Last weekend I had the great privilege of speaking at South Valley Community Church (SVCC) in Gilroy, California. I was more than impressed with this group of devoted, surrendered, reasonable Christians. Their example as a church (with a little “c”) is a model for the Church (with a capital “C”). Pastors Eric Smith, Greg Quirke and Isaac Serrano have nurtured a Case Making Church. Every August, they host a free apologetics conference. I’m not talking about a one or two day event. SVCC devotes the entire month to Christian Case Making. Think about that for a minute. How many pastors do you know who would be willing to surrender 1/12th of their preaching calendar to visiting teachers? Especially for four or five weeks in a row? SVCC is deeply committed to Christian Case Making and every year their Reasons to Believe series provides great training for their community. For over fifteen years they’ve been inviting the best Christian apologists to speak at this month-long event, and I was honored to be a part of it.
If you’re a church leader or a member of a local congregation who understands the need for Christian Case Making in the life of your church, there are many good reasons to consider following SVCC’s month-long example. Lead Pastor Eric Smith shared several important observations as he explained why SVCC dedicates an entire month to Case Making every August:
A Month of Training Exposes Your Priorities
When a church does anything for a month, it reveals what’s important to them. In fact, if you want to know what a church is “all about”, simply take a look at their church calendar. We are what we do (or at least what we do demonstrates who we are). We can talk a lot about being a missions oriented church, for example, but if we never take a missions trip, it’s all just talk. In a similar way, if we’re going to talk about the importance of apologetics in the life of the church, we had better follow-through with our calendars.
A Month of Training Equips Your Community
SVCC’s apologetics month targets more than the SVCC church family. This high quality training is open to the public and free of charge. When an organization assembles five or six nationally known apologetics speakers for a local community, it typically charges an entry fee to the public to cover the expense of the speakers. Not SVCC. This event is free and budgeted as part of the church’s annual financial planning. As a result, it has the potential to impact an entire community.
A Month of Training Reveals the Depth of Scholarship
SVCC makes an intentional effort to select a broad cross-section of speakers for its month-long event. This approach allows SVCC to examine a particular topic or theme from a broad range of perspectives and from the diverse experiences of many speakers over four to five weeks.
A Month of Training Builds Your Church
A month-long event of this nature also has practical value for the church leadership at SVCC. The month of August is typically the least attended month of the year, but by providing this four to five week apologetics event (open to the entire region), SVCC has increased its attendance and its visibility to the larger community.
A Month of Training Equips the Church Leadership
Church and community members aren’t the only ones equipped during this time. Pastoral and teaching leadership gets to take an entire month off to sit as students along with the congregation. Teaching pastors have the opportunity to learn right alongside everyone else and become better equipped to train in the future.
A Month of Training Allows Time to Prepare
SVCC leaders take advantage of this month of visiting teachers to prepare for the upcoming season of leadership. Most churches reset their calendars and start new preaching series in September when members of the congregation return from summer activities and nestle back into their fall routines. By removing teaching responsibilities from the pastoral staff for the month of August, SVCC provides the leadership with four weeks in which to meet, brainstorm and prepare their fall series.
This simple yet powerful model could easily be adopted by other congregations around the country, using the local “one dollar apologists” found in each church and community. You don’t have to bring in nationally known apologists to have a deep impact on your community. In fact, if every church in America did something similar to this, we would create a mechanism by which local apologists could exercise their gifts and calling. A commitment to Christian Case Making must be active, and South Valley Community Church has provided a model every church should follow.
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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