In the social media post of my last book review I commented on the distinction between apologetics and evangelism. Why do I think that this is an important distinction? Because doing apologetics instead of evangelism isn’t even apologetics anymore, it’s just spewing out facts. If we start off with apologetics, before we’ve even got to the point where people have genuine questions, then we’ve gone wrong.
Let me explain…
Apologetics is the discipline of defending religious beliefs. For the Christian we are called in 1 Peter 3:15 to “always [be] being prepared to make a defender to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you” Christians are called to be ready, to know what they believe and why they believe it so that they can defend their faith. That’s apologetics and it is important. For example, people will often ask questions about the validity of the Bible, the connection between God and suffering and if Jesus really rose from the dead. Those are all questions that we approach with apologetics.
Evangelism, on the other hand, is speaking and spreading the gospel, the good news of Jesus. Evangelism is not an optional add on for the more zealous Christian, but it is the task of every believer. We are called to tell the world of our wonderful Saviour.
So why do I say that a distinction is important?
Well, if you go into a conversation with someone who is interested in hearing more about Jesus and your goal is to defend the Christian faith, you’ll start stating facts and evidence. But the reality is that the person needs to hear about Jesus first and foremost. Sometimes apologetics can come across in a ‘look at my vast knowledge of the Christian faith’ rather than a desire to see the person come to know Jesus. Or even worse, I’ve seen people try to win an argument instead of winning the person for Christ. Apologetics is important, but it must be kept in its place.
There will be times when in our evangelism, as we go forth to share the gospel with the lost, we use apologetics. However, this comes about because people have questions and not because we want to make a point that we know out stuff.
Another reason why I think this is an important distinction is that, from experience, people shy away from sharing the gospel because they’re afraid they can’t answer all of the apologetics questions. I’ve got great news for you; you’re not the focus of your evangelism, Jesus is!
When we share the gospel with people we need to remember that our duty is to faithfully tell the story of the Bible. We are to point people to see their need for a saviour, God’s promise of that saviour and then the saviour himself, Jesus. Obviously that is a bullet point presentation, one that is far too short. Our presentation of the gospel will often depend on the person we’re speaking to and the time available. Our priority in evangelism is not to answer every question, we are not a guru, but our priority is to see the name of Jesus lifted up and for ears to hear the gospel. Therefore, we don’t need to worry if we are or are not able to answer apologetics questions on the spot, instead we are to faithfully take the Word to the world.
I’ve found that people are genuinely happy to wait for an answer to their question, for a few days, while I go and research the topic and get back to them. It is ok to say ‘I don’t know’!
Don’t let the fear of apologetics stop you from evangelism. Instead let your evangelism fuel your desire to learn more apologetics. Faithfully serve the Lord by sharing His gospel and making His name Great!