Tilling

Tilling the Ground with Apologetics: A Step Towards Evangelism

by Phoenix Hayes

As believers, we’re all called to play our part in ‘The Great Commission’ (Matt. 28:19-20). For those who may be unfamiliar with this term, it refers to Jesus’ instruction to the disciples to spread the Christian message across the world. This call can be a part of the believer’s fulltime job, but most of us will simply share the gospel within our personal circles of influence. This is evangelism: sharing the good news of salvation with the lost. But in an age of skepticism, we are facing two momentous hurdles to overcome before the ‘good news’ starts to sound any good at all.

Saved from what?

How does one offer a lifesaver to someone who doesn’t know they’re drowning? This is the first hurdle to overcome, using what some refer to as, “Offensive Apologetics.” This is the opportunity to lay out a rational argument for the existence of God supported by empirical evidence. When one does this, it presents the listener with a choice: to accept the evidence or to reject it. The goal is to make them think, so that they can no longer ignore the facts. Regardless of the outcome, you’ve at least done the job of making a good case for the existence of God and hopefully helped them move past the first hurdle – apathy.

The second approach is called, “Defensive Apologetics.” It involves providing clear responses to specific objections of Christianity. This is where one responds to specific questions a person is asking. It also typically involves engaging with people who have already overcome the first hurdle. Defensive Apologetics allows you to engage with a willing and active participant. The outcome of this can be very rewarding; as the old saying goes, “It’s easier to steer a moving ship than one that’s sitting in the docks.” The thinker in this scenario is seeking answers, but again, whether or not they accept them is an entirely different question. Defensive Apologetics is tasked with helping the unbeliever overcome the second hurdle towards conversion, intellectual doubt. Much like Christ’s call for the Great Commission, Defensive Apologetics is also a task that all believers are instructed by the Apostle Paul to be prepared for: to be ready to explain why and in what they believe. (1 Peter 3:15.)

Pre-Evangelism

It was Francis Schaeffer, an American theologian and philosopher, who was first credited with referring to apologetics as a form of “Pre-Evangelism.” One can compare evangelists to gardeners who throw the seed (the Gospel) into a field, not knowing where it will land but trusting that the Holy Spirit will grow it where the soil is good. The purpose of the apologist is to till the ground in readiness for that seed. This involves all, or any, of the following:

  • Correct misunderstandings of the Christian worldview
  • Remove intellectual barriers to the philosophy of the Christian worldview
  • Provide empirical evidence that supports the existence of God
  • Address objections to the Christian worldview
  • Educate others of the contradictions within other worldviews
  • Defend the truth of the historical Christ
  • Defend the reliability and authority of the Bible
  • Give a response to unbridled and ill-informed ridicule

Once the mind is free of these intellectual barriers, it is possible, with the help of the Holy Spirit, for the conversion of the heart.

Proof is not persuasion

People were created with free will, and just as that grants them the ability to accept or reject Christ’s offer of salvation, it also means your audience may accept or reject the evidence presented to them. Proof is not persuasion. For example, you can easily prove to a smoker that they are at risk of lung cancer, but persuading them to quit is another thing entirely. The apologist’s task is to remove the intellectual stumbling blocks that may prevent the gospel from being received. It is the evangelist’s job, then, to preach the gospel. But it is only the Holy Spirit who can convict the heart and inspire a genuine conversion.

“But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.” (John 16:13)

“And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” (1 Corinthians 6:11)

Once the Holy Spirit has convicted and converted the heart, evangelism and apologetics walk hand-in-hand throughout the rest of the believer’s life, tending to doubts and the struggles of the flesh that challenge all believers at some point. Jesus said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.” (Matthew 9:36) For many of us, we will put in years of work, tilling the ground in preparation for the seed of the gospel. Though at times it feels less satisfying, this task is just as necessary as the work of those who will plant the seed and ultimately gather the harvest.

Apologetics is a tool to help ‘till the soil’ of a person’s heart. It’s a good, first step in sharing the gospel to help seekers ultimately receive Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.

(All scripture used is from the NIV.)


Disclaimer: All views expressed by those associated with this ministry or on our platforms do not necessarily represent the opinions of Women in Apologetics, Inc. or its individual team members.

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