This is a digitised version of TCDCU’s Evangelism & Apologetics workshops. As the evangelism officer for 2021/2022, I would typically lead these E&A workshops throughout the academic year. Although the committee does not plan to host workshops this year, that doesn’t mean that either evangelism or apologetics is of any lesser importance. On the contrary, this resource will enable us as a Christian Union to have E&A materials online and on-hand 24/7 (you can also share it with your friends and family, should you find it helpful). This isn’t a report or essay, so don’t panic! I simply hope to share my own learnings, stories, and experiences while ultimately re-emphasising what the Bible—God Himself—says about these topics.  

 

Part 1: Evangelism

 

Virtually every Christian knows the Great Commission, which Jesus commanded in Matthew 28:16-20: we are called to ‘go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything [Jesus has] commanded’. But what does practical evangelism look like in present-day Ireland? What does it mean to ‘make disciples’ of our family, friends, and peers? And in a world inundated with secular, anti-gospel sentiment, how can we step forward in faith in the face of our fears?

 

Fear #1: I’m not ‘good’ at evangelism. 

 

Growing up, I wasn’t comfortable with public speaking, nor was I very gifted at making conversation. I had only a few friends in high school, and my social anxiety disorder didn’t exactly make it easy to form new relationships. I knew that Jesus called me to evangelise, but I didn’t want to. Whenever I tried to ‘convert’ anyone, I became awkward, long-winded, and tongue-tied. At best, people assumed that I was an ignorant, cringeworthy dogmatist. 

 

But when I started studying at a university in Canada, my personality changed completely. I was now confident in my intelligence and my persuasiveness—I felt certain that I could ‘convert’ even the most stubborn skeptics. Yet my attempts were still fruitless. People now respected me; they listened with genuine interest to what I had to say, but their interest ended there. None of my theological rhetoric touched their hearts. I silently believed that evangelism was like talking to a brick wall. It seemed simply discouraging and pointless. 

 

Truth #1: I do not transform people—that’s God’s work. 

 

The more I relied on myself to convince people of the gospel, the more I felt burdened, stressed, and anxious about evangelism. I dreaded sharing the good news because that brought me face to face with my own incompetence. But what does the Bible say about this? Here are some verses that encourage and challenge my fear that ‘successful’ evangelism ‘all depends on me’. Google these passages, look them up in your Bible, write them down in your diary or hang them on your wall as a reminder:

Matthew 11:27, Matthew 19:26, Ephesians 2:8, 2 Peter 1:20-21, John 14:6, Daniel 2:47 

 

God is more familiar than anyone with my inadequacies and insecurities. He sees the pride that lurks behind all of my fancy words and philosophical ramblings. He sees my own confusion—the big questions that I, too, wonder as a Christian about Christianity. Thankfully, instead of leaving me to marinate in self-loathing and self-pity, Jesus directs my gaze to Himself. Isn’t it incredible to think that a perfect, sovereign God would choose me to share His message? In spite of the mess that is ‘Audrey Bang’ or [insert your name here], He has chosen the likes of you and me to share His wonderful news. Wow. That’s like a CEO of a multi-billion dollar company (let’s call her… ‘Jess’ Bezos) asking her three-year-old son to lead the advertising department on her behalf. It’s outlandish. In the world’s eyes, it’s stupid. It just doesn’t make any sense. 

 

The Apostle Paul aptly expresses in 2 Corinthians that ‘…we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.’ Simply put, we are the jars of clay—empty on our own. Unimpressive. Fragile. Plain. And God Himself is our treasure! As Christians, we know that the power that raised Christ from the dead lives in us (Romans 8:11). When we evangelise, it is God’s own Spirit that works through us. So why do I constantly try to win people to Christ through my own nonexistent power? Why do I try to prove myself to God and/or other people, when God already knows that there is nothing to prove?   

 

It’s not up to me to convert people; although He invites me to share His message, real heart-change is not something that I cause—so I don’t need to worry about that anymore. And my knowledge of God’s power dwelling in me makes me excited for evangelism. Instead of sharing the gospel out of fearful compulsion or grudging obligation, my love for Christ overflows from my heart to my lips, hands, and feet. I want to tell people about this gracious God! I want others to experience His love and His power. He loves us so much that He wants to invite us, His children, to partake in His wonderful, mysterious plan for salvation. 

 

Fear #2: If I try to evangelise, unbelievers will reject and attack me. 

