Meet the New Apologists: Advice for Starting a Ministry
In the last post we met seven “new apologists.” Now, we ask them crucial questions about how to start and run a young apologetics ministry.
What advice would you give to newer apologists about finding their niche/focus? How important is it? How does one find a niche?
Here is Scott Olson’s case for why it is so important to find a niche:
Scott Olson (Free Thinking Ministries): I think it’s incredibly important to find a niche. I hesitate to say that the apologetics community is oversaturated because I would hate to discourage anyone from doing apologetics, but if you just start up another generic apologetics ministry, your voice is going to be drowned out. In all good marketing strategies (which is what you’ll need in order to grow your ministry), you need to be known for solving a problem.When people think of your ministry, they should immediately associate it with the specific apologetics problem you’re trying to solve. For example, when people think of Freethinking Ministries, they immediately think of free will and Molinism. We talk about other things on the website, but we’re known for those two issues. If you’re resistant to niching down, I’ll say this: build your “brand” by focusing on a specific niche, and once you’re happy with the size of your audience, then you can begin to branch out and focus on other things. It’s extremely difficult to build a brand by trying to be all things to all people. People have psychological tendency to need to categorize every person they meet. If they can’t put you in a box, you’ll just confuse them and never attract them as an audience member. As far as choosing a niche, I would browse through Facebook groups and other ministries and try and find something that you feel hasn’t been properly addressed. Chances are, there are a lot of people who feel the same way, and you can grow your ministry with them.
This isn’t about becoming someone you’re not. It’s about being who God made you to be:
Cameron Bertuzzi (Capturing Christianity): Be yourself. Seriously. Don’t try to be anyone else. Don’t try to be the next William Lane Craig. Don’t try to be the next Greg Koukl. Be the first you. When I was just starting my blog I had no idea that photography and apologetics could go so well together. In fact, I initially thought it would mean people wouldn’t take me seriously (who wants to listen to what some random photographer has to say?!). But once I embraced that identity, and didn’t shy away from it, beautiful things started to happen (pun intended). Be. Yourself.
Another easy way to find a niche is to focus on a specific geographical location, like Jeremy Linn and Matt Slama have done with Twin Cities Apologetics. Matt Slama also adds another insight on finding a niche: “I would suggest just looking at where there is a need. Wherever there are people, you will have bad thinking. Atheism is at its root, bad thinking. It is evident from what God has told us that people know that God exists. (See Romans 1:19.) So, just start helping people think correctly. God will help you and be with you.”
What are some potential apologetics ministry ideas that you’d love to see some young, bright apologists run with?
Several answered that we should focus on evangelism:
Scott Olson: I would love to see a ministry that primarily focused on the integration of apologetics and evangelism. It can be quite difficult to figure out where to sprinkle in your apologetic arguments when evangelizing to someone, so I think that might be a good idea to run with.
Matt Schmidt (Engage 360): For me and the Engage 360 team, it almost always comes back to, “How do we better equip people in the church to know their faith, share their faith, and grow in their faith?” There are numerous ways we can do that. I would love to see a lot more resources designed to help the untrained Christian to be able to have more spiritual conversations in their lives. This could be quick reference guides, guided learning, interactive training, etc.
Cameron Bertuzzi: We need way more Christian YouTubers. And don’t just start a YouTube channel without a plan. Research best practices. Learn marketing strategies. Reach out to other successful Christian YouTubers like Mike Winger and ask for advice. Don’t reinvent the wheel!
Jeremy Linn: Well I’d like to see Apologetics incorporated with music more but that’s something that is just an out-there idea I’ve been thinking of for a while.
Evangelism, YouTube, and music! Go after it!
What are the top three mistakes that new apologists often make?
I think many new and young apologists try to “be” someone else. That is, they try to BE Dr. Craig or J.P. Moreland instead of simply being themselves. Be comfortable in your own skin. Don’t try to be someone else.
Know your audience and communicate to them. I struggle with this since I often communicate to high school students and I am also currently working on a PhD dissertation. As far as FTM goes, I have formed a team to try and offer a range of content so that together we can reach beginners, intermediates, and advanced folks. I am finding that there are pros and cons to this approach. I’m learning on the fly!
Related to (2), if you are talking to a beginner (for example) make sure to use language they understand and speak in a manner they can follow. If you must use technical jargon, make sure to define your terms in ways they can grasp. Timothy Fox blogs for FreeThinking Ministries and has this down to an art form.
