How does evangelism relate to apologetics? Are they the same thing? Seemingly they have the same goal: belief in the truthfulness of the gospel. So should apologetics just be enveloped into evangelism? How do we move from pleading with someone to believe to persuading them to overcome their skepticism? Must we be good apologists to be good evangelists? Must we be good evangelists to be good apologists?
Below are few helpful resources recommended by The Gospel Coalition on the topic and good examples of evangelism that uses apologetics:
- Evangelism & Persuasion, William Edgar: He gives us some helpful ways to think about the urgency of evangelism, but also to patiently engage with unbelievers in a compelling way in order to persuade them towards belief.
- The Gospel and Postmodern Minds: How Do We Reach Out to a Changing Culture Without Selling Out?, Don Carson: The substance of Carson’s argument is that our evangelism and apologetics must not assume any biblical literacy from our hearers.
- Gospel Communication, Tim Keller: Contrary to classical evangelism, Keller argues that our conversations with unbelievers must not just include just two ways to live, but three ways: religion, irreligion, and gospel. Biblical Christianity is different from legalism and licentiousness.
- How to Meet Common Objections (1) (2), John Stott: He gives good advice for evangelistic conversations that meet objections. Stott addresses particular things we should keep in mind about the intellectual and moral difficulties that keep skeptics from belief, and always bring discussions back to the Christ.
- Make a Case for Your Hope, John Piper: A helpful sermon by Piper in putting away fear and clarifying your reasons to be hopeful. It is the people who are less fearful and more hopeful that will share the good news of the gospel.
To help us further, we turned to John Dickson, co-director of the Centre for Public Christianity in Australia. Their site features free content—print, audio, video—seeking to reveal the beauty and truth of the gospel. TGC asked him, Should I practice personal evangelism if I don’t feel equipped in apologetics?
Some get caught up in the distinction between evangelism and apologetics. My view is simple. Evangelism is primary. Telling the news about Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection for our salvation is our central activity. But any evangelism done in a spirit of compassion for the lost will be attentive to lost people’s doubts about that gospel. Not bothering to find answers to such questions is just unkind.
For me, Acts 17 provides a great example of the seamless move between evangelism and apologetics. People sometimes rush to the speech in the Areopagus as the model of contextual apologetics, but it is important to notice what Luke tells us Paul has been preaching in the marketplace of Athens day by day: “Jesus and the resurrection,” he says in verse 18. I take it this is a pithy summary of the basic gospel. Only after this is Paul invited to the Areopagus to defend this gospel against the particular questions of the Stoics and Epicureans. The Areopaus speech is a gracious Paul trying to answer questions arising from the gospel he loved to preach. That’s it. Preach the gospel and be sensitive to people’s questions about it. Simple.