 

People are angry with the church, and for good reason. They see the atrocities of people, so-called Christians, and feel fury and indignation towards religious institutions. There have been plenty of non-Christians who demanded to know why I personally supported the abuse and exploitation of women, children, Indigenous communities, the LGBTQ+ community, and more (note: I do not, and God does not, support the abuse of anyone). There was little that I could say to diffuse their anger, so I told myself that it was safer to do what they wanted me to do—just keep quiet and keep my faith to myself.

 

Truth #2: We are blessed when unbelievers reject and attack us… for Jesus’ sake. 

 

Again, what does the Bible say? 

Matthew 5:10-13, Matthew 10:16-18, 2 Timothy 3:11-12, John 15:19-20, 1 Thessalonians 3:3-4

 

The Bible doesn’t state that any Christian can expect to lead a life free from religious persecution. On the contrary, in 2 Timothy 3, Paul writes that ‘everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted’. But there is wonderful, glorious hope even in that apparently gloomy sentence. In Matthew chapter 5, Jesus says: ‘Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.’ 

 

It’s clear that the college campus is becoming increasingly secular, meaning that Christians are discouraged from bringing their faith into lecture halls, cafeterias, and student accommodation. Instead of bemoaning or complaining about this, as I am so prone to do, Jesus commands me to ‘rejoice and be glad’ (Matthew 5:12). We are blessed when people curse, attack, and reject us for our faith. When people respond to our gentle, loving, and compassionate evangelism with aggression, we know that we are simply following Jesus’ steps. We can also be comforted by the fact that we are citizens of heaven; we belong to the world yet to come. In the verses following verse 12, Jesus goes on to say that those who are persecuted are blessed because ‘great is their reward in heaven’!

 

Instead of retaliating or lashing out, persecution in its various degrees and forms is also an opportunity for us to show the love of Christ to our persecutors. It’s unlikely that we will ever experience the harrowing persecution of Jesus-followers like Corrie Ten Boom, Jim and Elisabeth Elliot, and Louis Zamperini: yet Corrie Ten Boom forgave her torturers, and her family’s murderers, in those extermination camps; Elisabeth Elliot was a missionary to the very tribe who had murdered her husband. Their resolute faith resulted in great spiritual growth and revival across the globe. They weren’t able to do this because they were any better or any more righteous than you or I. Rather, as we already know, God Himself granted them courage, love, and forgiveness in the face of persecution. And He promises to do the exact same thing for us.     

 

Fear #3: I’m not ‘good enough’ of a Christian to evangelise. I feel like a fake, a hypocrite. 

 

I was chatting with a (non-Christian) friend when, mid-conversation, he stopped and said, ‘Audrey, it’s obvious that you go to church. You’re a pretty good person. You’re humble; you’re nice to people. You don’t do drugs or sleep around.’ 

 

At that moment, I felt like a pharisee. I was such a hypocrite. My friend saw the face that I put forward during our chats together—the Audrey who was always ready to read a passage of scripture, pray, or lend a helping hand. But he didn’t see the Audrey who, just last week, had struggled with lustful thoughts. He didn’t see the Audrey who silently cursed at her parents. He didn’t see the Audrey who spoke about God’s love while judging others. I felt that it was so difficult to act nice and ‘godly’ all the time. Since I struggled to practise what I preached, I couldn’t possibly be fit to share the gospel. 

 

Truth #3: 

There is good news for you, if you relate to my experience: the Apostle Paul himself, arguably one of the most famous Christ-followers, describes this struggle in Romans 7:15-25 (NIVUK). 

 

15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18 For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do – this I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.

 

21 So I find this law at work: although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23 but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? 25 Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!

 

So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.

 

This is something that Christians all feel. It’s the struggle between our old desires and the ‘new man’ or ‘new woman’. I know who God calls me to be, and what He calls me to do and refrain from doing. As a far-from-perfect human in this fallen world, I don’t want to hurt God by running back to the sins He’s freed me from—yet I still feel tempted to watch that video I know I shouldn’t. Thankfully, I can trust that God’s grace is so much more powerful than all of my deepest, darkest secrets and sins. Not only that, but He USES my secrets and sins. When I am vulnerable with others, when I’m honest about my own shortcomings, I’m always amazed to see how He uses those conversations. I’ve realised that non-Christians appreciate honesty. They’re sick of witnessing religious pretension, ‘pious-ity’ (not to be confused with genuine piety), and self-righteous claims to perfection. 

 

In the words of Charles Spurgeon (one of my favourite theologians!), ‘Show the world that your God is worth ten thousand worlds to you. Show rich men how rich you are in your poverty when the Lord God is your helper. Show the strong man how strong you are in your weakness when underneath you are the everlasting arms.’ Simply put, God is glorified in my weakness. When I evangelise and share the gospel not despite, but because of that weakness, His loving power is magnified.  

