Apologetics is having an overdue moment in the spotlight, thanks in part to challenges from media influence on the culture. Dr. Ray Ciervo, apologist, pastor, and SES Alum, joins us this week to discuss how someone can help get apologetics training started at their local church, what issues should be prioritized in such an initiative, as well as some of the hurdles to watch for.
After college students in his congregation started bringing him their questions, Ray Ciervo made it his quest to find the answers. This decision completely changed the trajectory of his life and his sense of his mission as a pastor, and culminated in his graduating with a Doctor of Ministry from Southern Evangelical Seminary.
After years as a pastor and apologist, Ciervo stresses that the ability to preach the Bible is a vital skill, but it cannot do the lifting particular to apologetics (the intellectual defense of the truth of Christianity). Preaching itself cannot deal with postmodernism, and it cannot by itself field all the questions one will encounter during evangelism. Despite this, he laments,
“The majority of churches that I come into contact with do not demonstrate that they are teaching their church how to defend the historic Christian faith. They’re not really dealing with answers.”
A Wake Up Call
Critical theory has been a wake-up call in this respect, forcing a scramble for answers and the ability to defend against what people recognize intuitively as ideological poison. Christian culture, which for so long seemed a buffer against postmodern thought, has given way to a rush of secular dogma. In order to combat critical theory and other implications of postmodern thought one must understand the philosophical underpinnings involved, especially the nature of truth as objective.
The Way Forward
So where do we go from here? Apologetics must take its place, in Ciervo’s words, as “a regular part of the diet of the pulpit.” Ciervo adds that churches are either in “survival mode” or “mission mode,” and gives examples of ways to help make apologetics part of the mission of one’s local church, including:
Come with a Spirit of Humility
It’s important to come alongside and serve your pastor rather than coming in with the demeanor that you’re here to “fix” things. You must first win their trust by genuinely figuring out how you can help them in their current goals.
Whet Their Appetite
Don’t offer a year’s worth of material. Instead, offer to do an afternoon workshop or teach for a few weeks on a particular subject.
Start with the Resurrection
Apologetics is a rich field and can easily result in information overload, provoking people to think they just aren’t up to the challenge. For beginners, subjects like philosophy or science can intimidate or lose their attention, whereas something biblical like the resurrection is familiar and usually carries built-in interest.
Don’t miss the full interview with Dr. Ray Ciervo, and if you’re ready to examine your faith intellectually and give reasons for your hope in Christ, consider SES by downloading our free e-book at the link below.