Book Review: “Is Your Church Ready? Motivating Leaders to Live an Apologetic Life” eds. Ravi Zacharias and Normal L. Geisler (2003)

Although this book is written to and for pastors, any leader can garner some very powerful education from its pages. No matter where one turns, our culture is infatuated with anything but the Truth, both literally (entertainment) and spiritually (our perverted worldviews), making training in apologetics an absolute necessity for those in positions of spiritual leadership. While I rarely watch television, there is one commercial on there that makes me just chortle with feelings of “How stupid are people!?” That’s the infomercial selling HD sunglasses. “Is viewing reality through your normal human eyes too boring for you? Try our new HD sunglasses that make colors brighter, defining lines sharper, and reality a whole lot better!” In the first chapter of Is Your Church Ready, Ravi Zaccharias introduces the study with a challenge to the pastoral position which must deal with such lunacy in the spiritual venue: “Properly understood and pursued, the calling and gift [of a pastor] are of pristine value in a society accustomed to counterfeit” (18). It is for this reason that these General Editors make this call for godly apologetics from the top-down. For my review, I will simply interact with several of the chapters as they appear in the book.

While A.W. Tozer ackowledges the reality of all our states, that “We are all ignorant—only in different subjects” (23), Zaccharias declares the formula through which we leaders can all overcome our deficiencies: “Pastors do not have to have expertise in every area, but they must be equipped to point people to resources that will provide the answers to their questions” (28). This has helped me verify that, even without a formal study of apologetics, the method of my own personal study has been preparing me step-by-step toward a stronger and more defined understanding of why I believe what I believe. This understanding with thus allow me to better argue my beliefs or, at the very least, know how better prepared myself for coming arguments. In the same first chapter, Zaccharias continues to lay the groundwork for this book by sharing his Three Levels of Philosophy (the same used in the average sermon) which will help us argue biblically even with those who refuse to accept the authority of Scripture: argumentation, illustration, and application (33).

From the very introduction of Chapter 3: “The Church as the Heart and Soul of Apologetics,” I found that I must disagree with its author, John Guest. He states: “The local church is normally where believers who desire to see their friends come to faith invite them…thus the local church is the heart and soul of evangelism. That’s the way God designed it” (39). In response I must argue that if this is true, then the pastor has already failed in his pastoral role, despite his level of aopogetics, for both the local church and the pastor’s office exist not for the sake of evangelism but rather for the sake of equipping the believers within the local church for evangelism (see Ephesians 4:11-16 ESV). The questions becomes: “Why should unbelievers come to us? to our church? to hear the Gospel within our sacred walls?” The role of a pastor is to train his flock and send them out to win the lost. And while I disagree with the premise of Guest’s chapter for these reasons, and while he discussed from this vantage point throughout his pages, it was not until his conclusion that he changed his tune and shared a better understanding of the whole picture, saying in effect that the pastor must be apologetic not only for the sake of the unbelievers listening to his preaching but also as an example to the believers within his flock. Had he argued from this position of pastor-as-trainer in the beginning, I would not have so readily disagreed!

In Chapter 4, Peter Grant offers a goldmine of wisdom regarding pain and suffering, sharing 3 things we believers who suffer must remember: we are not primarily physical beings with spiritual experiences but spiritual beings with physical experiences; tragedies and trials can build our faith and reveal our faith, but rarely with they cause us to lose our faith; and faith is not having the answers to our suffering (see Job) but rather trusting God despite our suffering (67-69). In Chapter 6: “Creating an Apologetic Climate in the Home,” Judy Sallisbury shares a very insightful discussion on the power of parents (not just pastors) being apologetic in front of their kids: “Small children observe what surrounds them, both positive and negative…Is the priority we place on entertainment damaging our children and the way they process information?…We can use God’s Word to edify our children’s thought-lives and in the process intellectually challenge them” (95). As a father of small children, this particular portion struck “home”: I am not simply to be ready to give answers to the unbelievers I meet and the men I disciple; I am also expected to do the same for my own children, which means that my leadership role never shuts off! In Chapter 7: “Off to College: Can We Keep Them?” J. Budziszewski also shares a very helpful list of twelve reasons college students (or military) lose their faith, offering as well some ways pastors, parents, and teachers can help prepare them for these.

Because this book has more than I could share in this brief review, what with all the wonderful insights these various authors have to offer, I suggest that you get a copy of Is Your Church Ready? and read the choice chapter for yourself. That’d be my recommendation.

©2013 E.T.

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