Once, while giving a Muslim friend a ride, I asked him, "Tamir, why should I become a Muslim?"
"To have a community," he said, and "to enjoy a sense of purpose."
I replied, "I can find these in Christ."
"Well, why should I become a Christian?" he said.
"Tamir," I exclaimed, "I thought you'd never ask!"
Unfortunately, many Christians aren't equipped to answer Tamir's question because they are intimidated by potential intellectual challenges. What about evil? How do Christians understand the many world religions? But with some guidance, and armed with the knowledge that their faith can withstand intellectual scrutiny, Christians can converse engagingly with doubters and skeptics.
Pastors should use the pulpit and the classroom to equip their congregations with the basics of apologetics. Consider preaching a sermon series on some of the apologetic material in the Gospels, Acts (which uses words like "eyewitnesses," "(make a) defense," "persuade," "reason"), and 1 Corinthians 15. Preach a series on the major objections to Christian doctrine. Teach a world religions class and then visit a mosque, temple, or synagogue to listen and learn. Meanwhile, identify church members with a passion for apologetics and empower them for ministry.
Another important opportunity for apologetics training is among the church's students. Research has shown that the North American church is losing more and more young people. One major reason they're leaving is that they've never been equipped to handle the challenges to their faith they encounter in college. To counter this trend, we need to equip the next generation to be thoughtful idea-engagers.
I attempt to do this with my own children. My wife and I regularly have Q&A times with our kids around the dinner table. We discuss the religious pluralism and relativism they regularly encounter in school. My oldest daughter, in her first few weeks at a secular art college, is already encountering these challenges. She just sent me an email that said, "It is cool how many times the topics of religion and belief systems come up. I get to see how all these different people see the world, earnestly listen to what they have to say, and, Lord willing, challenge their way of thinking in some way and point them to a Savior still unknown to them. I love these deep conversations."
A final consideration includes a matter of the heart. Christians must not merely proclaim the gospel; they must also embody it. A Christian's life should be marked by love and integrity, and he should engage with non-Christians in relationship and respectful conversation. To do that, we must be good friends and careful listeners who earn the right to offer our perspective; having cared enough to understand our friends' journeys, we're better positioned to discuss Jesus. In fact, if we listen carefully, we'll often find ourselves agreeing with our non-Christian friends—there are hypocrites in the church, evil is a gut-wrenching problem, and the Scriptures can ...