The Restore Conference is on its fourth year. The effort of two churches native to Clemson, SC, the conference brings important issues into focus for a weekend of concentrated teaching. Attendees hear from notable Christian leaders such as Paul David Tripp or Sinclair Ferguson and what I find especially encouraging is that the host churches see it as an important part of the discipleship ministries of they have.
This year's conference, Reason for Faith, aims to encourage and equip believers to think deeply about tough issues. As a breakout and youth track speaker, I've been reflecting on how someone learns how to do apologetics and how it fits into discipleship. Having had both formal and informal training on the subject, I've seen apologetics taught a number of ways and I wondered what I might recommend to get someone started. A simple list resulted and, before I give it to you, I need to make two caveats:
Learning apologetics is ideally placed within the larger context of discipleship because discipleship allows for the formal study (going through books and sitting under instruction) as well as the informal (where it can be modeled and practiced). Disciplers need not be intimidated if they also are new to apologetics, few things inspire learning more than seeing a hero humble himself to learn and grow.
Also, I came up with this list and only to realize afterwards that Apologia has products for each of the points. I included them in case you're interested, but be assured this list isn't a shameless plug; it just happened to come when we have resources to match it.
How Do You Start in Apologetics?
- Start with the gospel: Apologetics is an enormous field which can be confusing for newcomers - where are they to begin? I suggest you start with the gospel. Whether or not the crucifixion and resurrection is a historical event has enormous implications on the truthfulness of Christianity. Not only that, the work that has been done to make a case for the Resurrection is impressive and is a very reasonable goal for anyone to tackle. Our very own Doug Powell has recently released a book on the resurrection which is both interesting and informative. There's no other book on the subject quite like it (hits the Apologia warehouse at the beginning of March 2012).
- Meditate on the implications: Apologetics concerns not only answering a non-Christian's questions, but also taking a believer deeper into the wondrous beauty of Christianity's answers. If you're studying the resurrection, take some time to reflect on the experiences for Jesus' disciples and enemies when He died and when He rose. Reflect on the assertion that Jesus' resurrection is a historical as much as your own birth. Don't just find answers to questions, think about what they mean. Our What We Believe Series does this sort of thing in both books and notebooking journals.
- Practice! Practice! Practice! Learning in a class and in a book is a vital part of apologetics, but the end goal is applying what you've learned to real life situations. You can have a friend or family member play the role of a skeptic and try to answer him. You could try to talk to some of the non-Christians you know, perhaps by asking if you can share something you've just learned about the resurrection. If they ask questions you can't answer, make sure you tell them you don't know and then go study! Actually doing apologetics shows its value in ways that cannot be matched. Our online classes in the Apologia Academy give you a great group of students who are also learning apologetics and would be great folks to help you practice (these classes are also good ways to learn).
Whether or not you use our products, I hope you'll use this list. Not only can apologetics be woven into discipleship, it should be and the above is a easy way to start.
(If you are coming to the Restore Conference and read this post before you come, I'd love to meet you! I'll lead the youth sessions and will give two breakouts, "Learning the Ropes in Apologetics" and "Dealing with Doubt.")
Blessings in Abundance.