They try to appeal to everybody.
They worry too much about the little things, like picking a name and designing the perfect logo.
They don’t worry about marketing and messaging.
Think way too much of themselves.
Think that because they know Apologetics they also know Theology and Philosophy (usually mostly just repeating the positions of their favorite apologist).
Learn how to bring apologetics to a practical level for everyday people in the Church.
Treating people like humans.
Fail to network. Don’t be a nerd in your basement. Get involved in your church and in your community. If you’ve never been involved in church before, then you shouldn’t be surprised if your leadership doesn’t just jump for joy when you ask to teach on a relatively difficult and potentially controversial topic like apologetics. Also, network with other apologists. There are apologetics nerds in almost every church. Find them. Get together with them. See if you can encourage them to become involved.
Application: Every apologetics lesson should be connected to real life. Don’t just teach a lesson on the problem of evil as an abstract idea. Bring it home to people. For example, you could talk about someone who walked away from the faith because they didn’t get a good answer to this question. Or you could talk about how you struggled with this issue. At the end of the lesson, ALWAYS give some practical tips on how to actually engage with people in everyday life. Don’t let apologetics be some ethereal abstract philosophy – it’s about loving the people we meet, loving them enough to engage with them and give them good answers.
Always have grace – This has been a struggle for me. Whether it’s the atheist who is being idiotically pigheaded in order to avoid the divine, or whether it’s the Christian who uses the word “Faith” as an excuse for intellectual laziness, apologists need to realize that everyone is at a different place, and that we must love the people who frustrate us, and we must love them enough to not always have to force the argument to end with us on top. Apologists often feel that we must “win the argument”. But we don’t. All we should try to do is to get them thinking, and if we behave graciously then the door will be open to more conversations in the future.
SOCIAL MEDIA – this is huge if you are focusing on content and want your apologetics platform to grow. You need to know how to best utilize each platform. I was quite bad with SM right away but developed skills and got better over time (and still am)
I’m guessing most don’t make the personal connections with people that they should, and form partnerships that will help with their ministry. That is something I have a hard time with, and could put more time emphasis on.
Tailor posts to their audience, whatever that may be. That especially means the title of a blog post or video should appeal to whoever you want your content to appeal to. Same with the caption on social media. Those two things are some of the main things that will drive people to content, along with having a picture that looks good and is not cut off (need to use the right sized picture for Facebook, in example).
Addressing questions that people are not asking. Often times we know our material and know what problems a majority of people have with Christianity. However, we need to address the individual and the question/argument posed.
Letting other people get away with putting the burden of proof on you. There is a clear method of determining burden of proof. Some people don’t understand the reason for burden of proof. When one is making a claim, they need to uphold the burden of proof not the other way around. It is interesting how this so easily gets swapped around. Be level headed and just think through the conversation. Take your time even if it might feel a little awkward. Bad thinking = bad conversations.
(Matt Slama doesn’t follow the rules.)
What are the top three things new apologists should focus on in order to thrive?
I would encourage new apologists not just to repeat the work that others have already done, but strive to occasionally develop new and unique arguments.
Build off of the work of the “giants” who have preceded you, stand on their shoulders, and take it to new heights. Dr. Craig recently told me that I was helping to fulfill one of his dreams because he said “You are taking my work, reflecting on it, making it your own, and running with it.” I encourage others to do the same. For example, take the work of guys like Mike Licona or JP Moreland and continue building on what they have already accomplished.
Don’t feel like you have to be doing apologetics as a profession to be a good and effective apologist! Be faithful with the little platform you might have and do the best with what you’ve got, trying to reach as many people in your circle of influence as possible. Let God handle the rest!
Find that area within apologetics in which you can become the expert.
Build your online presence by having a website and being on social media.
Be able to clearly articulate the goal of your ministry, and make this goal a solution to a problem that your audience has. For example, if you wanted to create a ministry focusing on Christianity and neuroscience, maybe articulate your goal as “ensuring that Christians remain capable and effective when talking about neuroscience” or something along those lines. This clearly defines your target audience (Christians interested in neuroscience) and what the problem is you’re going to solve (ineffective apologetics related to neuroscience).
Keeping things practical.
Learning how to talk apologetics to non-apologetics people.
Rounding out with solid Theology, Bible, and Philosophy training.