 

And here’s another fantastic Spurgeon quote: ‘God does not need your strength: he has more than enough power of his own. He asks your weakness: he has none of that himself, and he is longing, therefore, to take your weakness, and use it as the instrument in his own mighty hand. Will you not yield your weakness to him, and receive his strength?’ 

 

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Part 2: Apologetics 

 

The first time I heard someone mention ‘Christian apologetics’, I nodded, smiled, and responded: ‘Absolutely! Forgiveness is such a crucial aspect of the gospel. It is so, so important that Christians learn to apologise.’

 

You may laugh, or maybe you don’t exactly know what apologetics is, either. When I search for ‘apologetics’ on Google or Youtube, I see videos of male speakers dressed in suits and glasses. More often than not, these clips have clickbait-y titles like ‘SHOCKING debate between Christian and Atheist!’ or ‘[Name of high-profile atheist] VERSUS [Name of high-profile theologian]’. Some videos make me feel like the title of ‘apologist’ is reserved for those who have studied at Oxford, read at least 50 theological volumes, and use exclusively sophisticated language. Others make me feel like apologetics is a boxing match, during which I anxiously wait to see whether atheism (boo) or Christianity (yay!) will get KO’d first. 

 

It’s all so intimidating. By no means am I familiar or comfortable with this branch of theology! Nevertheless, the word ‘apologist’ is defined as the following: ‘one who speaks or writes in defense of someone or something’ (Merriam Webster). So if I truly believe 1 Peter 3:15, in which God calls us to defend the faith, then all Christians, myself included, are called to be ‘apologists’. 

 

So what exactly is apologetics?

 

Christian Unions Ireland has a very helpful series on apologetics. In the first blog, Dr. Paul Coulter defines ‘apologetics’ as the following: ‘The task of developing and sharing arguments for the truth and rationality of Christianity and the falsehood and irrationality of alternatives with the aim of strengthening the faith of believers and provoking non–believers to consider Christ.’ 

 

‘It is important to emphasise that ‘argument’ in this context refers to a logical, reasoned case rather than an argumentative style. Apologetics includes both developing and sharing arguments – it is not a purely academic exercise conducted in an ivory tower, but a practical engagement with real people and real problems. (…) [T]he ultimate aims of apologetics are not to develop clever arguments but to see people led to faith and strengthened in their faith.’ 

 

I hope that this definition is helpful. It certainly was for me! Now we’ll dive into some of the fears and apparent obstacles that keep us from engaging with apologetics.

 

Fear/objection #1: Isn’t Christianity all about having faith? Shouldn’t my faith be strong enough for me (and others) to not need apologetics?

 

Jesus Himself said that ‘Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed’ (John 20:29). Doesn’t this mean that a ‘real’ Christians should have faith regardless of the historical evidence… or potential lack thereof? And what about verses like Hebrews 11:1, which emphasises that faith is ‘the conviction of things not seen’? Aren’t apologists just Christians who lack the faith to believe in scripture by itself? 

 

Truth #1: Apologetics is FOUNDED on faith. 

 

I think that there are several things to consider when faced with these questions. First, let’s see what the Bible says about the defense of the faith.

In 2 Corinthians 10:5, the Apostle Paul writes, ‘[w]e demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.’ Jude 1:3 says: ‘[d]ear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt compelled to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to God’s holy people.’ You can also check out verses like Colossians 2:8 and Colossians 4:6. In the book of Hebrews, the Bible itself is described with martial, battle-esque language: God’s word is ‘living and active, sharper than any two edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart’. Evidently, the call to the defense of the faith is very present in the Bible.

 

Ironically, the writers of the Bible wanted to ensure that their readers could trust and believe in the gospel’s veracity. 1 John 1:1 says, ‘That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched – this we proclaim concerning the Word of life.’ He’s assuring his readers that he has seen, heard, and touched Jesus Christ. Likewise, the apostle Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15: ‘Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures (…) he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures (…) he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles’. Luke 1:2 emphasises the same thing: namely, that eyewitness accounts are important in the Bible. 

 

There is absolutely a difference between faith and apologetics. In a sense, logical arguments and historical evidence (two things which I associate with ‘apologetics’) have nothing to do with conversion. Let’s remember apologetics itself is not what converts people—that’s something which only God can do. In Matthew 28:11-15, we read about how the Jewish leaders knew that Jesus had risen from the dead, just as He had said. They had all of the evidence right in front of them. But that didn’t matter to them. They didn’t care. Correspondingly, unless God has revealed Himself to me, no amount of intellectual knowledge or authentic proof will ever change my heart. 

