I recently heard Dr. Hugh Ross share some ideas he’s learned from long experience that I thought would be helpful because a lot of people ask about this.
There’s a new challenge to evangelism. In the past, evangelism assumed Hebrews 11:6 as a starting point for unbelievers (i.e., “[W]hoever would draw near to God must believe that He exists”). But many people don’t even believe in God, and won’t even grant that He is good if He does exist. In addition, so many people live in cities now that they are out of touch with the book of nature and God’s revelation of His glories there. So apologetics is needed to fill in these foundational beliefs before even getting to the Gospel. As our society becomes more secularized, apologetics is going to be even more needed than before to make the case for fundamental things most people believed in the past but don’t anymore. Show your pastor the need all Christians have of being able to make a case for these things.
Here are a number of other tips. I’ve mixed in some of my own with Dr. Ross’s.
- Establish God’s existence using arguments for the origin of the universe, origin of life, and fine-tuning—these are the issues that most commonly persuade atheists.
- Show God is the biblical God—connect general evidence to the Bible.
- Help pastors delegate expertise to others. Be a solution to this need in the congregation.
- Help pastors see the opportunities of bringing new people into the church by addressing these questions. Use controversial topics to attract unbelievers. Host a discussion rather than debate. Answer questions and challenges. Demonstrate that the church takes these questions seriously and has reasonable answers.
- Address controversy with grace, humility, gentleness, and respect in a biblical way.
- Meet with concerned members ahead of time to allay their concerns.
- Avoid triumphalism—a “Beat the atheists!" attitude.
- Invite Q&A within the church so believers can build their confidence by having their questions and doubts answered, and be open to questions from unbelievers.
- Use events to attract unbelievers. Classes can draw more visitors than services. Midsize groups and classes are more effective at attracting visitors and giving them a chance to ask questions.
- Plan Q&A forums for the kids in the congregation to build their confidence early.
- Encourage, don’t scold, church leaders. Show compassion for pastors who have a lot of things on their plate.