Finding your niche and sticking to it,
What advice would you give to an aspiring apologetics ministry trying to equip local churches? How do you build trust with pastors? How do you even begin the conversation?
Tim Stratton: Just this morning I met with two local pastors from churches that I do not attend. I offered them my services. I told them that whenever an apologetic or theological issue might arise to give me a call and that I will do the research for them that they do not have the time to do. I told them that I am sure they will occasionally disagree with me, but that I will strive to tell them what I think on a specific topic, and then give them other options to consider if they did not find my approach satisfying. I think it builds trust when you offer to serve churches in this manner. It also builds trust when you give them permission to disagree with you but tell them that you will point them to other possible solutions as well.
Scott Olson: The absolute best thing you can do is volunteer at your local church. Get involved helping set up or tear down, serving coffee, serving on the worship team, anything to show that you’re a team player and you genuinely care about serving your local church. Believe me, you’ll inevitably meet some of the “power players” within the church and you can ask them out to lunch or coffee in order to talk to them about your interest in equipping the church with apologetics. Frame your conversations in such a way as to illustrate the problem you see in your local church, and how your apologetics ministry will help solve it.
Matt Schmidt: Don’t use the word apologetics! Focus on how you can serve and aid the church in bringing the life changing truth of Christianity to their local community. Don’t make it about you and how much you know. Keep whatever you do as interactive as possible. Very few people can sit and listen to a lecture and even fewer can do so then put something into practice from it. We could argue that people in the Church need to mature and be able to handle that, and you might even be right. However, we have to live in reality and figure out how to bring people up more than complain that they can’t handle things we thing they should be able to.
Travis Pelletier: Let them know that what the goal of your ministry is, and ask the pastor how you can be of service to him. Don’t just tell him what you want to do; ask him how you can help him.
Jeremy Linn: Personal connection beats email every time. Even phone calls are better than emails. The majority of head pastors won’t respond to emails regarding ministry connections, from what I understand. Youth pastors tend to respond more often.
What advice would you give to an aspiring apologist trying to teach apologetics in a small group/class setting? What are some teaching tips, some things to definitely do and some things to definitely not do?
Here is some advice on how to teach well:
Tim Stratton: (1) Make sure you know your material! For example, don’t teach the Ontological Argument unless you have a strong understanding of it yourself. (2) Do not speak over their heads! Know your audience! (3) Do your best to avoid “Christianeeze” and “Apologeticeeze.” (4) Take the subject matter seriously, but don’t take yourself too seriously (have fun)!
Scott Olson: Use stories to get your point across. People don’t retain bullet points of information very well, but they do understand stories. Illustrate how you would use an argument in a hypothetical (or experiential) story. Trust me, that’s what they’ll remember.
Matt Schmidt: Keep things interactive and hands-on to the highest degree possible. I have made this mistake myself many times so I am not throwing stones here. Over time it has become clear that you can engage more people and have them take more away if you keep things interactive. For instance, rather than merely lecture and power point my way through some basic evangelism training I am currently using videos from a Boghossian disciple using “street epistemology” to try and deconvert Christians. I, or the class members, can stop the video at any time and we use what is happening in the video and the context for guided discussion. I have a class of sixty members (in a church of 250) that are almost all engaged and giving input each week. In fact, they are so engage we go over 90 minutes every week. Think about the last time you gave a 90 minute lecture to a church and most of them stuck with it!
Cameron and Jeremy give advice about how to not brand your group:
Cameron Bertuzzi: Definitely do not paint yourself or your class as overly intellectual. I started an apologetics class at my church, but once the word was out that it was “intellectual,” our numbers slowly decreased until we were down to just 2 members (not including myself). Don’t use apologetics in the name, don’t make it sound like you have to be smart to attend.
Jeremy Linn: There is a strong tendency for people who like apologetics to go to apologetics classes … When you are “teaching” people who already know the content, it can become more of a social club. This is not a bad thing as we know “Iron sharpens iron”. However, to be most effective, we need to draw people in who don’t normally have this bend.
How can a new apologetics ministry be evangelistic? What do you do to share the Gospel yourself, and what do you do to get others to share the Gospel?
