Apologetics has never been easier. Not only is there an abundance of apologetics resources (books, podcasts, conferences, etc.), with the internet there are countless opportunities. It takes almost no effort to enter into an apologetic conversation.
But just because it is easy to do apologetics does not mean that it is easy to do good apologetics. Here are five mistakes that apologists often make.
1. Try to do too much
What is the goal of an apologetic conversation? Do you have to demonstrate the existence of God, the historicity of the resurrection, lead someone into conversion and start the road to discipleship? Some people seem to think so. There is that nagging voice, “What if they never talk to a Christian again.” The apologist then feels far more pressure than they should. I really like what Greg Koukl says about putting a stone in their shoe. If you have got them to think a bit more about the Gospel, you have done your job. The next person will take them a bit farther.
2. Spending too much time with the wrong people
It is important to be ready with the reason for our hope for all those who ask. But not everyone is a seeker or an open skeptic. There are people that I call “career skeptics” that just love to take up all your time. They are not looking for answers, they are looking for arguments. My policy is to express my position, clarify any misconceptions and then to let the conversation end if I sense they are a “career skeptic.” I have other things that I need to be doing.
3. Having too narrow of a focus
I have no problem with apologists being specialists. I specialize in the Jesus myth. But it is also important to read outside your area. New Testament comes easy to me while philosophy is more of a challenge. That is why I read philosophy. I will never be a philosopher, but it is important for me to have some generalization.
4. Taking things personal
Some skeptics can make things very personal. Some Christians can do the same thing. When someone rejects the apologetic arguments, it is easy to feel as if it is against you. Apologists of course must strive for excellence in every apologetics presentation. But there are some people at certain points in their life that have no interest in Jesus. No matter how tight your arguments, they will mock your beliefs. Don’t take it personal, it is exactly what Jesus promised would happen.
5. Attacking other Christians
Some apologists fall into the trap of going after other Christians. I firmly believe that we have to stand up for historical Christianity and that there is a line that if crossed leads to heresy. But some apologists, out of love for the argument, go after other Christians who they see as overemphasizing or underemphasizing certain doctrines even though they remain within Christian orthodoxy. It is fine to privately express your concerns, but there is so much work to be done that we cannot afford infighting.
Bonus mistake: Letting your spiritual life slide
If you want to be effective as an apologists, you need to take care of yourself spiritually. You cannot just read the Bible to mine apologetic arguments. You cannot just pray for apologetic opportunities. You cannot just show up for church to offer an apologetic presentation. Self-care is one of the most important parts of being a good apologist.