A few years ago I talked with a college student who had been a part of our ministry at Olivet. As we talked I mentioned some of the other students in our community that he had graduated with who were known as followers of Jesus during their high school years. In the course of our conversation, I learned that one would now describe himself as an atheist, another as an agnostic and a third came to believe that “The God of the Bible was immoral.” Honestly, it shook me.
I later learned that these students had been influenced by the “New Atheists” and a general climate that was hostile to a biblical worldview. At one point, these students claimed to be followers of Jesus but now did not believe the Gospel was true. As a result, I begin to think through how we could better prepare these students and the church to give a defense for their faith. How could I as a pastor help our people be better prepared to live out I Peter 3:15 through the local church? Here are some ideas.
- Environment. As the pastor, I wanted to state clearly that I believe the biblical worldview has the best answer to all the questions of life. That means there is no question that is off limits. I communicated clearly to our students and adults that our church would be a safe place to ask questions and together we will explore the biblical answers.
I am convinced that skeptics or those antagonistic to the Gospel get heard by many of our students when we don’t deal with the hard questions. Sometimes these skeptics or students may feel like “My church or pastor wasn’t willing to deal with this question and it is probably because they don’t have a good answer.”
- Preach/Teach on Apologetic issues. Once a year, I will do a short series on an apologetic issue. I began with a series on why it is reasonable to believe in the inerrancy and authority of God’s Word. Looking biblically at the existence of God, the Resurrection, science/evolution is helpful. In our current cultural context the questions are a little different. The question is not, Is the Bible true? But if it is, I am not sure I like the God of the Bible. Or is God really good? Or Is He Moral? Pastors must be willing to address biblical morality in terms of truth and God’s design for human flourishing.
- Special Classes. We have taught a few different classes on Wednesday or Sunday Evening. Walking through some general apologetic texts such as “I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist” by Frank Turek and Norman Geisler or “On Guard” by William Lane Craig can lay a foundation for any Christian. Another good study is the book “Tactics” by Greg Koukl. It is about thinking through the best ways to share biblical truth with those who do not hold to a biblical worldview.
- Educate Yourself. Work on staying well informed on current apologetic questions. There are many good resources. Apologists like Frank Turek, Alisa Childers, William Lane Craig and Sean McDowell not only have books but regular podcasts. A very helpful ministry is “Stand To Reason” by Greg Kokul. They have a great team and a heart for the local church.
Here are a couple of good books to get started, “Christianity for People Who Aren’t Christians: Uncommon Answers to Common Questions” by James Emery White and “Why Believe?: A Reasoned Approach to Christianity” by Neil Shenvi
- Go on this journey with your people. There are some believers that are waiting to hear God’s answer to their BIG questions and when they find them it will ignite their faith.
I pray these suggestions may help you better equip your people to be disciples who make disciples.
Scott Palmer is the pastor of Olivet Baptist Church, Tulsa and can be reached at Scott@olivetonline.com.