Tim Stratton: Always try to show how an argument for the existence of God is best explained by biblical data. For example, I like to appeal to the Kalam Cosmological Argument to eventually reach the conclusion that it is possible for the person listening to my presentation to have a personal relationship with the “Cause of the universe” without appealing to a single Bible verse. Then I follow that by noting that although I have not touched a Bible to reach my conclusion, that the Bible says the exact same thing – it is possible to have a personal relationship with the Cause and Creator of the universe. Then I say, “Perhaps we should take the Bible seriously.” I follow that with: “But wait, there’s more! The Bible doesn’t just tell us that it is possible to have a personal relationship with the Cause and Creator of the universe… it also tells us exactly how to do such a thing through Jesus Christ!” (Watch my sermon: “Doesn’t Science Disprove God?“) With that I am off and running with the Gospel. We can seamlessly transition from apologetic syllogisms to sharing the biblical message of salvation!
Scott Olson: Hopefully, being evangelistic is the goal of all ministries. In particular, get good at transitioning conversations from superficial topics into deeper ones. Trust me, everyone wants to tell you what they think about the important issues (like religion). Don’t try and force apologetics into a conversation, rather ask them about their beliefs and try and get them to see why their beliefs might be wrong. When you ask someone his or her thoughts on something meaningful, 95% of people will absolutely love it. Think about it, would you rather have someone ask you what you do for a living, or would you rather have them ask you your thoughts on religion?
Matt Schmidt: As much as possible bring everything back to the core elements of the faith. The authority of Jesus, the reliability of Scripture, the integrity of the eye-witness testimony of the apostles, the biblical definition of key terms, the way we can reach people of different backgrounds, etc. I am very comfortable with evangelism when opportunity arises in life (ie. sitting next to someone on a plane, having a door opened in conversation with a co-worker, etc.). What I struggle with is intentional outreach as I am more of a shy extrovert. To overcome this I will go to a bookstore and hang-out it a relevant sections that will be a good context for a spiritual conversation. When someone pulls Deepok Chopra off the shelf I ask them about the book and off we go!
Cameron Bertuzzi: Good question. I think we need to spark up way more conversations with people in real life. I notice that online I’m ready to talk about anything but when I meet people at the grocery store, for example, I never think twice about stopping and asking them a couple questions. Why not? These people (a) need apologetics just like everybody else, and (b) are probably a lot more open to what we have to say. I would cite the fact that I’m naturally introverted, but actually that’s a lie. I’m more of a selective introvert. People in my inner circle I have no issue reaching out to, even if I barely know them. I need to do better at enlarging that circle.
Jeremy Linn: Connect up with local organizations doing evangelism, or create an evangelism event yourself. Those are the two main options I know of. I go out and have some way to start asking people questions, like to approach people and say you’re doing a survey of people’s thoughts about spiritual things, and asking permission to ask questions. One Apologetics group takes a whiteboard and writes a question on it and talks to people walking by in their city.
What advice to you have for ministries that are primarily focused on building an Internet presence? (Should every apologist try to have an online ministry?) How do you go about building a website and making an impact? What are some major mistakes apologists make in this area, and what are some of the opportunities? Do you have any recommendations on what platform to use (Wix, WordPress, etc.)?
Tim Stratton: In today’s world if an apologist does not have an online presence then they are probably either wasting their time or simply hoping to reach a very small number of folks. Now, this does not mean that everyone needs to have an expensive website. I got my start simply by treating my Facebook account as a website. I would also seek to debate or argue (respectfully) whenever I had the opportunity. I use WordPress and I like it a lot!
Scott Olson: The biggest mistake I see on websites today is that they have wayyyy too much stuff on their website. From the minute someone gets to your website, it should be clear what you do, how it will make their life better, and how they can interact with your content. Anything else on the front page of your website is really just unnecessary clutter that can be moved elsewhere.
Cameron Bertuzzi: Huge questions here! We use WordPress. That’s what I’m familiar with and it gets the job done. Apologists usually do poor in the website area because they don’t have a background in design. Here’s what I recommend: PUT DOWN THE PLANTINGA AND PICK UP A BOOK ON DESIGN! It’s not impossible to do design well, even if you aren’t naturally inclined to it. It’s a skill that can be learned, as with anything. There are rules and formulas; it’s a lot more analytic than it might seem. And while you’re at it, pick up a book on growing a website, another on marketing, and another still on social media. Read and study them. Do that and you’ll already be way ahead of the curve! Here are some book recommendations:
Where should I focus my attention on Social Media? Facebook? Instagram? YouTube? How do I use those productively? What social media tips and tricks would you give to a beginner?
