What is a Christian apologist? Their apologetic (pre-evangelism) “defends” Christianity against criticism (1 Pet. 3:15). Additionally, it gives reasons to believe Christianity is the only correct worldview.
A Christian apologist needs to understand what apologetics is and isn’t.
Further, after decades of using apologetics, I have eight suggestions for apologists that fall into one of two categories.
- First, there are four ways to prepare to do apologetics.
- Second, there are four obstacles to avoid when you are practicing apologetics.
I. A Christian Apologist Knows How to Respond to Others
Thoughtfully responding to a non-Christian’s questions is crucial:
- First, because many young adults don’t have a religious affiliation
- Second, because of continuous education and media indoctrination of non-Christian worldviews and relativism
Indeed, remaining gracious while presenting intelligent and engaging answers works to your advantage. As a result, you are likely to attract level-headed unbiased seekers.
As a matter of fact, most people will pay more attention to how you say something than what you say.
II. Four Ways to Prepare as a Christian Apologist
For one thing, no one, including young adults, likes being told they are wrong.
For this reason, when doing apologetics, you need preparation to avoid potential pitfalls.
Here are four ways to prepare for reasoning with outsiders.
- Build relationships
- Seek agreement
- Share the Gospel
1. The Essential Tip for Christian Apologists: Prayer
Christian apologists need to start with prayer. Prayer prepares your heart and mind for the task ahead.
Moreover, it makes you receptive to the Holy Spirit’s leading. And by all means, pray before, during, and after your interaction with others.
2. Relationship Building is an Important Tip for Apologists
Second, on my list is building genuine and respectful relationships with outsiders. As noted, “No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care.”
This tip for apologists means establishing sincere friendships, starting with active listening.
In other words, a Christian apologist should begin by understanding the real question. And only after that, briefly answer them.
In contrast, many Christians fail others by not listening to the real question. Instead, they only look for an opportunity to give a “canned” mini-lecture that often misses the mark.
3. Seek Agreement with Outsiders
Third, find areas of agreement between the other person and you. For example, can you both agree that:
- “Absolute” truth exists
- God exists
- Miracles are possible
- There are ways to find out if a historical event occurred.
As a result of discovering points of agreement, you have a starting place.
Obviously, this tip for apologists requires you have an apologetic argument.
For this purpose, I suggest you learn Dr. Norman Geisler’s Classical apologetic model. It undeniably proves the truthfulness of Christianity.
4. Gospel Message Should Always Accompany Apologetics
My fourth tip for apologists is critical. Apologetics is only a tool to help with evangelism.
- A Christian apologist is not out to win an argument
- It removes objections to Christianity and answers thorny questions
- It demonstrates why the Christian faith is the most reasonable worldview
Apologetics clears a path so you can share the gospel in a culturally sensitive way. That’s why it is also called “pre-evangelism.”
In other words, apologetics removes obstacles to accepting Christianity. But salvation comes only through evangelism and the work of the Holy Spirit.
III. Four Obstacles to Avoid
Nevertheless, even after preparing, we can still have unhelpful conversations.
Here are obstacles to avoid when practicing apologetics.
- Not depending on the Holy Spirit
- Not being teachable
- Demanding only one apologetic approach
1. Pride (And Being Offensive) Can Be a Big Obstacle for the Christian Apologist
My fifth tip for apologists is the most common obstacle. In a word, pride.
In light of this problem, seek to cultivate intentional humility. For instance, if you don’t know the answer to a question, admit your ignorance and promise to follow up with a reply.
Pre-evangelism is not about winning an argument or showing who is more intelligent.
Instead, seek to be “on the offensive” without being offensive! And as much as possible, aim to shed more “light” than “heat” on any discussion.
For that reason, remain gentle and kind even when dealing with challenging people.
As an illustration, some people get frustrated when they can’t answer your questions. Consequently, when they realize their worldview is false, they become argumentative.
In light of their reaction, we should be compassionate. Imagine your response if someone asked you to stop believing in Jesus!
For this reason, if the other person becomes uncomfortable, change topics.
In the meantime, leaving the apologetic discussion and moving on to other issues is best.
As a result, the process of apologetics and sharing the gospel is a marathon, not a sprint.
2. A Second Obstacle is not Depending on the Holy Spirit
My sixth tip for apologists is that your apologetic argument will never save anyone! Basically, salvation is the work of the Holy Spirit.
It is essential to realize that apologetics works at the point of reason. In essence, a “belief that” something is true. But evangelism works at the level of faith. In particular, a “belief in” Jesus through faith.
When it comes to apologetics, there are inviolable rules.
- First, create genuine friendships.
- Second, specifically, answer the outsider’s question.
- Third, share the gospel.
- Fourth, get out of the way and let the Holy Spirit finish his work.
Intelligent answers never save anyone. It is always Scripture and the Holy Spirit in tandem.
3. The Third Obstacle is not Being Teachable
Being a lifelong student is my seventh tip for a Christian apologist. There are always things we can learn as apologists.
Similarly, we need to train other Christians in apologetics. In light of my tips regarding the obstacle of pride, remain transparent about your mistakes.
To rephrase it, our students must never think we always have the perfect answer. Put differently; my students learn the most when I share my failures rather than my successes.
In the event you choose to share your mistakes, others will realize that they do not need to be perfect.
4. Only One Approach
My final tip for a Christian apologist is not to fuss over their preferred type of apologetics.
For instance, there are several different apologetic approaches, including:
- Classical apologetics
- Historical apologetics
- Evidential apologetics
- Presuppositional apologetics
In fact, every technique has proven useful.
For this reason, please avoid unnecessary arguments over which method is best.
On the negative side, when apologists argue over which is best, they look foolish to outsiders. And indeed, we seldom change anyone’s opinion except in a negative way.
IV. What are the Main Takeaways?
In the final analysis, there are a few tips for apologists to remember:
- Remain prayerful
- Stay humble
- Create genuine and respectful relationships.
- Answer specific questions briefly
- Always share the gospel
- Get out of the way for the Holy Spirit to work