What steps should you take if you want to enter the apologetics ministry?
Sometimes in this field, you get the question asked of how can someone come to do what you do? A lot of times it can be someone who has a family life already and a full-time job and they don’t know what more they can do, but they do want to do more. What steps can be taken?
First off, it’s a noble desire to want to defend Christianity, but remember before you defend it, you should also be living it. The two will actually build up one another. Studying apologetics was something that taught me about my ethical requirements and how Christianity fit into them. Apologetics should not result in just your intellectual maturity, but your growth in holiness.
Second, choose your area well. You will not be equally excited about every area that you could study. Some people might enjoy Islam and dialoguing with Muslims. I frankly find it rather exhausting many times, but some people enjoy it. If that’s you, go for it. Study what you can about Islam and how to answer it.
Some people really get into scientific apologetics. Maybe I’m an outsider, but I really don’t get into this much at all. I think some things in science are fascinating, but I’ve just come to find the science side unpersuasive to me. It could be because of a deeper understanding of metaphysics and I see science as having to constantly fall back on metaphysics.
Some people will point most to ethical issues. You might be interested in studying the topic of abortion or the topic of the redefinition of marriage. If so, then again go for it. The main point is to find an area that is your passion and go for it. Find something that you can enjoy studying and you can learn well.
Note that whatever area you choose, you will not be able to master everything in that area. There will be limitations. One of the mistakes that’s easy to make is to think you have to have an answer for every question. You can’t. You won’t. Accept it. That’s why there are other people in the field. It will also help to know these other people so that if someone has a question not in your area, you can point to this other person.
Third, you are going to have to work. That means reading and study. Now some of you might think I just love to read constantly. Now in reality, of course I enjoy reading and learning, but there are also times I have to push myself. There are times I’d much rather do something light, and in fact there are times you should do something light. Your mind needs time to recharge.
When you do hit the books, be sure to read the best scholars in the field. These are people who are Ph.D.s in a relevant field to what you’re studying and are using academic publishing houses. These people have passed peer-review and they teach or at least have taught (Perhaps they’re retired) at an accredited university. You also want to try to have the latest material if you can. Something was a great argument 100 years ago. That does not mean that it is one today. It could be, but you need to check.
Reading isn’t the only way to learn either, though you should do it. There’s also today listening to podcast. Through ITunes and other services like that, you can listen to an entire Seminary course for free. You can also listen to several podcasts in other areas, for instance I am listening from time to time to the history of Rome. Naturally, I’m biased towards my own show, the Deeper Waters Podcast. Another good one to listen to is the debate format of Unbelievable? hosted by Justin Brierley out of the U.K.
Also, read the other side. Too many skeptics don’t read both sides and have a lopsided pictured. Don’t be one of them. If you know your position well enough, you should be able to bring forward also a powerful argument from the other side if you have to. You don’t need to go in just knowing one side.
I also recommend you surround yourself with like-minded people. If you’re on Facebook, a place like the Christian Apologetics Alliance is good for that. Mentors are always helpful to have. Before I was on Facebook, TheologyWeb was my place and I still do debating there. Meet others who are studying. With many of these groups you have the advantage of having people who have done this for years and those who are just starting so you can help one another out.
Practice debating and realize this. At the start, you are going to get your butt kicked. It’s okay. It’s not something you like, but this will make you study more. I find one reason I can do what I do well today, is I was in an environment, such as online debating, where I had to know this stuff and the questions that used to terrify me no longer make me blink.
Something else you should know, always remember apologetics is a career and ministry, but it is not your life. Do not neglect your family. Only one person can be the mother/father to your children. Only one person can be the husband/wife to your spouse. Too many times it’s easy to overlook your family because of “ministry.” Jesus had strong words for people who put ministry before family.
Have fun and serve God well in this field. It’s a hard one, but if you want to work at it, you can succeed at it. If you are busy, give what time you have. It will be a worthwhile investment.