While this study suffers the limitations of a small, non-representative convenience sample, nevertheless it suggests several motivational factors that support persons’ interest in apologetics. It raises important questions as well.
The clearest suggestions are that persons are motivated to learn or use apologetics when:
In short, the equation (assuming initial faith in Christ, of course) goes like this:
Intellectual Bent + Questions + Answers
(along with Relational Support) = Interest in Apologetics
We’re still speaking in tendencies, of course.
For practical ministry purposes, this suggests that the apologist who wants to promote interest in apologetics in his or her church would do well to (a) find intellectually-oriented persons, (b) provoke them with questions that really matter to them or to people they love, and then (c) make answers easily accessible.
Intuitively speaking, apologists tend to be better at the first and third of these, and less inclined toward provoking a broad spectrum of lay people with questions that will motivate them with a need to study and learn.
The presence of Intellectual Bent in that equation could seem troublesome. What can be done for those aren’t wired that way? Four possible answers seem worth pursuing, and will be the subject of further research in the Spiritual Readiness Project:
First, remind them with good teaching that all Christians have a responsibility to be prepared to defend their faith. It’s analogous to those who “don’t have the gift of evangelism.” Most Christians know they have some responsibility to lift up the name of Christ, and to share the gospel, even if that’s not their gift. The same could be true with respect to the gifts of knowledge, teaching, and so on that may be lacking for people who don’t have an intellectual bent.
Second, expose them to great questions. Better yet, make sure they’re questions they care about, for example, How will their kids stay strong in the face of the challenges they face? What can parents/grandparents/uncles/aunts do to help? Or, give them the opportunity to speak with non-Christians and face the questions head-on.
Third, make intellectually accessible resources easily available.
Fourth, make sure they know who to go to in the church if they have specific questions they’re not qualified to answer, and make sure they know it’s okay to ask.
Given that 26 persons mentioned evangelism as part of what motivated them, and also that it is the most fertile source of provocative questions (besides being a crucial ministry in its own right), it seems likely that active evangelism coupled with good training with easily available answers would be a strong motivator for the learning of apologetics.
Evangelizing the church’s own children is one obvious place to focus. That raises research questions:
Also for further research: Given that certain intellectually-oriented persons are naturally more likely to be interested in apologetics, and given the Bible’s teaching on spiritual gifts, are there practical ways for churches to enable such persons to maximize their service to their fellow church members through their gifts of knowledge, teaching, discernment, evangelism (in whatever combination those gifts might exist)?
Two motivational factors that might have been expected went completely missing in this group (or near enough not to matter). There is no evidence whatsoever that AIPs (Apologetics-Interested Persons) derived their motivation from anything they would label as “church.”
Possibly some motivations were delivered them at church or through church connections, but this group clearly didn’t see their churches per se being strong motivational factors in their apologetics interest.
They also didn’t find their initial motivation for apologetics through biblical commands such as 1 Peter 3:15. This isn’t to say they wouldn’t see high value in such commands today; rather, it is to say they were not compelled by such studies when they began to be interested in apologetics.
Further research suggested by this:
Further, it’s unfortunate that the survey’s data on local AIP friends is unusable. It leaves hypotheses completely untested regarding the intuitively valuable help provided through local apologetics networks.
Did you miss taking the survey? Want to add your voice? We’ve still got a place for you to do that.