The Church as Apologist

Hello! My name is Travis and I have been asked to become a regular contributor for Help Me Believe. Before I begin my first post, let me briefly introduce myself.

First of all, I have been married for almost five years and am an expectant father! Secondly, I currently serve in two areas of ministry:

•youth ministry in a local church
•research and leadership for Docent Research group

Finally, I am pursuing a PhD in Theology at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. I hold both a BA and an MA in Biblical and Theological Studies from Criswell College.

Apologetics is not my strongest subject. My posts will focus more on biblical and theological matters (though I will tackle apologetics from time to time). I want to begin today with some thoughts about the church as apologist.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines an “apologist” as “one who speaks or writes in defense of someone or something.” Usually this falls on individuals, but it is also the job of the church as a whole. The “someone” the church is to defend is Christ (or the Godhead as a whole). The “something” the church is to defend is the message of the gospel with which it has been entrusted.

So how does the church serve as an apologist? It begins inside the church, where believers are taught proper doctrines (orthodoxy) and led into proper practice of those doctrines (orthopraxy). This takes place through preaching, Sunday school classes, small group discipleship, and many other avenues, such as the lyrics of the hymns or worship songs being sung.

This then overflows outside the walls of the church with the understanding that the church is not the building but the people—the believers who gather regularly. As followers of Christ, every step we take, every word we speak, and every decision we make is either (1) a defense of Christ, or (2) a protest against Christ. It has often been said that you might be the only Bible some will ever read. How are you representing Christ and His church?

I will conclude with two practical implications. First, in order to preserve its unity and holiness and to serve as a proper apologist for the Lord, the church must keep its membership pure. Only true believers should be allowed into membership, and those who stray should be disciplined. This ensures that the gospel of Christ will not be misrepresented inside the church. The church cannot allow unregenerate individuals to participate; they must only listen and learn, which will hopefully lead to their conversion.

What follows is a second and related implication: believers must remember that at all times they are representatives of Christ and their local church. The doctrine of the priesthood of all believers means that every Christian is a minister of the gospel, both with their words and actions. We must live as Christ followers 24/7/365. This will ensure that the gospel of Christ will not be misrepresented outside of the church.

What will you do to ensure that, whether congregated together or dispersed as individuals, your church is serving as an apologist for Christ and His gospel?

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16 Replies to “The Church as Apologist”

  1. Hi Travis. Nice to meet you. I have a question for you. You say “So how does the church serve as an apologist? It begins inside the church, where believers are taught proper doctrines (orthodoxy)”. What if the doctrine of the church does not line up with Biblical truth? We are seeing more and more churches following after the way of the world with their man-made doctrine. What does this do to the effectiveness of the church?

    1. Pete, thanks for reading and thanks for the question. There is no doubt that false teachings are invading the church. This could be false teachings about Christ or especially today, the prosperity gospel. This absolutely harms the effectiveness of the church, both in its ministry to its members and its evangelistic efforts outside the church. In the end, it harms the kingdom of God.

      The Reformers said that the marks of a true church are the Word and the sacraments (of which there are only 2: baptism and the Lord’s Supper). If the truth of the Word is taught, and if the ordinances are properly observed, a church will be effective. If either of these is neglected, and especially if the truth of the Word is neglected, the church will fail in its mission. In fact, when a church loses the gospel, it ceases to be a church!

      1. Could not agree more. I see those churches that are turning away from the truth are getting smaller or closing their doors in amazing numbers. The real church has always been at odds with the world I can’t for the life of me understand why they think we should conform now!

        Thanks for the great post. Be blessed!

  2. D.T Niles got it precisely correct when he said, ““Christianity is one beggar telling another beggar where he found bread.” Theology, apologetics, systematic theology, ThDs, etc. make our flesh sound smart to some, but it still all boils down to 1 Peter 3:15, “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear.”

  3. Great intro.. Congratulations to you both for the blessing of a child.
    I agree the church must operate in unity.. preaching the whole Gospel.. speaking the truth in love..

  4. Perfect this sounds like a good platform to discuss religous matters and Ideas. Let us find the truth together!

  5. Visiting your site for the first time. These particular comments about false practices and doctrine in the church today has had me on a recent journey to educate myself on the early church fathers. Everything pre-catholic, you might say. I’ve never been catholic, but also find myself very discouraged with our modern protestant church. After all these years of the Reformation, do you guys have any opinion on which churches may have gotten closest to the original heart of Jesus and the early church fathers? So much church today is pomp, money, big business, theater, impersonal, all about their little box and building a bigger building, of which more chains connected to money develops. I know I’m sounding very negative here, but I’m looking for very positive answers. I’m actually a very positive person who is doing much study because I’m also proactive. I don’t want to simply point out problems. I want to find real answers.

