7. Apply Evangelistic and Missionary Techniques
This means two things. First, as we saw in a previous blog, the ultimate goal of apologetics is evangelistic. The purpose is to bring a person as quickly and efficiently as possible to the point where her or she renounces their existing, non-Christian worldview and accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. In this sense, apologetics is “pre-evangelism.
Second, like all missionary work, apologetics involves seeking unbelievers on their own turf. In Romans 10:14-15 Paul writes:
How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”
And in verses 15:20-21 Paul adds:
It has always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not known, so that I would not be building on someone else’s foundation. Rather, as it is written: “Those who were not told about him will see, and those who have not heard will understand.”
Paul reminds us in these two passages that (1) unbelievers must hear and receive the Gospel before they can be saved, and (2) Christian evangelism (and apologetics as pre-evangelism) should seek new territory.
It’s up to Christians to bring unbelievers saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, wherever they are. Paul set the example. He sought Jews in the synagogues and Gentiles in the market place. He argued with the Greek philosophers before the Areopagus in pagan Athens (Acts 17). Indeed, Paul traveled much of the known world in his quest to share our Lord Jesus Christ.
In 1 Cor. 9:19-22, Paul provides guidelines on how an evangelist/ missionary/apologist interacts with unbelievers in order to get a fair hearing for the Gospel.
Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jew I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself are not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law [Gentiles] I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some.
In Acts 16:1-3 Paul puts this teaching into practice. In this instance Paul circumcised Timothy so that he would be accepted among the Jews—although Timothy was not obligated to be circumcised (also see Acts 21:17-26). Paul was willing to conform to Jewish ritual in order to witness to the Jews—as long as it didn’t compromise the Gospel or violate biblical principles.
Likewise, we too can be apologetic missionaries. Our neighborhoods, work places, and social clubs are fertile missionary fields. We can invite unbelievers to church, home Bible studies, and into our homes. Like Paul, we can leave our comfort zone and seek unbelievers in “new territory.” This may include door-to-door or street corner evangelism, college classrooms, New Age fairs, and “open forum” Bible studies designated specifically for unbelievers, such as used by Search Ministries.
Our goal in all cases is to present the Christian worldview by responding to misconceptions about Christianity, by answering tough questions, and by demonstrating the relevance of Christianity in a post-Christian world. As Francis Schaeffer said, “Apologetics should not be merely an academic subject, a new kind of scholasticism. It should be thought out and practiced in the rough and tumble of living contact with the present generation (The God Who Is There). In sum, apologetics, as a species of evangelism and missionary work, means that we seek opportunities to share the Gospel and to defend our faith, as Paul says, “In season and out of season” (2 Tim. 4:2). (c)
(The full presentation of the Ten Commandments of Apologetics can be found in my book, Engaging the Closed Minded—Kregel Publications).