Scott Olson: Facebook is really a fantastic tool for creating an online community. Obviously, it’s a great idea to have a “business” page for your ministry that you can use to post. However, Facebook has unfortunately began limiting the reach of business pages, so only about 1-5% of those who like and follow your page actually see what you post. For this reason, I highly recommend creating a Facebook group associated with your ministry. You’ll create a sense of exclusivity and community while having a great place to start conversations about your niche and ministry. YouTube is an area I’d like to begin focusing on a little bit more, as most people are transitioning to video as their primary form of content consumption. My advice for YouTube would be to not be afraid of creating long videos. Don’t feel like you have to stop a video because it’s more than 10 minutes long. Make the video as long as it needs to be. Finally, don’t be afraid to test stuff on social media. Create a bunch of posts throughout the day and see which ones get the most amount of likes and engagement. Keep posting similar content to the ones that do well, and stop posting content similar to the ones that don’t do well. Also, use surveys to figure out what your audience wants from you.
Cameron Bertuzzi: YouTube and Facebook are the best places for apologetics. A friend of mine always says that with Facebook, you pay them, but with YouTube, they pay you. And that’s true. On Facebook, be prepared to spend money advertising. It’s not impossible to grow without paying for ads but unless your content is extremely shareable (think Babylon Bee) it’ll be difficult. If you can’t afford to pay for ads, find somebody that sees your vision and wants to partner. Facebook has been incredible for our ministry. I’m still getting the hang of YouTube, so I can’t comment on best practices there.
Jeremy Linn: It really depends what you want to go for. Some Apologetics ministries have focused solely on Youtube, and have had great success on there. Perhaps you want to reach out to the next generation with interactive media. Then Youtube is your go to. With enough focus on there and a built up subscriber base, over time you can earn money off of it (although likely not enough to do it full time). For general Apologetics ministries, a Facebook page is the #1 spot right now. A Facebook group may be appropriate for a ministry like me own where people meet locally. But you can share content more easily on a page, and it tends to grow faster for Apologetics content. Instagram is a valuable place to be especially since younger people are on it and it is really the “cool” place to be right now. However, it takes the most time and commitment out of any of the platforms – from making solid captions to doing Instagram stories consistently (both of which are necessary for growth). If you were going to pick one platform, I would make it the Facebook page. Instagram can do a lot if you are willing to learn what is effective on there. Quick one- or two-words tips:
Facebook page: SHORT CONTENT, LINKS TO LONG CONTENT, HUMOR
Instagram: 30 HASHTAGS, BE REAL
How can I contribute intellectually and maybe even academically to apologetics? Should I write?
Tim Stratton: I encourage apologists to know the content and share it in live settings and in writing whenever possible. However, apologists can raise the standard if we all strive to advance the conversations through research and unique arguments of our own. This is best accomplished through writing. If you don’t have a website send your writings to guys like me who might be interested in publishing your piece on their website. If one is in a position to do so, get a degree in apologetics, philosophy, or theology. This option, however, is not always available. If it is not feasible to get a degree in a related field, then “study to show yourself approved” (2 Timothy 2:15) and educate yourself to be the best apologist possible. Guys like Eric Hernandez, Jonathan Thompson, Evan Minton, Ricardo Martinez, and Chan Arnett (and many more) exemplify this beautifully. None of them have any official letters behind their name, but they are all brilliant minds who can go toe-to-toe with any PhD. They push themselves as if they were PhD candidates. I learn much from each of them.
Matt Schmidt: My personal answer is most likely not, but maybe. Though it seems to be the attraction for many people who get into apologetics and philosophy, the greater need (by far) is for average people in the church and outside of it. We would be better served with more apologists focusing their attention in that direction. That said, there are some who absolutely should pursue higher level academics and higher-level writing. That percentage is fairly small though. The bottom line is that most academic fields are highly competitive to even get into PhD programs and often a small number of PhD grads are getting solid jobs because of their PhD. It is not a demotion to serve the church more hands-on (academics can serve the church as well), but it is a different path that requires a different mentality.
Cameron Bertuzzi: What I recommend is to pick an argument or subject and stick with it for years at time. You like the moral argument? Great! Learn everything you can about the different versions, various objections, etc. Read everything you can get your hands on. Follow Dr. Craig’s example. He spends years and years studying one topic at a time. Why does he do that? Trying to be maximally informed on everything all at once is too ambitious. Contribute intellectually by taking philosophy seriously.
What kind of person should pursue a solo ministry, and what kind of person should pursue a team-based ministry?