 

However, just as God uses us—His jars of clay—to bring people to faith, so too can He use apologetics. If we Christians truly believe that God has the power to transform and call people to Himself, then we can trust that it is not the bare facts that bring people to Him. It’s God Himself who does this. And should He choose to use apologetics and apologists to do so, then we can (and should!) wholeheartedly rejoice in that. Moreover, let’s remember that apologetics is ALWAYS gospel-centred. It’s not built on anything else. In Acts 18:28, we read that Apollos ‘vigorously refuted his Jewish opponents in public debate, proving from the Scriptures that Jesus was the Messiah.’ 

 

It’s also crucial to remember that we should not judge one another (see Luke 6:37-42). It’s not for us to say whether someone who was converted when watching an apologetics debate is ‘weaker’ or ‘less faithful’ than someone who was converted when reading the gospel of John. 

 

Fear #2: But what if I lose my temper? 

 

In high school, I often had ‘debates’ with my atheist friends. These debates quickly devolved into full-blown fights. My friend would say something hurtful about Christianity (e.g. ‘you Christians are delusional’), I would respond with something equally cruel, and we would ruthlessly begin to attack the other person’s beliefs. I felt victorious whenever I disproved the logic of their arguments; they felt triumphant whenever I fell silent. After a few months of going back-and-forth, neither of us enjoyed talking with each other.     

 

Truth #2: Apologetics is not an attack. 

 

Disclaimer: it’s okay to say no to specific individuals and conversations. In fact, I think that it’s important to say no, especially if you have begun to discern that this individual is more concerned with arguing (for the sake of arguing) than anything else. Titus 3:9 says, ‘…avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law, because these are unprofitable and useless.’ 

 

But I think that we Christians also need to hold ourselves accountable. Yes, it’s difficult to maintain composure when someone else presents their opposing arguments in an insulting, caustic, or derisive manner. But apologetics is not about us. It’s not about Audrey proving how much Audrey knows. So when my atheist friend begins to explain why she believes that God doesn’t exist, I need to remember that this is not ‘[her name] versus [my name]’. God calls me to apologetics for His glory. Not mine. Why else would I get so vexed and irritated? Because I didn’t want her or anyone else to think that I’m stupid or ignorant. Because I wanted people to respect and esteem me and my intellect. 

 

As you probably already know, it’s less about what we say; it’s more about how we say it. Regardless of whether my logic was perfect or my historical proofs were undeniable, my harsh tone and spiteful ‘victories’ did more to disprove the gospel work in my life. My atheist friend had read the Bible; she knew that Jesus had commanded His people to love others. Although my arguments may have been great, my self-defensive demeanor did little to recommend this gospel in her eyes. 

 

Fear #3: I’m not good at debating.

 

Again, I tend to consider ‘apologetics’ as the realm of great thinkers and high-profile speakers. Perhaps it’s your philosophy professor who challenges the existence of God, whose intellectual attack leaves you feeling stupid, small, and overwhelmed. Maybe it’s that group of friends from your chemistry lab. Or maybe it’s your own fear of presenting that prompts you to abandon apologetics. 

 

Truth #3: Apologetics isn’t only restricted to the debate or lecture hall—it can happen anywhere, with anyone.

 

The Bible says that we all have different gifts (1 Corinthians 12:7-11). So while your pastor may be great at standing in front of a crowd of people, passionately defending the faith, you may feel more in your element discussing the evidence for Christianity with a neighbour or friend. This, too, is apologetics. The value of our service for God is not measured quantitatively. In Matthew 17, Jesus Himself compares faith to a mustard seed: tiny and unassuming, yet still bearing of great spiritual fruit. 

 

I think that the real pitfall here is using individual strengths and weaknesses as an excuse to stagnate (and thereby potentially resist the Spirit’s work in our lives). Take myself as an example. I have a fear of public speaking and a love of writing expository essays. Will God use my talent for writing? Absolutely. But does He call me to also step outside of my comfort zone, to allow Him to transform that fear into faith? Yes. He does that, too. So while we must remember that apologetics is not restricted to a large-scale debate, I should also be open to the ways that God will glorify Himself through my incapabilities, mistakes, and dislikes.    

 

Here are some helpful resources (alongside your Bible, of course!) to guide you. These writers will be able to provide you with a far more in-depth, and likely far more adept, description of apologetics. 

 

Resources:

 

  • The Case for Christ, Lee Strobel
  • The God I Don’t Understand, Christopher J.H. Wright