Have you ever read something, whether it be in the Bible or some other piece of literature, and some word or phrase stood out that you had not noticed before?
I fear that sometimes verses we hear and read regularly can become so familiar that they become dull. One time, while reading through 1 Peter 3, I recognized something in verse 15 I had not really seen before. That verse reads:
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.
Much of the focus in apologetics is the answer – being ready to give answers for our faith. But who are we to be ready to give an answer to? This verse says everyone.
How does one do this? In my mind I categorize people into four different audiences for Christian apologetics.
1. Myself. I admit it. There are times when I wonder if I have been duped into thinking that Christianity is real and if there is a god at all. In those times, I use what I have learned through my study of apologetics to give my faith a bit of a boost.
2. Believers. I have learned that I am not the only Christian that has times of doubt. Being ready to give my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ an answer for our shared hope in Christ is a way to carry their burdens. Believers will usually accept the Bible as a reference point, so you can use Scripture to help give them reasons for that hope.
Note: Be careful to discern when someone needs a sympathetic heart to listen to them versus when they need a rational reason to strengthen their faith.
3. Skeptics. I define skeptics as those that are considering Christianity but have reservations. Being able to use the Bible with these people is usually a case-by-case basis. Some may want to understand how a certain verse applies to the whole picture of Christianity, while others may be hesitant to accept the saying from such an ancient book. We need to be sensitive to their needs as they continue their journey toward faith.
4. Critics. Critics are those who are not looking to engage in a real conversation about faith, but are looking to tear down, ridicule, or otherwise belittle those that believe in the Bible and in Jesus. I do engage in religios conversation with critics, but it is with people that I have a relationship with. Without relationship, there is little chance the critic will really listen to the apologist’s words.
I try to ask quesitons of people to evaluate which one of these categories they may be in. Then when they ask me questions, I attempt to answer them in a manner that is gentle and respectful. Having knowledge of the audience is invaluable in public speaking and in apologetics.
When you defend your faith, do you use different approaches to different audiences? Please share what those are in the comment section.