Episode 2-9: Stories of Apologetics and Practical Church Ministry with Pastors

Episode 9 June 26, 2021 00:24:12
Episode 2-9: Stories of Apologetics and Practical Church Ministry with Pastors
Thinking Christian
Episode 2-9: Stories of Apologetics and Practical Church Ministry with Pastors

Jun 26 2021 | 00:24:12


Show Notes

(Related Blog Post: Apologists and Pastors Connecting for Ministry: Stories of How You Can Do It)

Okay, now what? Now that you know the secret word, the one key word I spoke of in episode 8, the one that answers the question, How can we have greater ministry in the church, now what?

That’s the question several people asked me after they listened to that podcast. “I want to build good relationships with pastors. I even get that having lunch together is a good way to do it. How do I get started, though?”

In this episode I tell stories of half a dozen ways or so that I’ve found to connect with pastors, in my church or in others, and start building real friendship.

This time there are two secrets. One of them is the variety of ways you can go about meeting pastors. The other is more important: Your interest in them had better be real. It need not become a lasting friendship, since those are rare and they’re hard to predict before you find them, but it’s not about manipulating your way into ministry, either. It’s about meeting the pastor as a respected leader in God’s church. And listening.

That’s secret number two for this episode. You’ll have to listen in to hear more on secret number one.

This episode is part of the Season 2 emphasis on Heat to Light: Moving Through Cultural Controversy Toward the Light of Spiritual Transformation.

Be sure to visit the Thinking Christian blog, and get your free chapter download from Too Good to be False: How Jesus’ Incomparable Character Reveals His Reality.

Follow the Thinking Christian podcast on the podcast app of your choice, and please give it a positive rating there, too. Thank you!


Note regarding publishing schedule: This has been a season of tough family crises, including my dad’s passing away last month. I expect to resume a full weekly podcasting schedule very soon.

