Many observers have noted a renaissance in Christian apologetics (aka: Christian Case Making) over the past several years. Much of this resurgence is taking place in the ranks of “tent-making” Christian Case Makers. “Tent-makers”, like the Apostle Paul, draw their income from conventional careers (Paul was described as a tent-maker in Acts 18:1-3), so they can evangelize, preach, make a case or serve as they have been called by God. I consider myself to be a member of this “Army of Tent Makers”; my income continues to come from my law enforcement employment, and it always will. It’s been difficult at times to juggle my vocational employment as a detective with my avocational calling as an apologist, but along the way, I discovered a number of helpful “tent-making” principles. These simple concepts may help you become a better “One Dollar Apologist” as well:
If you’ve finally come to the realization your identity as a Christian is synonymous with your calling as a Christian Case Maker, it’s time to get in the game. For many of us, this is the hardest, but most important step. Like deciding to start a new diet or exercise program, nothing good will happen until you reach the end of your apathy. Take a look at the world around you. If the growing collapse of Christian ethics (and influence) isn’t enough to motivate you, you’re simply not paying attention. Get fired up. Be who and what you’re supposed to be. Do something. Get going.
Be A Learner
No one draws water from an empty well. If you hope to influence the world, you’re going to need to know a few things. Many of us, as Christians, have been worshipping God with our hearts and souls while ignoring God with our minds. If you’re interested in Christian “apologetics,” you’ve probably already come to the realization God is honored when we take the time to study the truth. You may already be a good student, but if you’re just coming around to the idea, don’t be overwhelmed or discouraged. There are many great free resources on the Internet (I’ll provide you with a list on Monday), and don’t be afraid to examine the Christian apologetics programs around the country. There’s probably one perfectly suited to you.
Find Your “Lane”
You have a personal history all your own. God has shaped you in a specific way to reach people no one else can reach. You might not think your job or life experience is all that important to your ability to be an effective Christian Case Maker, but you’re wrong. Your life is the foundation from which you will have an important impact; you simply have to find (and stay in) your “lane”. I’m a detective. As a result, I have some experience with evidence. It shouldn’t surprise anyone that I’m an “evidential” Christian Case Maker; that’s my lane and I try to stay in it. This means I may not be the best authority when it comes to a number of other Christian worldview issues. That’s where you come in. maybe your life has given you better insight in areas where I am weak. If we each find our lane (and work hard to develop our expertise) we’ll impact our culture as a team.
Develop a Plan
Vision is incredibly important to “tent-making” Christian Case Making. If you’re already working full-time, you’ll be far more effective as a Case Maker if you are intentional in everything you do. Think about how you can best impact your world. Should you start a blog? Start teaching or serving in a ministry at your church? Start engaging the world on social media? Create a new website? Write a book? Create videos? Start a Podcast? There are a number of ways you can impact the world as a Case Maker. Decide what best fits your gifting, and develop a plan.
Build a Platform
If you want to influence the world around you, you’ll need to start thinking about your “platform”. If you’re blogging, you probably want people to find and read your blogs. If you’ve written a book, you probably want people to read it. As “tent-making” Christian Case Makers, we’ve got to do more than work hard, we’ve got to work smart. Without question, the one book every one of us should own and implement is Michael Hyatt’s Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World (I swear I should get royalties for all the times I have recommended this resource). If you want to turn your efforts into impact, you’ll need to build your platform.
For many years now, people have asked me how I’ve been able to contribute as much as I have while working full-time as a detective, serving part-time as a pastor, and loving my wife and kids as a husband and dad. While my wife, Susie, should get most of the credit, much of it comes down to being disciplined. It’s 4:30am as I am typing this blog. I start early every day, and I’ve been disciplined about my approach to Case Making over the years. Like running or going to school, if you can be committed to a daily effort (as part of your daily routine), you’ll be very productive as a Case Maker. This is a Discipline; you’ve got to be disciplined to be effective.
Once you’re in a disciplined routine, you’ve got to stay faithful. Consistency is the key. It’s easy to start a diet, but difficult to maintain one. It’s not enough to start a blog or podcast; you’ve got to post or record regularly. People will come to expect consistency from you as a writer, podcaster, videographer or website contributor. Don’t let them down. If you want to have the most impact possible, you’ve got to be faithful over a number of years, not days. I know that seems like a lot of work (and it is), but it’s worth it and you can start slowly. Blog once a week, for example, but do it every week and do it on the same day. One year from now, you’ll have 52 blogs. Whatever you do, do it faithfully and consistently. I try to blog every day, post a new podcast every Saturday and a new video every Sunday. It’s not easy. Sometimes it’s tiring. But I try to be faithful.
As my efforts as a Case Maker began to expand, I realized I was going to have to make a few choices related to my free time. If you want to be an effective “tent-making” apologist, be prepared to give up a few things. A little less Duck Dynasty. A little less NFL. A little less time in the garden. A little less time surfing the internet or reading the news. Effective Case Makers are focused. I’ve learned to eliminate distractions; even the ones I used to love. Like any other discipline, part of being committed to something is being uncommitted to everything else.
Monitor Your Progress
Once you’re up and running, stay engaged with your online work. You may not be able to respond to every blog comment or answer every email (the busier I get, the more difficult this becomes), but you can certainly stay on top of what people are saying about your efforts. Set the notifications on your social media posts and return frequently to engage the people who follow you. Bookmark a Google search with your blog name to see what people are saying. Interact with your readers as often as you can.
Exploit Your Financial Independence
Finally, never take your advantage as a “tent-maker” for granted. Your financial ability is not connected to your efforts as an apologist. As a “tent-making” Christian Case Makers, we ought to be uniquely focused on making the case without worrying about fundraising or leading an organization. This freedom ought to allow us to serve for free whenever possible and remain passionate while doing so. You’ll be surprised to see how fast your influence will grow when people recognize your motivation. Remember, we don’t have to do this, we get to do this. Don’t get tired. Celebrate the privilege. Serve with passion.
If you’re still sitting on the sidelines or you’ve slowed down a bit as a “tent-making” Christian Case Maker, I hope these simple principles will ignite (or re-ignite) your passion. Time is short and we simply don’t have the liberty to be accidental Christians any more. Let’s get in the game, regardless of how we happen to make a living.
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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