(Photo: Mark Mittelberg)
An increasing number of Christians are drifting away from their faith because of the lack of good answers to their spiritual questions, warns apologetics author Mark Mittelberg in an interview with The Christian Post.
The author of The Questions Christians Hope No One Will Ask as well as his latest release, The Reason Why Faith Makes Sense, believes that the plethora of misinformation found in bestselling, so-called religious books, and the rapidly growing number of skeptical websites have Christians second-guessing themselves.
Mittelberg's passion for getting answers to the myriad of questions about Christianity in the hands of believers and non-believers led him to team up with author and speaker Lee Strobel more than a year ago. The two apologists have formed The Institute at Cherry Hills, an apologetics and evangelism ministry at Cherry Hills Community Church in Highlands Ranch, Colo.
The institute is aimed at innovating new approaches to defending and sharing the faith – and helping answer, "How do I really know this stuff is true?"
Mittelberg and Strobel plan a series of national simulcasts to be hosted at churches across the country, starting in March. The event is called, "The Questions Christians Hope No One Will Ask," based on Mittelberg's book title.
The Christian Post asked Mittelberg last week to discuss the ministry of Christian apologetics via an email interview.
CP: People have differing opinions of apologetics. Some say that in an age of postmodernism apologetics is dead. Others, like your ministry partner, Strobel, say just the opposite – that this is "a golden age of apologetics." What are your thoughts?
Mittelberg: Apologetics has never been more important than it is now. People throughout our culture, including many of our friends, family members, neighbors, and co-workers, are becoming increasingly secular. They're moving farther and farther from Christian teachings and morality. The Bible mandates that we must be ready to give an answer to everyone who asks (1 Pet. 3:15), so this is not an optional activity for Christians or the church.
We must confront the errors of our culture and present in their place the truth and gospel of Christ. So I hope Lee is right about it being a "golden age of apologetics" – and there are many signs that he is – but much more needs to be done.
CP: How did you get so intense about apologetics?
Mittelberg: I've just talked to too many young people – and too many of their parents – who tell of how they have drifted from the Christian faith merely for the lack of good answers to their spiritual questions. And it's not just young people. As more and more adults read the misinformation in so many of the current "religious" bestsellers as well as the rapidly proliferating plethora of skeptical websites, increasing numbers of them are beginning to question their faith, as well. "How do I really know this stuff is true," they wonder, or "Did I just naively accept what my parents and Sunday School teachers told me?"
We've got great answers to those questions. Truth is on our side. The evidence overwhelmingly points to the veracity of the Christian faith. But church members won't know this by osmosis! We must get serious about knowing and being able to articulate truth ourselves, and then doing whatever it takes to teach it in compelling ways to the people around us – including those outside the church who are searching.
So, yes, I'm amped up because this truly is an emergency. We need to sound the alarms, stay up late, pray more fervently, strategize, and get serious about preparing our young people, teaching our adults, and showing everyone through our words and our actions that Christianity is true and following Jesus is the only way to live.
CP: Can you give a little history about The Institute at Cherry Hills?
Mittelberg: It grew out of Lee's and my passion for reaching people for Christ mixed with pastor Jim Dixon's desire to help the church he started thirty years ago, Cherry Hills Community Church in Highlands Ranch, Colorado, to grow in the areas of evangelism and apologetics. We were already planning to move our families and ministry to the Denver area, and Jim invited us to come and "make Cherry Hills our base of operation."
We did, and the result was the formation of The Institute at Cherry Hills (www.TheInstituteAtCherryHills.org). It's worked out really well because it gives Lee and me an arena in which to innovate and try new approaches to reaching people for Christ, and it gives the church the impetus it was looking for to expand its own reach.
In addition, we've found the extra synergy that's come from partnering with one of the key teachers at the church, Blake LaMunyon, as well as our friend and former colleague, Garry Poole, who has recently moved to the area to work with us at The Institute. The mix of working with these guys – along with Jim and the church – has been, well, contagious!
CP: How common is it for a church to have a ministry devoted to apologetics?
Mittelberg: It's pretty uncommon. I'm not sure if it's a lack of seeing the need, a sense of not being equipped to address it, or just old-fashioned busyness – but many churches seem to be willing to leave the job to others. But in far too many cases the job is simply going undone, leading to the growth of spiritual confusion we've discussed.
CP: What improvements can the Church do in this area of ministry?
Mittelberg: They need to start by seeing this for what it is: a Biblical mandate and a spiritual necessity. It's central to the Great Commission that we teach followers of Jesus what we believe and why, and in the process equip them to reach out to others with the love and truth of the gospel.
But once we get serious about addressing this area it actually gets fun. We need to find a leader who loves and knows apologetics and is well grounded in his or her faith. Then we can empower that person to teach others in these areas, to coach them in their outreach efforts, and to lead the church in unified activities that can better address the questions and reach the community.
CP: What have you learned during The Institute's life?
Mittelberg: It was actually something I had warned church leaders about years earlier in my book Becoming a Contagious Church – yet it still surprised me! It's that it is easier to start a class or training program than it is to cultivate a heart of love and genuine concern for people who are far from God. Yet that's the foundation! We must keep going back to that basic value: God's love for lost people – and our need to "be imitators of God" (Eph. 5:1) in this vital area.
Instilling this value – in ourselves and in the people around us – is a never-ending task.
CP: What do you look forward to in regards to the Institute for yourself? ...for others? ...for Christians?
Mittelberg: In the immediate future, I'm looking forward to a training simulcast Lee Strobel and I are leading, along with our friends Dr. Craig Hazen (of Biola) and Dr. Doug Groothuis (of Denver Seminary), on March 10. It's called "The Questions Christians Hope No One Will Ask," and any church or small group that has access to the Internet and a decent TV monitor can participate. Talk about an accessible training event – all you have to do is sign up at www.incastevents.com/questions and let us do the teaching. It's an easy onramp to apologetics ministry in your own church!
But looking further out, I'm eager to promote a growing movement of apologetics in churches everywhere – a "golden age of apologetics" if you will. And we're already seeing it here in Colorado as leaders are coming to us and asking us to participate in a new "Contagious Denver" movement of evangelism training and outreach activity throughout the region. Now that's exciting!
Mittelberg is also the co-author (with Bill Hybels) of the Becoming a Contagious Christian book and training course, and co-author (with Strobel) of The Unexpected Adventure.