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Episode Transcript

Speaker 0 00:00:08 Welcome to the thinking Christian podcast, your weekly guide to solid Christian thinking on culture science, faith, and Christian confidence hosted by Tom Gilson. Speaker 1 00:00:22 Hello, this is Tom Gilson with season two, episode nine. This is the season of discussing heat to light moving from the heat of cultural conflict, to the light of spiritual transformation, with a special emphasis on serving the church, helping pastors in particular become equipped in all the complexity of the cross-cultural situation, really in which we're now ministering unprecedented for the Western church. When we are in the minority with a strong and well-resourced opposition hostile to Christianity in our country. Well, last week I talked about not so much pastors, but people that I wish and hope, and I know they want it to people who really want to serve the church. People who are interested in Christian apologetics. This would include people who are professional apologists, but more relevantly and more to the point it's people who are members of just every local church who have, uh, a personal interest, a passion in reading, studying, and would like to actually be involved in helping teach and help other people in their church, work through questions and understand the reasons that we have for confidence in the truth of Christianity and the goodness of Christianity. Speaker 1 00:01:39 Last week, I talked about how those of us who want to do that, we've had maybe the wrong conception of what it takes to be invited in, to have a ministry in churches that instead of trying to persuade churches, cause you know, that's what we apologists do. We persuade what we should be doing instead is concentrating on relationships with pastors. I got a lot of good response to that. It was really interesting people saying that's, that's a great idea. Someone said that he'd been trying to get people to be interested in a certain speaker coming to their town and got no response to mailings. But when he invited pastors to lunch, he started getting positive responses. That was one example. I got more responses like that than I have to. Anything else I've done here in quite some time. I've got a question along with it though, which is really quite practical, which is how do you invite a pastor to lunch? Speaker 1 00:02:29 How do you do it in your own church? A question came and where the person attended a mega church. And wasn't sure how to, how to make an invitation to someone who was the leader of a church of well over 10,000 people. Another question came more along the lines of how do I, how do I invite pastors from other churches to go to lunch together and know, remember this isn't about going to lunch. This is about building relationship. This is about being there to serve a genuine interest and a friendship that you want to build, to support, to serve, to listen, to find out what the needs of that church might be. The what the needs of the pastor might be and how you can contribute to help meeting those needs. We as apologist have a specialty area, an area in which we can contribute that maybe others cannot, but we need to be willing to serve in any area whatsoever. Speaker 1 00:03:22 If we are really committed to serving the church, we don't need to serve where we serve badly. There are certain people I wouldn't want doing apologetics and other people. I wouldn't want running the weekly dinner myself, for example, that would come out badly. So we need to serve in areas where we can serve. But how do we get these relationships with pastors, where they trust us, where they know us well enough to say, yeah, you have my blessing to teach my people. It takes a lot to get there. Okay. That's the background. Okay. Let me just tell some stories. I just want to tell some stories about how I got to know some pastors years ago. This was before I really wanted to start doing apologetics and churches years ago, I was living in Yorktown, Virginia. I had an office in Williamsburg. My next door neighbor was a retired Baptist pastor. Speaker 1 00:04:15 He was still leading a church, a very small church in his retirement, but we just got to know each other. And that's how it happened. Sometimes he actually helped me through some very difficult job crises and he was a friend. He was a wiser older mentor friend, but he was a friend and we were neighbors and friends with him and his wife. Meanwhile, in Williamsburg, there was a ministerial association that I asked if I could attend. And so they invited me in. So I went to their meetings. This is an interesting group. Their topics covered quite a range, everything from healing, prayer to, to cultural conflict. And I asked him, I just got to know, well, first of all, I spent a lot of time with the leader of the group. He and I went to lunch regularly. I drove half an hour and he just, he drove a couple of minutes and he said, boy, you're coming a long way for lunch. Speaker 1 00:05:13 And I said, uh, Bob, I will drive a long way to meet with someone. Who's an encourager, which is what he was, but I wanted to be an encourager to him too. And I got the sense that that's how he understood the relationship. Well, because I was involved relationally with this group. I said, what would happen if we brought in a group of apologists here to talk about some of these issues that we are as a group, so interested in. And they said fine. And I, I did. I invited people from Southern evangelical seminary, from campus crusade for Christ, as it was known at that time from break points. And we gathered, and we had a day of conversation as pastors and apologists. I would do the, the beginning of this again, just to watch it just for the entertainment factor, because I got to introduce the day and I started out this way. Speaker 1 00:06:01 This is not just a trick. This is actually reality as I see it. So don't think I'm just playing a trick when I said this, but I said, I said to the group, everybody in her, in the pastor's up visiting apologize to everybody. I said, men and women, we are gathered here today. As people involved in ministry, in order to spend some time listening to the experts, pastors, you are the experts we apologists need to listen to you. Well, heads snapped. The pastors were not expecting me to say that they were the experts, but they are just think of the wide range of skills. A pastor has to have