Walking into the fire station’s immaculate garage, I’m surprised to find piles of clothing lying on the floor outside each truck’s open doors. The rest of the station is so orderly that the scene before me seems out of place. Turning to my brother, who is giving us a tour, I ask, “So, what’s with the clothes and boots on the floor? Were you guys in a hurry and just didn’t have time to hang up your stuff?”
He smiles wisely as he answers. “Nope. Everything is exactly as it should be. We do that to save time. When there’s an emergency, every second counts. During the day our wheels have to be rolling within sixty seconds of receiving a call. At night we have ninety seconds to get from our beds to the trucks.”
He begins showing me all of the different time saving measures the fire department takes to ensure a rapid departure: boots with zippers instead of laces, shirts with snaps (buttons are just for show on the outside), the fire pole that shaves forty-two seconds off the crew’s trip from their beds to the garage floor. He explains that in health emergencies every second matters for averting brain or cardiac death. Rapid response is also crucial for fires, which double in size every minute.
The station’s garage no longer looks messy to me. Instead, I’m impressed realizing how attentive the department is to every detail. When calls for help come, the firefighters are always ready to respond.
Starting Focused Living’s new study on apologetics, that tour of my brother’s station makes the perfect example of the need for readiness in defending our faith. Author and Bible teacher Mary Jo Sharp explains: “We shouldn’t need a crisis of doubt in order to learn to support our beliefs. Instead, we should begin to study the reasons for belief in God out of a love of truth.” (Why Do You Believe That? p.23) She points to the Apostle Peter’s teaching to substantiate her claim:
“But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.” (1 Peter 3:15, NIV)
The firefighters in my brother’s station are always ready because lives are at stake. Isn’t the same true for us? We need to spend time studying God’s word so that we can speak about it clearly when opportunities arise.
For some of us, the term “apologetics” is a little scary. We envision impassioned debates between highly knowledgeable and articulate opponents. For those of us who don’t find arguing to be a “fun” past time and who don’t enjoy confrontation, the thought of learning about apologetics might seem unappealing at best and excruciating at worst. If you’re nodding your head in agreement, please keep reading.
The first time I encountered a seasoned apologist was on the campus of my large, secular university. I heard his voice before I laid eyes on him. Rounding the corner, I saw a tall man standing on the main quad, surrounded by a large crowd of students. He spoke with a booming voice, sharing the good news of Jesus with a boldness and confidence that were truly inspiring. Hecklers in the crowd would occasionally interrupt to pose questions. He would stop speaking and look for the person who’d asked. Once he made eye contact, he would smile gently. “I’m glad you asked that,” he’d say, before giving a clear answer that made perfect sense. His Bible was in his hands as he paced back and forth in the small space the crowd gave him to move.
Standing on the fringes of the group, I was mesmerized by his words. Being a Christian at such a large university had often caused me to feel like I didn’t fit in. Hearing this man speak with conviction and confidence about Jesus out in public was like getting a pep talk from an inspiring coach. He wasn’t ashamed of the gospel, he was proud to share it, knowing he had something to offer his hearers that would change their lives for eternity.
Not all of us may be able to command a crowd like that apologist did on my college campus, but we all have opportunities to make an impact for Christ in our spheres of influence. So many times we get intimidated to share the hope we have because we don’t feel we know enough or we fear it might lead to conflict. I wonder how many opportunities I’ve missed because I was too afraid of saying the wrong thing.
That is why I’m so excited to be doing Mary Jo Sharp’s study: Why Do You Believe That? A Faith Conversation. In her first video teaching, she explains a few misperceptions that might hold us back from wanting to delve into apologetics.
First, she explains that apologetics has nothing to do with the word “apologize.” Apologetics means: “to make a case or present a defense.” She points out that giving a defense doesn’t mean we have to be defensive and that being able to argue doesn’t mean we have to be argumentative. On the contrary, studying apologetics will give us the confidence to speak clearly, putting our listeners and us at ease. That’s why the apologist at my college could say: “I’m glad you asked that,” and really mean it. He had an answer that would bless those hearing it.
Learning to speak clearly about what we believe and why we believe it will give us opportunities to engage people in meaningful conversations. We’ll have the chance to dispel misperceptions about Christians. Sometimes, we might even encourage fellow believers, as the apologist did for me when I was in college. Most importantly, we earn the right to be heard and get the chance to present a life-changing and soul-saving message to hurting people desperately in need of a Savior.
I look forward to sharing the adventure of this study with you over the next month and a half. Mary Jo reminds us of Jesus’ words: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” (Matthew 22:37, NIV) Will you join me in praying that God will prepare our minds to absorb all of the truth this study has to offer? It’s just one of the many ways we can show the Lord we love Him.
Click on the link to hear Lincoln Brewster’s song “Love the Lord” which combines Jesus’ words in Matthew 22:37 with a similar command from Deuteronomy 6:5.
Sharp, Mary Jo; Why Do You Believe That? A Faith Conversation; Lifeway Press; 2012 & 2014.