    1. Unfortunately, what you say about the church in general can be true. However, I have found there are many great churches out there from many different denominational affiliations (or a lack of affiliation). Travis and I are both ministers in local SBC Churches and have attended SBC seminaries. I can’t speak for him, but I think he’d agree when I say this doesn’t mean we think we have everything right, or that others are completely wrong. For me, I agree with the doctrine of the SBC church I minister at and want to be a part of what the SBC does for global missions. Obviously, the SBC has its own issues as does every denomination, and every church. You won’t find a perfect church, but I’d look for one that teaches the Bible and right doctrine, and is focused on making disciples of all nations. Hope that helps, thanks!

    2. I couldn’t help but add a reply to this…I was raised in many churches, My family never claimed a denomination and neither did I, but we did love the Lord! We had a faith, understanding of the Bible, went to church on Sunday, VBS and all of that… You know I always thought I had a strong faith, but really my faith had no backbone, no solid ground, yes I believed in Jesus and prayed to God, I struggled though with the Bible because I felt like I was never good enough to read it, it was only the “pastors” who truly understood, so I just went along with that, went to church for my weekly encouragement, trying many times to pick up the Bible but ending up lost because I was never really taught how to actually study it, I went to college and many nights brought to tears durning a local congregation worship service, which was very entertaining too by the way but the emotional high I got from “church” was so strong it kept me going back for more! I believe that is the current problem in our society of believers! We can look to the book of Acts chapter 2 to see the establishment of the church on the day of pentacost…the church is the body and bride of Christ, and there is much instruction In the New Testament on how the church as a whole and individuals as part of the body of Christ should be worshiping, Christ should always be the head of the church, and glory to him, as he glorified God through his sacrifice, and the holy spirt, working through us as members, and the apostles who established “the church” on that day! The holy sprit works through us but I do believe there are
      many out there who claim the holy sprit and the Word of God who are false. And I don’t say that in a way of accusation of people, but of a distorted truth that many are taught, when I was finally taught how to search the scriptures, read context, rather than peicing the Bible together through sermons given grabbing a verse here and there but never really reading it as a whole, It finally made sense, but it wasn’t just an instant over night okay I get it now but a constant study into Gods word, a constant search for Truth that I finally have a confidence to say, I know Jesus, and he knows me, there’s much more to learn, but I do believe finding the right place to study as a whole in unity, and encouragement, where context is never overlooked, and worship is done in Truth and spirit is equally as important as Searching the scriptures daily to make sure our way is in accordance with the Word of God! If you want to read a great book on The Church problem that we have today there is a book called Muscle and Shovel by Micheal Shank its a great and easy read, not meant by any means to replace the Word of God, nor to add to or take away from the Word but only to help gain understanding for the Truth. God Bless you in seeking his path!

      1. Thank you so much for your very thoughtful comment. I will definitely be checking on that book. My next article is to be an effort to imagine what it was like for an early Christian when they celebrated the Passover the way they did it. I hope I can do it justice to it based on what I have learned. The neat thing is, we could still do this today, and I think my little 3 person fellowship are going to give it a try this year. I’ll be reporting on that too. Thanks again for commenting. Please comment anytime you like.

      2. I just downloaded the book. I’m looking very forward to it. Only read a couple pages but already hooked. I got an article of my own to work on first that I need to get out today, but thanks for recommending this book, and I see there is a sequel.

      3. That’s great!! I enjoyed the book as well and very much related to it as I was finding the truth in my own life… I hope it helps you! And yes I haven’t read the sequel yet but I do own it!! If you ever have questions or comments about it please feel free to ask!

      4. Hello, I know its been a while, but I finished the book a few days ago and just now got a chance to share. I loved the book and got a lot out of it. But the only point that rocked my boat for a day came way towards the end. I’m sure you know the spot. It’s obvious he saves the best for last. The part where Saul has been praying and fasting for 3 days and yet is not yet saved. I must admit that had me going for a bit. But then I thought, well how does that compare to what Saul/Paul wrote in Romans? That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thy heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. (And on through verses 11-13) And this was written by the very same man who prayed 3 days. I knew whatever happened with Saul had to also line up with Romans 10: 9-13. And there is no mention of baptism involved. And somehow the author never mentioned these very important scriptures? So I started comparing the 2 sets of scriptures spoken by the same man. Suddenly it became so plain. Saul felt too guilty to call on the Lord for salvation. He had done such horrible things to Christians. It’s the only reasonable explanation. The scriptures must agree. Ananias asks Saul, what are you waiting for? Arise and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord. At least that is the only way both sets of scripture seem to agree in my mind. Otherwise, Paul left out a very important detail in Romans. So as much as I enjoyed the book, I do not find this to be my answer either. Not what I hunger for. It just seems like another machine to me. But I just finished a book much closer to my heart. And since you offered a book to me, I’ll offer one back. It’s called: “So you don’t want to go to church anymore”. (A long title. lol) Authors: Wayne Jacobsen and Dave Coleman. I know there is no perfect answer here on earth. But this hits much closer for me. Thanks so much for recommending the book. It added much to my search.