that we apologists don't have to have leading meetings, dealing with personnel problems, dealing with family issues, counseling, preparing a sermon and delivering it every week for an incredibly diverse audience. Putting up with criticism. I could go on and on pastors. Speaker 1 00:07:00 And they're the ones besides those tasks that are part of the pastor job. They are the ones who are watching people grow or caught in tears over those who won't with people throughout whatever part of life that they spend there. But sometimes it's generations. They're the ones who are involved in the lives. We apologists need to pay a lot attention to people who know ministry the way pastors know ministry. And so we did, it was a great day. That's just one example though, of a relational connection whereby uh, just got involved with some leaders, some pastors, and they invited me to have an apologetics ministry among them. Well, we left Virginia and we moved to Ohio. No particular connections there whatsoever. Yeah. I did have some job connections, but it was really just starting all over again in church. And so what do you do? Speaker 1 00:07:54 Big help came when a mutual friend introduced me to a pastor in a church about 30 miles west of us and, uh, Brad and I went out for lunch. He found out that I like coffee. And he said, oh, you need to come to my church, which is, I have joked with him frequently. Since then, the strangest reason to recruit someone to your charts that I've ever heard. We joked about it. He didn't mean it really that way, but we became best friends and his wife and my wife are best friends. How by spending time together, I didn't ever really attend his church. And, and yet I started going to the Thursday morning men's group at their church. And I've been going there every week for years now. Partly because the men in that group are so great to hang around with. Partly because it gives me time to hang around with pastor read. Speaker 1 00:08:43 And that relationship has brought me many invitations from Brad to teach at his church, including a series, a class on my book, too. Good to be false. Oh, Jesus and comparable character reveals his reality. So that's another one. We didn't actually attend that church. We moved a couple of years ago to a new town to where we are now attending a mega church. And how did I get chance to meet with pastors there? I just emailed one of them. He said, yeah, let's have lunch. He was the community pastor. I did not go straight to the lead pastor. This is a mega church and a multi-campus church. So I spent time with this pastor started going to the church, uh, met another pastor, said how about going to lunch? And he said, yes. Another pastor apparently found out some of my background. And he said, would you just listen to this sermon that I have recorded? Speaker 1 00:09:35 And tell me what you think of it. Tell me what I did. Well, tell me where I could. And I said, sure, just asking for opportunities. A lot of it has to do with finding a way to just bump into a pastor and have a conversation with them somewhere at this church that I attend, we had before COVID we had COVID early meetings that it was just hosted our church. It could have been anywhere and I would have gone to it. Yeah. Anywhere. We had quarterly meetings of leaders from around the community. Some of them were business leaders. Some of them non-profits some of them pastors. And when it was a pastor, I would say, Hey, I want to go to lunch. Simple as that. Once you're there, you can make the invitation. You, you need to make it clear in your own heart, start with why you're doing it. Speaker 1 00:10:22 It is first and foremost because you want to have a personal connection with someone because they are a person worth having a personal connection with someone that you can listen to. Someone, you can have a real conversation with someone who maybe you can just encourage by being a listener. You never know the door may open and you might become a really good friend. And by the way, my church in, I didn't mention this. The church we attended in Virginia, that pastor first, he was first the music minister and then the, the lead minister. He was my best friend there because I just said, you know, let's, let's spend some time together. This is just, this is just normal stuff. Just get in a place where you can ask. I was invited to a pastors conference that doesn't happen all the time. I get that. I know that that's not, uh, something that you can put in your calendar and say, okay, on the 5th of July, I'm going to get an invitation to a pastors conference. Speaker 1 00:11:20 It doesn't happen that way, but pray for those opportunities. They may come while I was there, I found out that one of the pastors lived just really right around the corner. I said, let's do lunch. He was, as it turns out of pastors, he was the one who was the minister to the ministers of his denomination in our city. He, a year later left that position. Funny thing is the successor got his email address. So I sent an email to him, I thought, and it went to a successor. So I said, okay, let's do same way. And that's the one I mentioned last week. I think where those connections, as I stayed in touch with him, led to him, inviting me to do a webinar for pastors in our community on critical race theory. These are just stories. This is just ordinary stuff. I just wanted to make it practical. Speaker 1 00:12:12 I wanted to make it the kind of thing that you can go, oh, I could do that. You can do it. If you have the heart, you have to have a heart to serve. You can't come into an offer to serve in a church. If you're not doing it for the reasons of service service means laying down yourself, service means looking for what the other person needs service means. Giving up. It means finding where the gap is that you can fill not the gap that someone else can fill the gap that you can fill. And when you have that relational connection, then you can offer to fill the gap. We can do that as apologist, I think, but you can't do it without a servant mentality, which is I am here humbly offering something that I may have to offer. It's it's not much apologist. Speaker 1 00:13:06 Let's be really clear on this. What we have is really important, incredibly crucial, especially for this day, but in the scope of ministry, it's just off piece of it. There I say this, some of us have this wrong. We are not the saviors of the church. Jesus