Tim Stratton: I can only speak for myself, but although I am the founder and executive director of FreeThinking Ministries, I sure enjoy being a part of a team! Scott Olson is the “voice of FTM” as he cohosts the FreeThinking Podcast. Timothy Fox, Jonathan Thompson, Adam Coleman, Shannon Byrd, and Jacobus Erasmus are a joy to work with as we all do ministry together (two more scholars are slated to officially join the FreeThinking team this summer)! There are also many guest contributors from around the world who have become an extension of the FreeThinking family like Kyle Barrington (world traveler), Johnny Sakr from Australia, John Limanto from Indonesia, Robert Oram from the UK, and Steve Williams from Hawaii (Does Hawaii count?) along with many others. We regularly communicate with each other, bring forth challenges, and work toward sharpening the team as a whole. Think about it: Captain America, Iron Man, and Thor all make great stand alone movies, but combine them as a team and you have The Avengers which is much more exciting! Having a team allows the ministry to cover many more topics than one guy can do alone (unless your name is William Lane Craig)! The key, however, is finding guys that you “click” with.
Cameron Bertuzzi: I might step on people’s toes here, but I would say that if you’re not a professional or haven’t gone to school for philosophy/apologetics, you probably need to do team-based. (That won’t apply in every case, but as a general rule.)
Solo – you need to be committed to put time in. Are you wanting to do social media? If so, are you task-focused? If not it may be hard to go solo on that. Solo however does allow you to focus on your “x” – that thing that will separate you from other ministries and will draw people in to what you have going on.
Team – If you have a group that meets personally this makes perfect sense. Your strengths can build off each other. You can designate areas to leaders, i.e. I am mainly social media and the other leader is mainly meetings. We couldn’t do all that we’re doing without the team aspect being there.
What is it like having/being support staff?
Tim Stratton: I am currently doing FTM full-time and have one part-time guy (Dr. David Oldham) who does research for me and helps to raise finances. We meet one or two times per week to study together. I also have a fantastic board that handles many of the BIG things which frees me up to do more research, writing, teaching, preaching, and ministry in general. As mentioned above, the FTM contributors also act as a support staff. As of now they act as volunteers. It is such a blessing to have this team of guys surrounding me.
Scott Olson: Because apologetics is not my main focus, it’s awesome just being able to donate a little bit of my time and expertise to a ministry that I fully believe in.
Cameron Bertuzzi: It’s amazing. The guys that help run our ministry on a daily basis are invaluable. Learn to delegate responsibility early on or else you might burn yourself out.
How can a new apologist stay in love with Jesus and not grow cold toward God?
Tim Stratton: Always keep Jesus in mind. Talk to Him over a cup of coffee before you begin your studies for the day. Ask Him to teach you. Depend upon Him! This approach has been so beneficial for me. In fact, the more I have increased in my knowledge of apologetics; the more my love has grown with God. For example, I remember the first time I grasped the Kalam – I began to cry tears of joy and I began to praise Him! I saw a bigger and more beautiful picture of God and it brought me to worship. Moreover, make sure to continue to attend, be a member, and serve a local church! Make sure to take part in worship services and do not take for granted the assembly of believers (Hebrews 10:25). Study God’s Word and keep talking to God!
Scott Olson: It’s important to always keep in mind why we do apologetics. If the point of us doing apologetics is to make ourselves look smarter or better, then we’ll quickly grow away from God. But, if we genuinely want to equip other believers and ourselves to bring more people into the kingdom of God, then I believe apologetics can only help us in our walk of faith.
Cameron Bertuzzi: Plain and simple. Study your Bible, study apologetics, but make sure to spend time in prayer. There is no substitute for a healthy prayer life.
Travis Pelletier: Continue the spiritual disciplines of Church, prayer, and devotional time. STUDYING APOLOGETICS IS NOT A REPLACEMENT FOR ANY OF THESE THINGS! Sorry for the all caps, but this point is so important that it deserves a yell. Also, it is so helpful to have friends who love Jesus that you spend time with regularly. I mean people who love Jesus, not just people who love theology. Finally, as someone who loves secular music, I’ve found that Christian music can absolutely refocus my mind on Christ in a way that secular music doesn’t.
Jeremy Linn: Spending time with God is key, although that can be hard for me as I have late nights some times. Acknowledging and receiving God’s grace when I “screw up” has been helpful too. And also journaling about what God is doing through the ministry and in my life in general. This is most certainly a topic I’m still wrestling through.
