One evidence that most Christians don’t know what apologetics means comes from the question I often hear from them – “why would you want to apologize for being a Christian?”
Some pastors I’ve talked with through the years about emphasizing apologetics in their church (especially with children, teens and young adults) either chuckle, roll their eyes or get upset with me at some point in our discussion. They tell me that apologetics should not take the place of evangelism. It’s unfortunate they see apologetics that way because biblical apologetics is evangelistic – thus the name of this series of studies.
Another evidence that apologetics is needed in churches is that about 70-75% of church teenagers stop attending church after they graduate from high school and only a small number of them ever return to the church (Barna Group, 2007, 2011).
Think about that for a minute. Three out of every four teenagers in Christian churches stop attending church after high school. The next time you’re at church, look around. Visit the youth room, the primary school classes, the pre-school classes, the nursery. Based on statistics, most of the children you see in those classes will not be attending a church after they graduate from high school and most will never return. If your children are still living at home, look at them carefully. Will they attend a church or Bible study regularly after they graduate?
Where are the young adults in churches today? Where are the young families? More than 60% of today’s young adults attended church as children and teens, but are no longer involved. 20% of young adults never attended church as children and have no interest in Christianity. Only 1 in 5 young adults (20%) are still involved in church (defined as attending church at least once a month, Barna Group). I find that terribly sad and unnecessary. It’s obvious there’s something important we’re not doing to help young people understand Christianity and commit to being a permanent follower of Jesus Christ.
The Church belongs to Jesus Christ. It is His to build. Do you think He’s laughing about the high number of children and teens dropping out of church? Is God rolling His eyes at the idea of Christians giving an answer (apologia) for the hope that is in them? (1 Peter 3:15) I don’t think so. In fact, I know so. I know so based on what Jesus and His apostles and prophets (Chief Cornerstone and foundation of the Church, Ephesians 2:20) said and did.
Look at what Jesus and His apostles told us would happen to the Church.
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven. ‘Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” Matthew 5:10-12
“If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also.” John 15:18-20
“These things I have spoken to you, that you should not be made to stumble. They will put you out of the synagogues; yes, the time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he offers God service. And these things they will do to you because they have not known the Father nor Me. But these things I have told you, that when the time comes, you may remember that I told you of them.” John 16:1-4
“Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves.” Acts 20:28-30
“To the present hour we both hunger and thirst, and we are poorly clothed, and beaten, and homeless. And we labor, working with our own hands. Being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we endure; being defamed, we entreat. We have been made as the filth of the world, the offscouring of all things until now.” 1 Corinthians 4:11-13
“But you have carefully followed my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, love, perseverance, persecutions, afflictions, which happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra—what persecutions I endured. And out of them all the Lord delivered me. Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived. But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.” 2 Timothy 3:10-15
“Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified. But let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as a busybody in other people’s matters. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter.” 1 Peter 4:12-16
An apologia in ancient Greece was a well-reasoned defense using evidence. That is the meaning of the word as used by writers of the New Testament. Luke records the Apostle Paul using the word as he defended himself against the accusations of Jews in Acts 22 – “Brethren and fathers, hear my defense before you now.” (Acts 22:1)
Festus, the procurator of Judea, pointed out to King Agrippa Paul’s right to defend himself (apologia). “There is a certain man left a prisoner by Felix, about whom the chief priests and the elders of the Jews informed when I was in Jerusalem, asking for a judgment against him. To them I answered, ‘It is not the custom of the Romans to deliver any man to destruction before the accused meets the accusers face to face, and has opportunity to answer for himself concerning the charge against him.” (Acts 25:14-16)
This is important for many reasons, one being the explanation by a legal representative of the Roman government about the rights of citizens to meet their accusers face to face and present a defense (apologia) concerning the charges against them. What followed was a demonstration of Paul’s apologia (Acts 26). The apostle presented his evidence with such reason and clarity that King Agrippa said to Festus – “This man might have been set free if he had not appealed to Caesar.” (Acts 26:32)
The purpose of this series in the new year is to focus our attention on the need for a strong defense of the Christian faith in light of attacks on our faith. I emphasize “our faith” because that is the battleground. Attacks on Jesus Christ have no effect on Him because He won the supreme battle on the Cross and is high and lifted up above all His enemies (Ephesians 1:20-23). The danger is to us and the people near us.
The issues before us are not about winning arguments with people. Jesus made it clear that His purpose for coming to earth was “to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10). Before leaving earth to return to Heaven, Jesus told His disciples that it was necessary for Him to suffer and to rise from the dead, “that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations” (Luke 24:47). The salvation of souls is the ultimate goal of apologetics and should be the goal of every Christian.
In the coming weeks we will look closely at the conflict and resolution, the problem and the solution, concerning these spiritual matters. What’s at stake is eternal in its nature and scope.
“Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”