Bobby Conway is the Lead Pastor of Life Fellowship Church in Charlotte, North Carolina. He’s one of the few pastor’s I’ve met who earnestly understands the importance of Christian Case Making. That might sound surprising, given the fact he is, after all, a pastor (shouldn’t pastors be good apologists?), but great church leaders aren’t always accomplished Christian Case Makers. Most well-known apologists, for example (with the obvious exception of people like Tim Keller), are not also full-time pastors. Bobby, on the other hand, is both a full-time pastor and excellent apologist in his own right. He’s the creator and host of the One-Minute Apologist. I met Bobby last year while travelling in North Carolina, and we’ve become friends (I offer that as a disclaimer). But our friendship aside, I’ve been incredibly impressed with Bobby’s ability to juggle his responsibilities as a pastor while still contributing mightily as a Christian apologist.
Over lunch (about a year ago) we were talking about our responsibility as Case Makers. It’s not enough to simply know the truth. At some point, each and every one of us has to become an ambassador for the truth. If we’re honest with one another, it’s a lot easier to learn something than to represent it consistently to others. We’re all familiar with the key passage most apologists cite when describing the calling we have as Christian Case Makers:
1 Peter 3:15 “…but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence;”
Most of us as Case Makers, however, are more focused on the first part of the verse than the last part. Enter Bobby Conway. Bobby’s heart as a pastor and his head as a Case Maker are evident in his book, The Fi5th Gospel. Bobby cites Rodney (Gypsy) Smith, a nineteenth century British evangelist who once said:
“There are five Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and the Christian, but most people never read the first four.”
Now I know what some of you may be saying: “Hey that sounds a lot like the old quote attributed to St. Francis of Assisi: ‘Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words.’” Bobby discusses this Assisi attribution directly in a chapter called “Show and Tell” (describing Assisi’s life as an open door preacher committed to the verbal proclamation of the Gospel). Bobby would be the first to agree it’s seldom enough to simply live in a particular way without eventually pointing people to the transcendent cause (or motivation) of our behavior. If we don’t preach the Gospel with words, we’re likely to point people to someone other than Christ. So let me allay some of your fears if you think Bobby’s work in The Fi5th Gospel might somehow minimize the importance of speaking the truth in favor of simply living the truth. I know of few people who have committed more time or resources to making an outspoken case for Christianity than Bobby Conway. Just visit The One-Minute Apologist to see what I mean.
In The Fi5th Gospel Bobby offers both an invitation and a strategy to “live out the message of the Gospel,” without sacrificing the message (or the importance of speaking it). Bobby understands the need for Christian Case Makers (a.k.a. Christians) to become good ambassadors for Christ, and his work seems to acknowledge most of us seem to stop reading past the first half of 1 Peter 3:15. Bobby addresses many apologetics issues in his book, but these areas are discussed in relationship to their application in each of our lives as ambassadors.
My post here is obviously not a detailed review or summary of Bobby’s work; he’s already established a website and Facebook page to collect responses, and others are writing about The Fi5th Gospel now that it is officially available. But I will say this: like William Lane Craig and Hank Hanegraaff (two of the book’s endorsers), I’m excited about The Fi5th Gospel and I know God will use it to shape another generation of Christian Case Makers. I commend it to those of you who want to embrace a robust life as a Christian Case Maker “ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account” yet remembering your role as the fifth Gospel, making this defense “with gentleness and reverence.”
I’m also happy to see Bobby is now speaking at some of the same events where I am asked to contribute (like this weekend’s Engage the Mind conference). He offers a critical component at these events. While he clearly knows the “case facts” and could easily cover the material any of us might provide, he’s chosen to address an issue most of us don’t discuss at all. That’s the thing I love about Bobby. He’s talking about something we all need to hear, and he’s writing about something we all need to read. The Fi5th Gospel will help you “display the Good News of Salvation and point others to the only Person who can give them hope for this life as well as the next.”
For more information about the nature of Biblical faith and a strategy for communicating the truth of Christianity, please read Forensic Faith: A Homicide Detective Makes the Case for a More Reasonable, Evidential Christian Faith. This book teaches readers four reasonable, evidential characteristics of Christianity and provides a strategy for sharing Christianity with others. The book is accompanied by an eight-session Forensic Faith DVD Set (and Participant’s Guide) to help individuals or small groups examine the evidence and make the case.
J. Warner Wallace is a Dateline featured Cold-Case Detective, Senior Fellow at the Colson Center for Christian Worldview, Adj. Professor of Christian Apologetics at Talbot School of Theology, Biola University, author of Cold-Case Christianity, God’s Crime Scene, and Forensic Faith, and creator of the Case Makers Academy for kids.
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