How I Got 100 Average Church Goers to Attend An Apologetics Conference
The Hardest Question For Apologists
I often attend apologetics events and my favorite part is always the Q&A. The apologists usually tackle the Ehrman references with ease and variations of the Problem of Evil with carefully thought out responses. But I have noticed one question that seems to stump them over and over again—a question the best apologists have wrestled with for years and often still don’t have a good answer to. “How do I get the people at my church to see the importance of apologetics?”
Whenever this question is asked, the crowd nods their head in sober agreement and understanding. It seems inevitable that anyone with a newfound love of apologetics soon finds that most of their brothers and sisters in Christ are neither excited nor impressed. “I just have faith.” “I just stick with the Bible.” “Just Jesus.” “Just.”
Well, I think I’ve finally found the key, solved the mystery, cracked the code… at least part of it.
Step One: Don’t Call It Apologetics
There are two main camps of people who will avoid apologetics. The first are people who think apologetics are useless or harmful. The second are people who have no interest in things that use big words they aren’t familiar with (which is most of us). I’m as lost as anyone on how to reach the first group, but I’ve come to a better understanding of the second.
Have you ever been to a theology conference? Notice that they rarely have the word “theology” in their titles. If the technical term is used, it will only draw people who are already very interested and invested in the topic matter. This is fine for events like the Evangelical Theological Society because their events are geared towards those who are already experts. But what about the vast majority of Christians? If you want to reach them, don’t advertise with the term “apologetics.” Make your conference title simple. More importantly, make your conference title interesting.
Step Two: Don’t Tell Them It Is Important, Show Them
When missionaries and various ministries make a presentation at your church, what do they do? They show videos and pictures. They can tell me about the poor orphans in their area and I will definitely acknowledge there is a need. But when they show videos of the orphans wearing their rags and playing in the dirt, my heart is gripped. I feel an urgent need to help.
When we try to pitch the importance of apologetics we often quote stats of students who are leaving the faith, but we need more. Stats don’t create urgency. Stats don’t move the soul. Rather than talking about students leaving the faith, show pictures of students who have left the faith.
At my church’s recent conference, we had apologist and philosopher Dr. Tim McGrew roleplay an Atheist professor and tear the reliability of the Gospels to shreds. After showing my pastor the video, he said it really bothered him. It even made him a little mad. He said, “We have to show this to the church.” You can see the video below.
Step Three: Cover Content They Care About
If you’re trying to introduce apologetics to your church, don’t start with the ontological argument. Don’t even start with the cosmological argument. Start with something they care about. Start with the scriptures. Start with Jesus.
Not many people catch on to formal philosophical arguments quickly and most will never use one. But they can quote a historical fact. They can remember Bible references. Give them apologetic tools that are easy to wield. Focus on the Gospels, the resurrection, or the reliability of the scriptures.
The Grow Conference
I was the event planner for our conference which we called The Grow Conference: Can We Trust The Scriptures?
Here’s everything that was going against us
Our speakers were unknown to most of the congregation.
We are a small church of 150 people in a small town.
We operated on a small advertising budget.
We met in a small Christian school gymnasium.
It was an apologetics conference.
Here’s what happened
We had over 100 people attend every day of the conference.
Over 70% of our church’s regular attenders came.
Some local college students came.
Some skeptics came.
Our church is still realizing so many good things that came out of this conference. For example, our average equipping classes (Sunday School) have 8-10 people in attendance. But now our “How We Got Our Bible” class is pushing 30. Additionally, there are a couple new families coming to our church as a result of the conference. And to my joy, some people who were skeptical about the importance of apologetics have said they now see its value.
And what can we attribute this to? Obviously, God blessed this conference, but I believe we did employ some wise methods in reaching out. We didn’t call it an apologetics conference, we showed them the topic was important, and we covered content that they actually cared about.
It’s my dream to see small churches all over America begin hosting successful apologetics conferences and ministries. Do you think this could happen at your church? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.