Restoring Apologetics to Evangelism: The Model for Public Action, Part 1

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. 

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?


Weekend Fisher said…
JPH: Christianity didn’t change me at all.

"If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation." I don't know if you're being ... modest ... or realistic.... That much said: Christ changes us. Knowing him changes us. The resurrection matters because it means that Christ still matters, and always will. And Christ raises the dead. We have reason to hope. Jesus' resurrection also clears up the question of "which religion does God prefer (if He exists)": When all the other religions' founders are pushing daisies, it makes that one pretty easy to figure out.

Still, nobody follows Jesus and stays unchanged indefinitely. Jesus' healing, forgiveness, and compassion are part of the good news, and those things sink into his followers sooner or later ...

Take care & God bless
J. P Holding said…
I'm not being modest or realistic. I'm correcting an erroneous understanding.

The assumption that "new creation" means that you had a radical change in behavior is a modern one based on the individualist craze for personal testimony.

In Paul's collectivist world, the phrase would have been understood to mean that the person achieved a new collectivist identity in Christ.

It is true that if you think Jesus rose from the dead, that ought to have practical implications for how you proceed in life from there. But a) that is never the basis for conversion, anywhere in the New Testament; b) to use it in that way begs the question. If Gamaliel had converted, how much would he have really changed? His "personal testimony" would have been a snoozer by modern standards because he didn't snort cocaine, kick puppies, or persecute Christians prior to his conversion.
Captain_Kemaris said…
I knew there was a reason I liked you. My own testimony is far less interesting than my wife's. I grew up in the church and slowly took things more seriously as I began studying the historical evidence. My wife grew up in the new Aryan heresy (JW), rebelled, had a baby out of wedlock, married a practicing witch, failed to shoot him in justifiable self-defense, got away, divorced him, was dragged to church, and took much prayer before she could actually speak the words to accept Jesus. Neither of our experiences changes the historical reality of Jesus's resurrection.
Weekend Fisher said…
My own "conversion story" isn't particularly dramatic; I don't use that as a launching-point for talking about Christ. Still, if I still acted the way I used to act, I wouldn't be a credible witness or ambassador.

Take care & God bless

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