      5. I apologize that it has taken me so long to reply, life gets busy sometime,
        Always Gods word will hold a special place in my heart, and I share this with you because I care for others to understand it, cherish it, and love it too because when you can understand his word, the simplicity and truth, you live it in your life, it is life changing,
        We recently had a gospel meeting at our congregation in Alaska and I heard this statement, that is that you need help to misinterpret the Bible! It is very simple to understand, but we confuse it so badly in our world today! I would never want to lead someone in a way that they too may misinterpret the Bible, so please know that that it is never my intention, I wanted to answer your question about why churches today have come so far from the early Churches built on that foundation of Christ as the head of the church! I feel that book gives you great information in that, I’m so glad you read that book I really appreciate you taking the time to read it, as well as your responses to it, thank you that means a lot to me!
        Now with that being said when I became a Christian myself and put Christ on In Baptism following the salvation, simply stated in Gods word, I didn’t want to learn that from anywhere but the word of God, because of that even recommending a book other than the Bible to people I hesitate to do so because that is the only place you will find all the answers to God and what he want for us! But you must take it as a whole not adding to it or taking away from it! Romans is a great book and very encouraging, but we must not neglect the rest of the Bible and what it has to say and some of the English wording today is understood and taken lighter than it was intended to be. (Im sharing an Article with you on calling on the name of the Lord) As we read Romans It does line up with the rest of Gods word, but that book is not all of Gods word, confessing is important, repenting is important, as is believing, and all a part of salvation! But Gods word also requires an obedience, faith in action, “calling” on the name of the lord!
        James is great book that talks of an obedient faith!
        The book of Acts, I am currently studying, was the account written by Luke, of the apostles establishing the churches…we must remember that they were writing the word of God, they didn’t have the complete bible at that time, so faith and belief were very important in their language (then and even now) but they were also given the ability to show signs and wonders through the holy sprit among the people to prove what we now have in the written word! The Good news of Christ!

        Putting on Christ in baptism is important, and doing that right, not for the sake of I will do this because Someone else told me to, or I want to be like some other person but I will do this because I know that I need Christ to live eternally! Now with that being said, Christ didn’t come for the perfect, he came to be our example, we may fail, we may struggle, but he came so that we can have rest, we can place our burdens, troubles, fears on him! That fear of death is removed through Christ, as he defeated death and sin on the cross.
        Collisions 2 explains to me so well why we put Christ on in baptism. But it doesn’t just end there, putting him on and continuing to walk with him because we become a new person when we are born again, because if we don’t, did that death to sin mean anything to us!
        I think the argument of baptism comes up a lot today because everyone wants to be right, but if we set our rights aside and ask God what is right I think then you shall find the truth!

        As far as the sauls conversion story it is very unique in the sense that he was directly talking to Jesus on what he needed to do, and following those steps exactly when he regained his sight he was immediately baptized because he knew the power of God working in him! And putting on Christ was absolutely necessary! I would say that if I were him I would not deny that important step of salvation! He never once challenged the idea of the thought well I’m already saved, I don’t need to do anything more! He needed to put on Jesus!

        http://apologeticspress.org/apcontent.aspx?category=6&article=775

        Thank you again for your reply, And as for the book recommendation I will try and check that out! 😊
        Beverly

      6. It has been a joy to share perspectives, examine my own, and ask myself again what I believe to be true. I always want to be asking that question. I love the way we have both been able to be honest with each other and still love each other in the Lord. I think my biggest challenge right now, after examining the early church so intently, is making sure I join a group that is really “family”. I’m really being challenged by that in my studies. Big churches always feel like big machines to me. Acts 2:42-47 always use to kind of scare me, and confuse me. I just couldn’t seem to see how that can work today? But now I’m seeing possibilities. I did enjoy the book and our conversations; and may our journeys continue in our Lord.

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