Episode 74: Evangelize The World As It Is, Not As We Would Like It To Be

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Recently I was having a conversation with someone about Apologetics, and they mentioned that they didn't like that evolution always seemed to be where a conversation ended. "It doesn't matter," they said, "what we talk about, we always seemed to end up at creation versus evolution." This person said, "I understand that's important, but I really want to understand how to defend the truth of the Gospel to someone who's 70, or to someone who's hurting, or those types of things. I don't want to have to deal with evolution, and creation. Why does it all come back to Genesis one and two," they mentioned.

I have several thoughts about this, and I actually think this type of mentality is a little more common than we might think. Behind this, is really a failure to realize that we have to do ministry in the world as it is, not as we would like it to be. I can't remember who first coined that phrase, but it's really true. We have to engage on the issues that are currently pressing. If you're in a football game, and a player is running the ball on the right side of the field, you can't say, "I'd prefer to play on the left side of the field. I'm not going over there." That's a sure way to lose the game and get benched. More than that, as Christians we're not just talking about a game. We actually have to engage on the issues, the most important things in life: ethics, values, religion, the Gospel. We have to engage where the current questions lie.

We might very well get tired of talking about homosexuality. I do. It's not that big of a deal from a Biblical perspective. There's not a lot on it, but the reason it's a big deal currently in our culture is because that is the place of attack against the Biblical worldview, against what it means to actually be free, what it means to live in or not live in a universe created by God, what it means to be an image bearer of God, who has a soul that is supposed to live for the glory of God. The reason homosexuality is important is because of the authority of scripture, because scripture does speak clearly to this, and because of what it says about us being created by God. We don't get to choose these issues. We, oftentimes, are the ones responding to culture's questions.

It's interesting, when you listen to popular Christian figures who often get interviewed on these hot pressing topics, sometimes they're asked, "Why do you talk about homosexuality so much?" They say, "I just talk about it as much as I'm asked." We're responding to the questions asked to us, or the whole reason we talk about sexuality in the church as much as we do today is not because we've made it a big deal, but because we're responding to the big deal culture has made of it. If we did not respond, that would be irresponsible. We would not be doing ministry in the world as it is. We would be doing ministry in the world as we would like it to be.

Our first concept or point to think about today is we've got to address the world as it is, with its current, popular failings and its current trends and fads. We have to talk about those things. There was a time when the conversation, at least in Christian circles, was about whether scripture was true or not. Now largely, at least in Evangelical circles, that's not really the question, though non-Christians certainly still have that question. Today in the church the issue is are we going to stand on that word of God? Are we going to ascribe to it truth and authority, and recognize it for what it really is in those areas? Then are we going to be bound by it and live like it?

We have to do ministry in the world as it is, but we also need to answer the questions people are asking. This individual I was talking with, who didn't see what the big deal was with evolution, "Why does every conversation come back to it," he said. I understand you might get tired of talking about that. If we ever eat the same thing for lunch every day we're going to get tired of that, and if we have the same conversation about even Christian topics, we're likely to get tired of those too.

However, evolution is a really important topic. We've talked about that before. We're not going to go into it too much today, but if man is not created, then a lot of things in scripture fall apart. To the non-Christian who doesn't necessarily care about scripture, the reason evolution comes into play is: where did morality come from? If you're not created, if there's not a creator, then there's not a moral law giver either. Morality comes into play there, but if you do want to counsel that person who's hurting, what do you tell them if they believe evolution is true? They probably don't believe we're here for some type of transcendent purpose, because we weren't created for one. Any type of meaning we find is simply what we create, on that view. You have to address the deep-seated worldview questions oftentimes to get to what the Gospel offers in terms of peace, and hope, and forgiveness that's found in Christ.

Can you believe in evolution and be a Christian? Yes, but those two things are pretty well in tension with each other, in spite of what some people will say. We do have to answer the questions people are asking. If someone asks about evolution and we said, "Let's talk about the color of the sky," you're missing an opportunity. If someone is willing to engage on a worldview issue, you need to engage too.

Some topics we're not going to know too much about. In those topics, or those situations, we can use questions to understand what the other person believes, and maybe go home and look into it and be prepared to talk with them again. You can even ask for permission, "Would it be okay if we talked about this again in the future?"

If someone's even willing to talk with you, count that as a blessing because so many people today are not willing to have those types of conversations. Let's take them when they come. Let's do ministry in the world as it is, with its current failings and brokenness, not as we would like it to be.

It's also interesting to me talking with a different type of person about Apologetics. Some people just don't see the need for it. (Apologetics is just defending the Christian convictions we hold, defending the Gospel, giving an answer for the hope we posses.)

Some people think that's just heady, intellectual stuff. “That doesn't really peak my interest. That's not what I'm interested in.” You know what that tells me is this person probably isn't having very many conversations with non-Christians, or if they are, they just want to talk about the things they want to talk about and they don't want to answer the questions people are asking, but much more likely is the fact that they're not talking with people. If you're never getting challenged on your beliefs, then you're not going to see the need to strengthen your ability to defend your convictions.

Really, the people who see the biggest need for Apologetics oftentimes are the ones who have struggled with doubt. They're the ones who want to shepherd their families and their children well, or they're the ones that are trying to be faithful to Christ and share the Gospel and are getting challenged. They want to be able to make Jesus proud with how they defend the truth of the most important thing any of us could ever defend, which is the Gospel.

If you know someone who doesn't really see the need for Apologetics, we don't need to look down on that person by any means, but we should encourage them to take Evangelism seriously enough to be equippedd to make our Lord proud with how we contend for the truthfulness of his word, and of the Gospel, and of the Christian worldview. We have truth on our side, but sadly many times we just don't take the time to be prepared to show that it's true, to be able to demonstrate, to give an answer for its truthfulness. We need to do that.

In summary, we've got to look at how we talk with people in terms of doing ministry as the world is, not as we would like it to be. Sometimes that means we're going to have the same conversation many, many times. Something like evolution, or sexuality, or the reliability of the Bible, those are hot button issues today. We've got to be prepared to engage on those, because if the ground erodes there, then it's not too far before it gets to other core Christian doctrines, even with conversations in the church. We need to do ministry in the world as it is. We need to answer the questions people are actually asking. In your study of Apologetics always have an eye towards what is practical, towards what you can use.

I started teaching Apologetics once a week at a Christian school in my town, and as I'm teaching these students I'm telling them, "This sounds like a lot of information, and it is information, but my goal is not that just you know more at the end of this time, but that you're more equipped to talk with your classmates, your friends, maybe your family about the Gospel, and to defend the truthfulness and reasonableness of Christianity." This should not just be a mere thought endeavor, because people who don't see the need for Apologetics often don't see the fact that it's a tool that can be used for the furtherance of the Gospel. That's what we need to encourage those types of people to see, and that's how we need to see it ourself.

We have truth on our side. Let's use it effectively, and let's make God proud with how we defend the truthfulness of his Gospel. I'll talk with you next week on Unapologetic.