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Every Youth Pastor Is An Apologist

Guest Post by Jon Morrison

Anyone who ministers in a city with more than five non-Christians needs to be able to do apologetics and they need to do it well.

The truth is that everyone is an apologist at some point— some are good ones and some are rather poor at it. Many of us in youth ministry are great at loving students, leading leaders, planning events and preaching but we make lousy apologists. I was never offered one apologetics, logic or biology class in Bible School. Despite a lack of training and value in it, I believe that everyone (pastors included) is an apologist because everyone will eventually ask themselves the difficult questions of faith and life such as, “How can I be sure there is a God who created the Earth?”, “How could God allow so much suffering in the world?”, “How do we know the Bible can be trusted?”, “Is it good if my vacuum sucks?” et al. How will we answer these questions when we either ask them or they are asked of us?

Our ignorance in such matters is very costly to your students and the many who struggle with the tough questions being raised today.

In his book, The Weight Of Glory [1], C.S. Lewis gives a prophetic call to all of us, in this case those of us who are interested in reaching and keeping our students in the faith. Lewis calls us to answer the call to engage in the intellectual battle going on in our world,

To be ignorant and simple now — not to be able to meet the enemies on their ground — would be to throw down our weapons, and to betray our uneducated brethren who have, under God, no defense but us against the intellectual attacks of the heathen. Good philosophy must exist, if for no other reason, because bad philosophy needs to be answered.

The role of apologetics can change someone’s life. Jesus tells us, “the truth will set you free” (John 8:32). Truth has a very freeing and empowering element to it. When the disciple Thomas understood the truth of the resurrected Jesus, he believed fully that Jesus was the Messiah (John 20:28) and, according to early Christian tradition, was killed in India for proclaiming Jesus as Lord.

Apologetics can be intimidating, especially for those in ministry who “just love people.” “Save apologetics for the stuffy intellectuals,” they may say. “We just specialize in loving kids.” That’s great, we must love people but doing good apologetics as a form of what love necessitates. In Jude 22, Paul exhorts, “Have mercy on some, who are doubting.” Apologetics, then, is a form of showing compassion to people. This can be an expression of the loving priestly role of a ministry leader.

Ephesians 4:12 calls the work of pastor to love his people and “equip the saints for works of service.” To Pastor Tim Keller, equipping people in a secular world must not just include training them in the traditional spiritual disciplines. These days, to engage the post-Christian world for the purpose of making disciples, we must teach them apologetics as well. Keller writes,

In ‘Christendom’ you can afford to train people just in prayer, Bible study, evangelism- private world skills-because they are not facing radically non-Christian values in their public life-where they work, in their neighborhood, etc… the laity needs theological education to ‘think Christianly’ about everything and work with Christian distinctiveness. [2]

Ways we train our people to “think Christian” in a secular world is:

1. By not assuming that they already think “Christianly”.

2. Taking opportunities to show how biblical truth applies to various modern day events and circumstances in their world.

3. Helping our people think critically about the media they consume.

4. Learning from and providing online resources to quality apologists like William Lane Craig (reasonablefaith.org), Tim Keller, Ravi Zacharias (rzim.com), Greg Koukl (str.org), C.S. Lewis, etc. This act of pointing to others is a very helpful way for any leader to draw from the abundant resources that are available to us today.

It is important to note that not every pastor has to understand how the elements of mitochondria point to intelligent design and be able to teach it to a third year university class. They should, however, be able to point their people to someone who can do that. Apologetics does not have to be intimidating in today’s information age. The rational defense is out there somewhere, you just have to learn how and who to point your people to.

That is our job as Ephesians 4:12 youth pastors.

[1] Lewis, C.S. The Weight Of Glory. (Harper Collins, New York, 1949). Page 50.

[2] Tim Keller. “The Missional Church” June 2001. http://www.redeemer2.com/resources/papers/missional.pdf

For the past four years, Jon has served at Coquitlam Alliance Church just outside of beautiful Vancouver, British Columbia. Jon is the young adults pastor in a ministry called Ethos. Check out his blog at http://jonmorrison.ca