I have a confession. For years I had no real grasp on what “apologetics” were–not as a youth, but as an adult and even as a youth pastor. It had the word “apology” in it, and it had to do with my Christianity. Did it mean I was telling people I was sorry for being a Christian? I felt like people tripped over helping me understand. Then someone finally explained it to me this simply: It’s knowing HOW to defend your faith in Jesus. Ohhh…Now that made sense.
I thought of all of the questions my students have when it comes to Christ.
How do I know other religions aren’t the “right” ones?
How can Jesus be God and the Son of God all at the same time?
My friend is a Jehovah’s Witness. What do I say to them?
These fall in the category of “apologetics,” I discovered. Then there came a strange fear in learning about other religions from my youth. I had students who weren’t sure about Jesus, but thought it was “wrong” to know about what else was out there. What if they wanted to start believing that? I always seemed to have at least one student who knew someone who had become a “blank” when they found out about that religion. Would it be OK to be this too if they wanted to be?
There were so many confusions for all of us between evangelism and apologetics we could no longer just answer questions of this type, “on the side” . It was time for me to figure out, how to have focused conversations with my students on understanding what they believe, why they believe it, and what it means for their worldview. They understood the idea of having a relationship with Christ, and about sharing what it meant for them, sort of. They did not realize that Christianity is the only “religion” that offers a personal, close relationship with the living God. More so, they still had a lot of questions.
I think I had avoided this topic before, because I thought that apologetics were really too deep for my students. What had never struck me was that by actually delving into the topic it answered so many questions. Sharing the good news that Jesus is close and offers us a relationship is important. Knowing why you believe what you believe keeps you grounded. This would help them combat outward questions, but more so helped with inner debates.
Knowing what the Bible says is vital. Understanding why it is the truth, guiding us in daily life is transformational. As we embarked on understanding Jesus, our worldview, and other religions, I assured our students they could rest. One of my favorite verses is Jeremiah 29:13, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” There is nothing else that offers for us to KNOW our God and comprehend what it means to BELONG to Him. In short, the Lord is big enough to handle these questions.
I believe confidence grows in our students as they grasp hold of their faith in a way that is definitive. Evangelism is being able to tell others about who Christ is and what our relationship with Him looks like. Apologetics is about being able to understand the world around us, what they think, what we believe exactly so we can answer questions.
I am finding my students want the deeper answers for themselves just as much as they want to be able to tell others. I think I used to misunderstand that this was a topic only important for those who had a deep faith. Instead, it’s helping those who falter stand on the truth.
Shameless Plug: Want to explore this topic deeper? My friend Rezah did an AWESOME job with LIVE Apologetics. It explores our own thinking, answers about Christ, and then the most popular world religions and how they are different. Click here to learn more.
Expect God to show up and He will.
Do you think our students need apologetics? Yes or No?