This article discussing emerging church staff positions crossed my desk and caught my attention. According to the article, prevailing trends in society and in the Church (Institutional) suggest that we can see these positions being developed or created:
The Network Administrator
The Multicultural Children’s Director
The Chief of Staff
The Operations Pastor
The Creative Arts Director
The Boomer Director
The Spiritual Growth Pastor
I think this list, though not portrayed as comprehensive, is probably pretty accurate. Given my background, I noticed that one position is not mentioned: Apologetics Director. I think that is pretty accurate, too.
I find this to be pretty interesting and indicative of the state of the Church, Inc. today. Not to take away anything from the positions mentioned above or positions that may already exist, but we live in a society where Christianity is being deliberately attacked at a number of levels. At the same time, the culture itself represents challenges to Christianity less intentionally, in the form of hundreds and even thousands of new world views for Christians to encounter and have to deal with.
The average Christian receives an education from the Church that presumes that said Christian will never encounter someone with a different worldview or even one that is positively hostile. We educate our youth as though when they go to college their professors will be sympathetic to Christianity.
Now, we all know that hostility to Christianity is rampant. We all know that the number and variety of challenges to the Christian faith have increased a thousandfold since 1900. We know this. We are doing precious little.
Now, in my view, spiritual formation is a duty that chiefly resides in the family with the parents being the primary mechanism by which the faith is transmitted from one generation to the next. Assisted and supported, of course, by the Greater Church. I think Church professionals have allowed too much to be delegated to them, willingly taking on duties that should be performed by the father and mother. They ought to work actively to restore parents to their rightful place in the chain.
However, at the same time I am a realist. Many parents don’t know that the Bible lists them as the primary medium for raising godly children. (eg, Mal. 2:15). They need to be told this, and then equipped for the task. This will take work. At the same time, all of the aforementioned challenges to the Christian faith make it all the more difficult for the average Christian to equip their child for the ‘average’ American experience.
Thus, it seems to me that to resolve both issues at the same time (1., equip parents and 2., address robust challenges to Christianity) the obvious solution is to create apologetics positions throughout the churches.
The primary purpose of these positions would not, in my view, to be to contend with the local atheist or bang elbows with the Jehovah Witnesses and Mormons. They would be to educate and inform members of the congregation and raise them up to the level where they can adequately express their faith with confidence in the Marketplace of Ideas and answer the questions posed by their own children.
I would contend that this purpose cannot be fulfilled by pastors, youth directors, Sunday school teachers, and Directors of Christian Education. Pastors, for example, are already over-worked. From the foregoing you should infer that youth directors are not the ones, as they are working with the youth primarily and not the parents and adults.
DCEs clearly have some potential overlap, but even here the DCE is often in charge of the education programs ranging from early childhood on up and they also tend to be overworked. I can speak from experience, having worked for three years in a DCE type position at a church, that while there was overlap with what I would consider to be apologetics, there wasn’t enough time in the day to be fully engaged in an apologetics ministry along with all the other things I was doing.
In general, most Christians see a value to apologetics. However, it hasn’t occurred to many (or any?) congregations to, for lack of a better phrase, “put their money where their mouths are.” Why not?
Several reasons, I think. I think that a lot of Christians, and certainly a lot of pastors, believe or behave as though they believe, that there is a sharp division between the mission of the church and ‘secular affairs.’ The notion (for example) of teaching biology to the flock strikes them as nonsense: the Church’s job is to preach the Gospel. A little hard to preach the Gospel when all of their biology profs in college proclaim that the Gospel is bunk, but ok, that view is out there.
Another reason that is related to that one is the view among some that apologetics is positively useless and has no role in the Christian’s walk. I have much to say in rebuke of that position but for now will pass. Needless to say, I don’t agree with that view and this post is not directed to people who believe that, anyway.
Another prevailing notion is that the only qualification one needs to be an apologist is a penchant for arguing- with some exceptions. The exceptions seem to be centered around the perception that anyone really worth their salt in apologetics will go out and become a scholar. In truth, engaging in apologetics is a full time endeavor involving tons of reading and research and writing, and if I had my way- teaching. Apologetics is much more than arguing, if only for the reason that if you wanted to win in an argument you have to know what you’re talking about! But it is more than that, in any case.
But just as we don’t figure that seminaries are sufficient for shepherding the church- they must actually produce individuals that go out to the congregation to implement what they learned at the seminary- we should not think that just because we have scholars at universities working the apologetics angle that done what is needful. That track is necessary and important, but we still need people who will take that information and apply it in a specific local context, translating and explaining the heady stuff that the scholars are generating.
Congregations consist of hairdressers, mechanics, secretaries, business managers, deliverymen, attorneys, doctors, stay-at-home moms and dads, etc, etc… in short, any number of occupations where one doesn’t have the luxury of sifting through whatever is happening in academia today that relates to effectively equipping young people to stand up under the weight of our culture. Yet even these earnestly wish to do just that.
Given the cultural climate today, it seems to me that we desperately need these local apologetics positions. We need people to take the lead in mastering and then communicating this material. Reagan said, ‘If you want more of something, subsidize it.’ Let’s face it, this need will not be filled any time soon if we don’t direct resources to meeting it. If this is something we want in the Church, we need to invest in it in a tangible fashion.
There seems to be an awful lot of hand-wringing about these types of things but in my estimation not much else. Creation of apologetics positions would not solve the whole problem (bringing parents on board is the real key, in my view) but it is at least doing something that pertains to the specific crisis: kids are falling away because they don’t want to believe something that the evidence says is not true, not because they didn’t have an enjoyable time in church last Sunday. You know what, the same is true of their parents.
The irony is that apologetics degree programs are springing up all over the place. And what for? To be funneled into academia? To be internet bloggers? Really? Granting that both of these routes have value, in my estimation what we really need are ‘boots on the ground.’ We are preparing people for that sort of thing but not positions for them to occupy.
In my view, that has got to change. I suppose that that change will have to be wrought one congregation at a time. In that sense there is hope, since this proposal of mine does not require a huge massive overhaul of the Church. All it would take is individual congregations to see the need, pursue it, and fund it.
Or, alternatively, people who feel that apologetics is something we want to keep around even if there aren’t formal positions for it should seek out and identify individual apologists and apologetics ministries to support out of their resources, much as we might individually support or sponsor a missionary.