Beginning a new ministry often takes a lot longer than most of us want, and we often don’t get to see much fruit right away. What words of encouragement do you have for new ministries?
Tim Stratton: It is literally a one-day at a time journey. My son, Ethan, is sophomore and a wrestler on one of the best High School teams in the nation. Although he has been wrestling since he was four-years-old, just last year I encouraged him to have one simple goal: improve by one percent every practice. That does not seem like much, but if one takes this approach in just a few weeks he will be an utterly transformed wrestler. Ethan took my advice and the improvement we have seen over the last year – since he adopted the “one percent philosophy” – is comparable to the improvement he made over the past decade of wrestling. In fact, Ethan won the KHS Most Improved Wrestler of the year award! All these little “one percents” add up quickly. That is my approach to apologetics too. I have been utterly transformed by the renewing of my mind (Romas 12:2). I look forward to the continual transformation ahead. I have a long way to go but I have already traversed more ground than I ever thought possible. I encourage you to adopt my “one percent philosophy” and see what happens!
Scott Olson: Keep any goals you set to 18 months or sooner. Personally, I like 90 day goals. If you try and set 5 year goals, you’re always going to be discouraged by how far away that seems. Besides, no one knows what’s going to be happening 5 years from now. Set 90 day goals for where you want your ministry to be, and every day take some actionable step toward achieving that goal. If, at the end of the day, you’ve moved one step closer to your 90 day goal, you’ve won the day. And if you win every day, you’ll win the week. And if you win every week you’ll win the month. And if you win every month, you’ll win the year. And that’s what winners do: they win.
Cameron Bertuzzi: If your ministry has stayed stagnant in terms of viewership, engagement, etc., most likely you’ve neglected the importance of marketing. The good news is that it can be fixed. Pick up some books on marketing. Doing the same thing over and over expecting different results is, as we all know, the definition of insanity. Playing it safe is not what God wants from you. He wants you to use your talents creatively (see the Parable of the Talents, Matt 25:14-30). Ask yourself: are you like the man that doubled what he was given, or are you more like the man that took his talent and buried it? The second route is definitely safer, and requires less effort, but as the Parable of the Talents demonstrates, quite colorfully I might add, that’s simply not an option. Don’t waste your talents but neglecting marketing.
Travis Pelletier: Apologetics has often been called “pre-evangelism”. In other words, apologetics prepares people to hear the gospel. This means that apologists often don’t see the results of their work, simply because the result of their work might simply be a change in attitude toward faith which only blossoms much later. So, don’t let a lack of clear fruit discourage you.
Jeremy Linn: The fact that you are doing this puts you ahead of like 99.9% of Christians in apologetics engagement. That’s quite significant in itself. Comparing your status with other ministries can be discouraging. Instead, stay in continuous prayer with God and note the things he is doing in your own situation, whether big or small. With social media, consistency is the main thing and over time people will recognize your dedication and passion to the ministry and will take action as a result.
Final thoughts: do you have anything else you want to say to new apologists?
Scott Olson: You have something to contribute. Even if you don’t feel like an expert in anything, trust me, you are an expert to someone. All it takes to be considered an expert is to know more than your audience does about what you’re talking about. If you’ve only studied apologetics for 6 months, then your target audience should be brand-new apologists. You know more than them, and so you can provide them with valuable content. And over time, the number of people you can be an expert for will grow, and thus your ministry will grow.
Cameron Bertuzzi: Make sure that your motivations for starting an apologetics ministry are pure. This isn’t about starting a platform that you can use to belittle people. It’s not about intellectual domination. As Paul said to the Corinthians, “If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.” Make sure that you are doing this for the right reasons. And on top of that, have a great time doing it! Oh, and btw, Christianity is true.
Travis Pelletier: One warning: Avoid theological hobbyhorses. You may think that eschatology, or reformed theology, or the age of the earth are important. I know that I do. But these issues are NOT the gospel, nor are they required for a defense of the gospel. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t talk about them, just that they shouldn’t be a primary topic in apologetics. Keep the central things the central things.
Jeremy Linn: Don’t lose your mission for sake of popularity. Personal connections are important even in online ministry. Know that this is going to be a big commitment but if God has truly given you this passion, the commitment and time is worth it.
This article was initially posted on the Free Thinking Ministries website.