I’m preparing for the 2014 CrossExamined Instructor’s Academy (CIA) from August 14th to 16th in 3th in Mathews, North Carolina. This is my second year on the CIA faculty and Frank Turek is graciously trusting me to lead a session on “Tent-Making Christian Case Making”. If you haven’t yet signed up for CIA, don’t delay. The admission process closes on July 1st, and it’s my hope this experience will both inspire and equip you as a Christian Case Maker. Together, we’ll train each other to be the best “One Dollar Apologists” we can be. Part of my session will focus on important strategies to increase our cultural impact, while another section will focus on making better visual presentations. Today, I’d like to preview a strategy you can take to have an effective online apologetics ministry:
Recognize Your Identity
God has shaped each and every one of us to have a unique impact on our world. In order to be as effective as we can possibly be, we need to assess the gifts God has given us and recognize how these gifts shape our identity. When people think of you, they will form (either consciously or unconsciously) the following statement: “I know John Smith, he’s the ‘X’ guy.” The only question is: what is the “X” people insert to describe you? How are you identified? This plays a huge role in how you will (or ought to) impact your world as a Christian Case Maker. The stronger and more easily identifiable your “X”, the more likely you’ll become a resource for the Christian community. Sometimes your “X” is linked to your professional career, sometimes it’s linked to a book you’ve written, sometimes it’s linked to your ministry affiliation, sometimes it’s just linked to your ethnic, cultural or personal background. Think about a few well known examples: “I know Hugh Ross, he’s the astrophysicist.” “I know William Lane Craig, he’s the debate guy, right?” “I know Fazale Rana, he’s that biochemist I heard about.” “I know Greg Koukl, he’s the Stand to Reason radio guy.” “I know Nabeel Quereshi, he’s the ex-Muslim.” “I now Josh McDowell, isn’t he the guy who wrote Evidence That Demands a Verdict?” Starting to get the idea? Think of it this way: if someone was writing your Wikipedia page, what would they write in the first sentence? The more narrow, specific and recognizable your “X”, the more likely you’ll be to impact the world as a Christian Case Maker. There are times when folks need to hear your voice, from your unique perspective, but first they need to know where you are coming from. I have an associate named Natasha Crain. She is a smart, talented blogger and thinker and she started a great blog called Christian Mom Thoughts. Her influence is growing because people have come to recognize her “X”. She is a homeschooling Christian Mom who writes from this perspective every week. She is uniquely positioned on the basis of this identity, and her impact will continue to grow as long as she continues to clarify and strengthen her “X”.
Craft Your Message
Your identity is your platform, but platforms are useless unless they are used to proclaim a message. As Christian Case Makers, we’ve been called to share the Gospel and respond to the many questions, objections and critiques offered by doubters and skeptics. In other words, we are all called to say something. How are you saying what it is God has called you to say? Maybe you’re teaching apologetics in your local church. Maybe you’re a pastor preaching to a congregation. Maybe you’re interacting with skeptics online. Most of us, as Christian Case Makers, are writers first. If you’re preparing to give a talk, deliver a message, or respond to a conversation on Facebook (or on a website), you’re probably going to write something. Why not convert those written notes and responses into a larger, more intentional effort? Now is the time to consider blogging. Blogging is an inexpensive way to make a valuable impact. You’d be amazed at the number of Google searches performed every day on theological or apologetic issues. People are hungry for answers and they often turn to the Internet to get them. Let’s grow the online army of thoughtful, evidential Christians. Blogs are an excellent place to work out the case for Christianity, practice your writing skills, establish your identity and find your voice. Blogging software is easy to use, affordable and flexible (I use WordPress). Let your identity guide your choice of blog title and consider formalizing your online identity by purchasing a URL featuring this identity. It’s not that expensive to purchase a fixed online home for your blog (I’ve used both GoDaddy and Network Solutions). But know this: the goal is not to start a blog; the goal is to write a blog. Daily, if possible. If you really want to be a Christian Case Maker, it needs to become a daily part of who you are. You may be interested in apologetics, but now it’s time to become an apologist. Start writing, stay committed, contribute daily (or as often as possible) and make it part of your continuing relationship with Christ.
Monitor Your Progress
At some point in this journey, you’ll begin to have an impact. First it will be with your friends and family, or maybe just the small group you’ve been leading at church. But if you stay at this long enough, you’ll eventually find those areas where you are best suited to contribute. You’ll discover your “sweet spot”. You probably won’t recognize any of this, however, unless you are monitoring your progress in some way. I try not to be possessed with statistics and visitor data, but these metrics will help me understand what is most effective and what is not. What are the topics people are most concerned about? What areas of my ministry appear to be most needed? Your online web stats will help you see where you are most effective and where you need to improve. I don’t allow this data to drive my work, but I often allow it to guide my choices of topic. I also do my best to monitor my online presence around the web by Googling my name and the name of my ministry to see what others are saying. If someone has written something requiring a response, I want to be able to provide a few words (sometimes very few words depending on my schedule). If someone is citing my work in an online conversation, I want to monitor this conversation to see how I can improve what I am doing. I may even want to add to the conversation, if this seems reasonable. It’s not enough to post a message like a billboard sign; whenever possible, we want to engage our audience like a conversation. You’ll need to monitor your online presence in order to do that.
We’ll talk a lot more about these and many other strategies to improve your Christian Case Making impact at CIA in August. Christian Case Making involves two important processes: an investigative progression and a presentation methodology. Both are critically important. Take the time to start learning from others to improve your online ministry. Look at what your favorite online apologetics ministries are doing. Ask yourself the simple question: Could I do something similar from my own unique perspective as a Case Maker? I bet you can. Don’t wait. Get going. Go write something.