Last week I was in the Toronto area, speaking at the 2016 Apologetics Canada Conference. Afterward, several attendees told me they brought unbelieving spouses to the event and were encouraged when they saw a renewed interest in the eyes of their loved ones following our presentations. I could also sense the energy in the room. The attendees were were energized and interested in the reliability of the gospel accounts describing Jesus’ life, ministry, death and resurrection. When a group is engaged and attentive, it’s easy to tackle detailed, thoughtful (and even academic) topics. Those who attended the conference in Toronto were up for the challenge, but they aren’t typical.
Not every church is interested in Christian Case Making (“apologetics”). If you’re trying to reach your local community or laboring to introduce apologetics into the life of your church, you’ve probably already discovered this. Our Christian culture is either unaware of the important discipline of Case Making, or uninterested. There are many times when the most important case I can make to a church is the need to make a case in the first place. Maybe you feel the same way. At this point in my life as a Christian Case Maker, I want to reach more than just those who are interested; I want to interest those who aren’t. If you feel the same way, consider the following approach:
Establish the Need
In every presentation I give, I begin by establishing the challenge facing us as a Church. If I’m talking about the reliability of Scripture, I might begin with the challenges offered by Bart Ehrman. If I’m talking about the evidential case, I might start with the challenges offered by “new atheists” who claim our faith is unsupported by the evidence. When people recognize the degree of the challenge, they are far more likely to be interested in the appropriate response.
Speak From Your Experience
At every turn, I try to analogize the issues under consideration to my own case work as a cold-case detective. I draw heavily from my own experience and expertise to make the case. People are interested in your personal story, even if you aren’t a detective. When you find ways to analogize difficult issues with examples everyone understands, your audience is far more likely to grasp the topic in a way they can remember and rearticulate.
Make It Visual
I used to think the 9 years I spent in art school were largely wasted. But, I’ve come to appreciate the importance of visual communication in the context of jury trials, youth groups and Christian case making. Visual images (either in the form of media presentations or object lessons) have the power to communicate across the cultural and generational divide. I now present the exact same presentations to both student and adult groups. While the content is challenging, the visual approach makes it accessible.
Display Your Passion
More than anything else, I want the Church to get excited about case making. My audiences aren’t going to get excited, however, if they don’t feel my passion for the topic. You can’t manufacture this level of interest; it has to be genuine. If your helping your church embrace Christian case making, pick those areas you’re passionate about and don’t be afraid to express your passion. It’s contagious.
It’s easy to reach those in the Church who are already interested in “apologetics”. That’s no longer my goal. I want to interest the disinterested, challenge those who don’t yet recognize the challenge, and engaged those who feel disengaged. If we hope to change the direction of the Church and grow a movement of thoughtful, intellectually robust Christian ambassadors, we’re going to need to reach those who are disinterested.
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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