The Perilous Pitfalls Facing “Tent-Making” Christian Case Makers

The Perilous Pitfalls Facing Tent-Making Christian Case MakersThe rapid growth of the “tent-making” Christian Case Making community is a reflection of an apologetics “renaissance” here in America and abroad. Tent-makers make great Case Makers, but there are also a number of liabilities we face as bi-vocational Christian apologists. If you’ve taken the time to step out as a Christian Case Maker, you’re already familiar with some of the common pitfalls. If you’re still thinking about how you might begin your own personal journey as a “One Dollar Apologist”, let me prepare you for some of the challenges (and offer a few solutions):

The Lack of Formal Training
Many tent-making Christian Case Makers have completed graduate programs in apologetics, philosophy or theology, but most have not. Even those of us who have degrees are probably not experts in our field. As a result, “One Dollar Apologists” (ODA’s) may feel intimidated by their lack of formal education.

A Possible Solution:
Remember, you don’t have to be an expert witness to play an important role as an apologist. You’ve already got what it takes to make the case, but you’ve got to be strategic. Begin by specializing. If you have an interest in the Moral Argument, for example, learn all you can about the topic before you branch out into another area. Write about it, interact online in related discussions and “stay in your lane”. Once you’ve mastered this topic, move slowly into tangential areas, then into fresh territory after you feel competent. Remember, an advanced degree is typically a collection of hours spent studying, writing, reviewing and vetting ideas. Given the nature of the Internet, you can now spend thousands of hours working through a topic without ever leaving the comfort of your laptop. Study hard and take small, strategic steps.

The Temptation of Arrogance
Our common, fallen human nature predisposes us toward arrogance and pride, and many tent-making Case Makers (without the guidance of ministry leadership or the wisdom of an organizational board of directors) succumb to this temptation once we feel we have mastered a topic. This is a danger all of us face as ODA’s. We’ve all seen how “messy” the comment sections can get on apologetics websites, and much of the time it’s haughty Christians making the “mess”.

A Possible Solution:
Do your best to stay away from blogs or message boards dominated by angry internet trolls. You know they’re out there and they’re easy to identify. It’s tempting to aggressively defend the God we love so dearly, but remember, your character is as important (if not more important) than your content. I always ask myself: Would my wife, Susie, approve of what I just said or wrote? If you have someone like Susie in your life (a calmer, “better half”), evaluate your posts, comments and interactions through this filter.

The Absence of Support Staff
Larger apologetics ministries have the benefit of support staff. If you’re a tent-making Case Maker, odds are good you’re doing this on your own. It’s harder to accomplish your vision without staff, and time management can be problematic. It’s easy to become overwhelmed and pessimistic. If you’re comparing your work as an unsupported tent-maker with that of a staffed apologetics ministry, you’re only going to get frustrated and envious.

A Possible Solution:
I visit the websites of apologetics organizations often. They inspire me. But while I’d like my own work to be as robust as that of a larger ministry, I have to be realistic. I’ve learned to be faithful with what God has given me. I can only do what I can do. I have, however, tried to engage my family in my passion for Case Making. They are not my staff, but they are definitely my support. My sons accompany me on speaking engagements and occasionally role play during youth training sessions, my daughters help me at the book tables and organize all the sign-up sheets, and my wife is the best editor I will ever have. If you can find a way to inspire and motivate your family, you’ll never feel unsupported.

The Inclination Toward Laziness
Back when I was employed full-time as a Detective, I frequently rolled out of bed at 2:00am to respond to murder call-outs. When Susie gave me that look, I could say, “Hey it’s how we pay the bills.” Now when I roll out of bed at 4:00am to write a blog, this explanation (or should I say “justification”?) won’t suffice. It’s easy to put things off when they are optional. Laziness seems to be our default position, especially when we still have to do the stuff that pays the bills.

A Possible Solution:
Focus on consistency rather than frequency. Blog less often, but start a routine and meet your deadlines. A weekly blog we can count on every Tuesday (or whatever day works for you) is better than a handful of blogs posted a burst, followed by weeks of silence. Be realistic and set a pace you can honor over the long haul. Beyond this, you may have to give something up to get something going. There are a number of good video series I’ve wanted to watch on Hulu, but I doubt I’ll ever make the time. Setting priorities help me turn possible into probable.

The Struggle for Audience
No one writes a blog hoping it will go unread, or records a podcast hoping it will go unheard. If you’re making the case for Christianity regularly, you probably want a jury to hear it. But how will anyone even know about your work if you’re not part of a large, marketable apologetics organization? I’ve known a number of ODA’s who got frustrated when they realized their audience was much smaller than they hoped. When you feel like no one’s paying attention, it’s hard to get up early to post a blog.

A Possible Solution:
Believe it or not, you can impact and increase the size of your audience. I’ve repeatedly pointed to one resource to teach people how to grow their platform, Michael Hyatt’s wonderful book, Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World. Here’s the trick: you have to work just as hard get your material seen as you did to create the material in the first place. Sad but true. If you want your writing to be read, your videos to be watched, or your podcasts to be heard, prepare to work at it. Hyatt will show you how.

Yes, it’s harder to have an impact on the culture when you’re trying to do it as a tent-maker. But for every challenge, there’s an opportunity to learn a new skill, engage your family in a deeper way, and become the kind of Christ follower God intended you to be. No more excuses. Get going.

J. Warner Wallace is a Cold-Case Detective, a Christian Case Maker, and the author of Cold-Case Christianity

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