Why Pastors Ought to Be Apologists
If you scan the pages of Scripture looking for a list of “offices” (leadership positions within the Church), you’re likely to find eight roles described in the New Testament: Apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, teachers (Ephesians 4:11), elders, deacons and bishops (1 Timothy 3:1-7; 1 Timothy 3:8-13; Titus 1:6-9). One thing you’ll never find in any Biblical list of leadership positions is the office of “apologist”. Why is this position missing from the Scriptural lists? Wouldn’t it be wise for every church to have a trained and qualified Christian Case Maker? I can tell you from personal experience: as I travel around the country, very few church leaders seem to be interested in apologetics, and even fewer have studied in this area. In fact, many seminaries don’t even offer courses in apologetics as part of their Master’s in Divinity programs (the standard degree sought by pastors).
The reason the role of apologist is missing from New Testament leadership lists is not because it isn’t important enough to be represented as a separate office within the Church. Just the opposite is true. The responsibility of apologist is assigned to all of us as Christians. God intends each and every one of us to be “ready to make a defense to everyone who asks [us] to give an account for the hope that is in [us]” (1 Peter 3:15). Our personal responsibility to make a Case for Christianity is not separated into an office for the same reason our personal responsibility to pray is not separated into an official office within the church. There are no official church pray-ers for the same reason there are no official church case makers; this responsibility is given to all of us as Christians. It’s foundational to our identity. If you are a Christian you are a Case Maker. Not every Christian is meant to be an apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor, teacher, elder, deacon or bishop, but every Christian is meant to be an apologist.
The New Testament assumes every apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor, teacher, elder, deacon and bishop will be a good Christian Case Maker, and the assumption (described in 1 Peter 3:15) is so foundational it isn’t assigned as a separate office. Sadly, we have failed to see the foundational nature of Christian Case Making (in spite of the directive in 1 Peter and the numerous examples of the discipline offered in the Book of Acts). Few pastors have embraced the study of apologetics as part of their daily spiritual discipline and even fewer have modelled this important aspect of the Christian life for their congregations. I don’t write this as an abstract criticism, but instead as a reflection of my own personal experience.
When I first graduated from seminary, I was already pastoring. Even though my personal journey to faith was deeply dependent upon my own investigation of the evidence, my experience in seminary failed to confirm the importance of apologetics as a Church leader. In fact, my particular Baptist seminary didn’t offer a single course in Christian Case Making. For the first several years as a youth Pastor, I didn’t explore apologetics with my students at all. After a year or so, I realized my students were unprepared for university and easily challenged once they left the safety of our youth group. I committed myself to return to apologetics as a primary responsibility, and for the next ten years (as both a youth pastor and lead pastor) I taught and modelled Christian Case Making to my group on a weekly basis.
There are a few pastors out there who understand the foundational nature of apologetics and have modelled this responsibility to their congregations. They’ve preached, written and even taken their message to the internet as pastor apologists. I’ve been collecting a list of these pastors so you can see what this kind of Church leadership looks like (thanks to Frank Turek, Brett Kunkle, Greg West and Brian Auten for helping me with this roster):
I’m sure there are many more pastor Case Makers out there, but as we assembled this list, each of us lamented its brevity. Wouldn’t it be nice if a blog such as this couldn’t even be written? Would it be great if the potential list of pastor apologists was so long it couldn’t be succinctly delineated? Maybe it’s time for all of us, as members of congregations around the country, to encourage our pastors to develop a personal apologetics discipline and practice. But before we require this of others, let’s make sure we are each accepting our personal responsibility to be the best Christian Case Makers we can be.
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