly report results about what sort of things I'm able to do in my area.