“I can’t believe you’re doing this in church.” That’s the most common—and satisfying— response to our In Question series at GraceLife Church of Pineville. The series was designed as a forum for engaging the hearts and minds of both believers and skeptics, addressing questions facing Christianity that challenge its truth and relevancy.
We’ve shied away from no topic: Does Christianity oppress women? How should the church respond to refugees? Is the church on the wrong side of history on issues of gender and sex? Why is God so silent? Issues such as these are discussed across social media, on college campuses, and around the office, and we believe that they must also be discussed in the church.
Those who love God with all their minds attract people to the Gospel of Christ. Whether giving arguments for the existence of God or showcasing the richness of the Christian worldview, we want to see challenging topics handled with the honesty and expertise they deserve. If one’s exposure to these challenges first occurs outside of the church, then the credibility and relevance of the church—and its Savior—are challenged, leaving ensuing doubts to be pursued in contexts that further discourage faith.
Each In Question event focuses on the “in question” of the month. Our format is a blend of interview and live audience Q&A, featuring a conversation with a guest expert. I pose relevant questions related to the topic while also interacting with audience members, who text in questions I monitor from an electronic tablet. This format allows the audience to raise questions they might never voice if they had to stand in front of a crowd, and allows the conversation to flow efficiently and effectively.
In Question exposes our attendees to new voices, many of which come from SES faculty—J. T. Bridges, Norman Geisler, Richard Howe, Brian Huffling, Richard Land, and Barry Leventhal have all been featured guests. In Question has also provided a platform for various alumni to discuss topics in their area interests. SES alumni guests have included Harold Felder, Jeff Lenhart, Diana Newman, and Adam Tucker. In Question offers new ministry opportunities for both guest speakers and attendees, and we’ve had the privilege of interaction with Ratio Christi (Corey Miller), Reflections Ministries (Ken Boa), Christian Research Institute (Hank Hanegraaff), and the Southern Evangelical Seminary Lay Institute.
The successful establishment and execution of the event would not be possible without the training I received at SES. In Question originated because we were approached by a congregation member who thought there was a need and an audience for addressing questions about truth, God, faith, and any other relevant issues pertaining to Christianity. Knowing of my training and interest in these areas, the congregation member suggested I head the event. I worked together with my Lead Pastor (and fellow SES alum) Rodney Cripps to name, organize, and seek speakers for the event.
My education at SES has given me the confidence and ability necessary for interacting with some of the leading thinkers in their fields. My training there has enabled the analysis and synthesis necessary for tackling tough topics and doing so in front of an audience with boldness and tact.
My background with SES and interaction with its professors has also been a selling point for bringing in new speakers to the series. While many speakers are eager to lecture or give a media presentation, they might be wary of entering a venue in which they have less control over the content. Knowing of my background with SES or seeing the frequency of guests like SES professor Dr. Richard Howe makes would-be guests more eager to participate.
To date, we’ve held over 30 In Question events. Our audiences have been encouraged and challenged in their faith, and we’ve had at least two attendees decide to become students at SES after being inspired by their interaction with apologists at In Question.
Our mission at GraceLife Church is to make disciples who make disciples. The In Question series helps disciples and potential disciples wrestle with important question of the faith. Like SES, we stand on the inerrant and infallible foundation of God’s Word to share Christ and defend truth.
For more information about the In Question series, visit www.GraceLifePineville.com
Michael Stewart is the Minister of Education at GraceLife Church located in Pineville, NC. He is a 2013 graduate of SES with an M.A. in Biblical Studies with a concentration in Biblical Languages. He received his B.A. in Philosophy with a concentration in Religion from Mississippi State University in 2004. Prior to full-time church work, Michael worked as publications editor for the Cobb Institute of Archaeology, working predominately with Old Testament-related sites in Israel. He currently serves alongside his wife, Elizabeth, who is the worship leader at GraceLife. They and their sons make their home in the Charlotte area.