Over the years, I have seen more than enough debates on the proper relationship between evangelism and apologetics. I have listed many of the objections I’ve heard on college campuses. Some say we should just preach the Gospel and not try to argue or debate with people. Other say apologetics is a form of pre evangelism. I can only speak from my own experiences. I really have never made a separation between the two and here’s why: There is no need to! I have made presentations of the Gospel and at the same time answered many objections and provided reasons for the truthfulness of the Christian faith all in one conversation. Let me give some examples from some of my evangelistic discussions last week:
#1: Muslim conversation:
I was speaking to a Muslim in our downtown area where I live. This Muslim was part of the group Ask a Muslim which is a very aggressive evangelistic organization. The very first thing he said to me was “Explain the Trinity to me.” Now, I did do this and then it led him to ask me a host of other questions such as:
I answered most of these objections and also shared the Gospel in several formats. I even read Isaiah 53 to the Muslim in which he said “Jesus sounds weak.”
This young man said he believed he was one with the universe and wouldn’t put a name on God or be labeled with any faith tradition. So when I asked him how he knew what he believed was true, he said “It has to work for you.” Although this is quite popular (pragmatism), I convinced him the young man has a faulty view of truth. I also shared the Gospel with him as well.
#3: Black Hebrew Israelites:
In this case, I had the joy of one of the disciples of the Black Hebrew Israelite movementapproach me and ask me what I thought Jesus was black. I said there was not one shred of evidence for Jesus being black so I naturally said Jesus (while probably as a Mediterranean Jew was dark skinned) was Jewish. To this he replied by saying I was lying to people and deceiving them as well. After all “Jesus was black!” This led to a long apologetic conversation in which I also shared the Gospel.
What’s my point?
Let’s be honest: Can Christians really do evangelism in today’s culture without apologetics? No!
If a Christian tells God they are willing to share their faith and put themselves in challenging settings where they can share and defend their faith, God will honor that request. Remember, the apostles approach to spreading the message of the Gospel is characterized by such terms as “apologeomai/apologia” which means “to give reasons, make a legal defense” (Acts 26:2; 2 Tim. 4:16; 1 Pet 3:15); “dialegomai” which means “to reason, speak boldly” (Acts 17:2; 17; 18:4; 19:8), “peíthō” which means to persuade, argue persuasively” (Acts 18:4; 19:8), and “bebaioō ” which means “to confirm, establish,” (Phil 1:7; Heb. 2:3). Not much has changed from the first century. As long as we follow the apostles example, we will realize there is no need to separate evangelism and apologetics. They go ‘hand in hand’ with each other. By the way, I will head off an objection. Many will say “But in all three of your examples none of them came to faith in the Lord. Hence, you wasted your efforts!”
My response: Go read the Parable of the Sower (Matt: 13) and 1 Cor. 3:5-9. Stop judging success by people praying some prayer to accept Jesus into their heart! Be faithful and let God handle the results!