5 Reasons Apologists Get a Bad Rep

No one appreciates callous apologists. Christians are to be humble and kind when talking about Jesus. Just as He was when talking about God.

Last week we started our new blog series on apologetics, which we defined as the defense of Christianity (not our apology for believing in Christ). As we also stated last week, Christians must humbly and kindly share historical evidence for the accuracy of the Bible and Christ’s resurrection. Sadly, many see Christians as condemning and self-righteous.

Many Christians feel justified in being so, as they clearly see themselves as being on “Team Right.” But Jesus calls us to humility. He modeled this attitude throughout the New Testament. So if your evangelism strategy is to “stomp” on people, your “witnessing” runs counter to the respectful way Jesus treated people. Let’s discuss!

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For 50+ years, Josh McDowell Ministry has been leading seekers into a deeper knowledge of God’s truth and power. We offer you our accumulated knowledge and research to help you find truth and encouragement to live a healthy and whole life in Christ.

Apologetics: Jesus As Our Model

Think about how Jesus approached the Samaritan woman at the well. He knew the centuries-old animosity between the Jews and their northern neighbors, the Samaritans. And He knew that a “pious” Jew would have nothing to do with these “unclean” people. Particularly a Samaritan woman living with a man who wasn’t her husband.

But Jesus chose to travel through Samaria on His way to Galilee, just to have a mind-blowing encounter with her. He intentionally waited for her by the well, supernaturally knowing that the hot, mid-day was the only time this shunned woman would chance to fill her water bucket.

“How can you ask me for a drink?” she asked, stunned that Jesus would even talk to her. A Jew — a rabbi — would stoop to request a favor of her?

Can you imagine the gentle smile on Jesus’ face as He led her into realizing that He was the living water that her weary spirit so desperately needed? Jesus didn’t judge her before bestowing His love and understanding on her. Neither is it our job to whack non-believers over the head with their sins. To do so is hypocritical, anyway, as not a single one of us is without sin.  

Dead Zone Without Humility

Often we look at non-Christians and want to draw a clear line in the sand between “us” and “them.” But if Jesus really wanted us to have that separatist mindset, He would have catered to the religious leaders of His day, not the people who so keenly felt their need for Him. People were drawn to Jesus because He approached them with love. One thing let’s not be: a Pharisee. Jesus asks us to leave the pesky work of softening people’s hearts to the Holy Spirit.
Once we understand that Jesus is okay with our being our authentic, struggling selves, we can offer non-believers the grace to be utterly human as well.

To be an effective apologist, then, we must engage people the way Jesus did: with humility, kindness, patience, and love. Loving ain’t always easy, as country musicians like to croon, especially with hard-to-love people. But Jesus showed us that lives are changed through love, not because we don boxing gloves.

As Pastor Britt Merrick writes in his book, Godspeed: If Jesus wasn’t interested in humility, He would have come as a king, not a baby. Adds Merrick, “Jesus spent time with people, He listened to their stories, and He knew their hearts.” As Josh McDowell likes to say, “Relationship always comes first.” People don’t care what we have to say, until they know we really care.

5 Reasons Apologists Get a Bad Rep

1. We Often Aren’t Gentle and Respectful

When Christians demean non-believers, with words or arrogance, we lose all chance at being heard. Would you willingly listen, to a person intent on telling you that you were wrong, misguided, or stupid in your life choices? It should never be our aim to “win” arguments with skeptics. If we can’t speak or act in love, says the Bible, we’re focused on being right, not useful to God.

2. We Are Often Unkind

The question to ask: Is our goal to use facts as “ammo” to shoot at non-believers? If so, our hearts have not genuinely broken for those who don’t know Christ. Our goal should be wanting people to develop a lasting friendship with Jesus. Manipulating them into following Jesus creates a temporary, surface relationship, at best.

3. We Often Overstate Our Case

The evidence for Christianity is compelling; we don’t need to embellish it. Only share what you know to be true. Don’t exaggerate or make up “facts” to make your delivery more persuasive. Build solid credibility, so you have the opportunity to have multiple chats with others about Christ.

4. We Can Be Mechanical in Our Delivery

How will we ignite the hearts, minds, and emotions of non-believers? By sharing Christ through our personal experience. People need to hear the historical evidence for Christ, but they also need to see how Christ has and is changing us. Some of us feel we don’t have a strong testimony if we lack a colossal tale of redemption. But even if you have been a Christian since early childhood, you have powerful things to say about your walk with Jesus. Be YOU. Share your passion and joy in following Jesus.

5. We Use Too Much Jargon

Church-speak much? If you’re using intellectual words like “evidential” and “ontological”and “bibliographical,” please make sure the people you’re talking with understand what these big words mean. Same for insider Christian lingo like “washed in the blood” and “at the foot of the cross.” Non-believers won’t understand what these phrases mean until they personally experience Jesus as their Savior. 

Bottom line, to reach people for Christ, we need to mirror His love. A non-believer is not a “sinner” you have to fix, but a lost person of immense value to God just as they are. May we see people the way God does. May we treat people the way Jesus treated them. Let’s not be “that guy” yelling condemnation from street corners with a megaphone.

Evidence book cover Apologists

This blog post highlights Josh and Sean McDowell’s revised apologetics classic, Evidence That Demands a Verdict. This fully updated and expanded resource is an effective evangelism tool that will strengthen your faith by answering the toughest questions tossed to you by skeptics. Know what you know, because it’s true. Share the truth in LOVE.


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