An apologetics conference recently welcomed record attendance, with more than 2,000 students, young adults and church leaders gathering at Immanuel Baptist Church in Little Rock, Arkansas.
That number included more than 700 middle/junior high students who attended “Lead>Defend: Foundations,” held March 4 at the City Center, a ministry site on the church campus.
“If you want to know if God is working in this generation look no further than 2,000 students who showed up in one location on a Saturday to learn about Christian apologetics,” noted Bruce Venable, College + Young Leaders team leader for the Arkansas Baptist State Convention.
Laura Snyder from First Baptist Church Rogers said their group left at 6 a.m. and traveled more than three hours to the event.
“I think it’s just great for our young people to be exposed to apologetics,” Snyder said. “It makes them have to think about what they’re taking in and what they’re around and evaluate that against the Word of God.”
Students are bombarded with unbiblical messages every day through social media and more, noted Bill Newton of First Baptist Church Hot Springs.
“This (conference) is an avenue to give a counteraction to that. It gives us a chance to speak into some of the lies they’re being told by culture. I love it,” Newton said. “I got to help launch Lead>Defend when it started. When they started Foundations, they asked if I would help … . This has gone better than I ever dreamed it would go. To have almost 800 registrations in the second year is just incredible. I think it’s amazing.”
Newton noted every believer needs to know the basics of why they believe what they believe.
“That is commanded in Scripture,” he said. “Previously there hadn’t been a lot of attention given to that. I am really glad to see that it is beginning to get some traction.”
What is apologetics?
One-Minute Apologist Bobby Conway told the Lead>Defend audience that the word “apologetics” comes from the Greek “apologia,” which means to “give defense.”
“The first time I heard of the word apologetics I was riding on a freeway in Southern California not long after becoming a Christian at the age of 19,” Conway remembered, “and I thought, ‘What in the world? Apologetics. Why are we apologizing?’”
But apologetics does not mean to apologize.
“It means we are giving a defense,” he noted. “What we are attempting to do with apologetics is to provide a rational defense for the truth or trustworthiness of Christianity so that people can set aside certain obstacles.
“A lot of times people think that Christianity is just a leap into the dark or we don’t have credible answers to curious questions. Apologetics is, we are prepared to have a conversation about the most intellectually robust objections that you might have.”
Sean McDowell, associate professor of Christian apologetics at the Talbot School of Theology at Biola University in California and fellow guest speaker, referred to 1 Peter 3:15.
“Apologetics is the practice that all Christians are called to be ready with an answer when people ask, ‘Why do you think Jesus rose from the grave? Why does God allow evil? How do we know God exists?’ And other tough questions to the faith,” McDowell said.
‘Confidence in their faith’
The Bible teaches and models apologetics, McDowell added.
“You see (Jesus) reasoning in John 5–8 with religious leaders. Paul certainly used apologetics. Some of the early Church fathers are called the apologists for defending their faith in Greco-Roman culture.
Additionally, apologetics give Christians confidence in their faith, McDowell said.
“When you not only believe you experienced God, but then you see, ‘Wow, there is scientific and philosophical evidence,’ it builds confidence for Christians. And I think for many non-Christians with questions it can help remove barriers to faith for those who are open to following truth.”
Conway noted apologetics also can help a Christian struggling with doubts.
“Suppose you came to a place in your life where you were struggling with some of the objections in the Bible. Like, ‘If God is good, why would He allow so much suffering in the world?’ Apologetics can really come alongside somebody down the road struggling and that can help you. It helped me during a big season of doubt in my life and apologetics was able to help me know why I believe what I believe, to be able to give an answer to these questions.”
In addition, apologetics can help with evangelism, Conway said.
“The more you are trained, the more you’ll have confidence on how to provide answers,” Conway said. “I kicked off sharing the gospel when I was in college. I would go out by myself and share the gospel with 50 to 100 people a week. I would just walk on campus and cold-turkey go up to people. I had no idea how to answer their questions, but the Holy Spirit would use their questions as my study guide. I would learn and know the answers to those questions, and I started to grow as an apologist.”
Plans are underway for next year’s March 2 Lead>Defend conferences.
EDITOR’S NOTE — This story was written by Mary Alford and originally published by Arkansas Baptist News.