is we are not the person who's going to turn the church around. If anyone is, it is the leader in that church, the leader designated by God, which is the pastor and his team. We have to be there with a heart of saying, how can I help the heart of love? The heart of inquiry, the heart of listening, both to the church. And of course, in these personal interactions with the leader there, the pastor, this is slow. This is not the road to building a huge national ministry that came up. Someone said, boy, you know, you just can't have that many meetings for the short time. Speaker 1 00:14:09 How are you going to build a ministry? And he said, this is something that might work for, for local apologists in our churches. But I don't know about pros. And I thought, well, okay, you're exactly right. This is for local apologists in their churches for this season. I am a local apologist, maybe in my community, the greater Dayton Cincinnati area. But this is not how you build a national ministry. I am, I'm an author. I would love to have you look at my book, too. Good to be false. I'm telling you about it. I'd love to have you look at it too. Good to be false. How Jesus' incomparable character reveals as reality. I'd love to have you go to thinking christian.net, my blog, thinking Christian net and click on the subscribe link there, where you can actually get a free download chapter two of the book. Speaker 1 00:14:58 Jesus astonishing love how Jesus' love is greater than you ever realized. I'd love to have you to do that. I would love to sell books. This is not the way to sell jillions of books. This is this, this method, call it a method. This relational approach to churches is not the way you sell jillions of books or get lots and lots of money speaking. This is the way you have a local ministry and we need apologists who will have local ministries. We need apologists who will show the church in which they minister and in which they attend that they are people of knowledge. That's the easy part for some of us character. You have to be able to display the character, which is only possible relationally, knowledge and character service, heart teaching ability, and a heart of love. We need local apologists who can do that? Speaker 1 00:15:58 Why? Because, okay, I love pastors, but I don't expect them to do everything. Another pastor, he and I went to a meeting together at Chuck Colson's ministry and it was a three hour drive. On the way back, we were talking about apologetics. And I said, you know, pastor, I really do not want to convey the impression. In fact, I dread conveying the impression that I'm smarter than you, because I do apologetics. I mean, apologists, you know, we, we have this intellectual side, we can convey this. Just ugly impression that we're smarter. We're better. That was in the back of my mind. I said, pastor, I do not want to convey that impression. And he said, well, I, you may be. I said, what do you mean? He said, oh, he said, and I have tested this with pastors in, in larger meetings. And you would not believe how vigorously the heads nod in agreement. Speaker 1 00:16:54 He said, I don't have time to study. This is where we can serve. We who have time to study. If we can find that relational connection whereby we demonstrate the character that I hope we have the knowledge, the teaching ability. I, I would hope that we would be given the opportunity to step in, to fill in what the pastor would do if he had time. But pastors just can't do everything. They're not supposed to. That's a violation of God's teaching on the gifts of the holy spirit. Anyway, the pastor should not have this responsibility to do everything and they shouldn't have the responsibility to know everything. Why should they even as an apologist to things that I don't know, just, just overwhelm me. We need to show that we have the character, the heart, the willingness to serve the ability to teach. That is something we can only show relationally. Speaker 1 00:18:01 We can only show it if it's actually real to my dream. As I do this, this whole heat delight series, I'm actually intending it, planning it. We've got stuff going on behind the [email protected], where I write, in addition to the thinking Christian blog, we've got things going on behind the scene that will unroll in. I think around the 1st of July, that may be up to the middle of July, where we're going to really set for some equipping resources, especially for pastors, very practical, but very tied to what's going on in the world today. How do we answer the questions that are unique to this day and uniquely difficult? We want to provide help, but my dream isn't that every pastor would be perfectly equipped. My dream is that every church would be equipped. Not every person needs to be an apologist. Oh my goodness. That's violation again, of what God told us, his church would be like, we are all different members of the body. Speaker 1 00:19:07 Likewise, not every pastor should be an apologist. Most pastors should not be because it's too specialized in the pastor's job is usually a very generalized job. Most pastors shouldn't be apologist. So not every Christian, not every pastor, but I do believe every church should have someone in it. Maybe it's you. The, the, the local person who's in, uh, interested in apologetics. Every church should have someone who the church members know can help them with questions. Someone who can teach someone who has been identified and endorsed by church leadership as a, as a minister, as a minister within the church with a specific calling and a specific gifting to help people know that the Christian faith is really true. And that it's really good. And to help them to know it with confidence, that is a ministry that every church should have within it. It's going to come in the form of a person. Speaker 1 00:20:12 It could be you. And the way you're going to find that out. And the way you're going to get that opportunity is by serving where you are by teaching, where you are making relational connections, that show the kind of person that you are, and underlying all that preceding all that, the basis of all that the reality in your heart has to be your love for Jesus Christ, your love for the church and your desire to serve. If you have that. And you're wondering how to have lunch with a pastor, it's going to be no problem at all. Just ask, you'll find someone who says yes, and you'll find them saying, know, let's do this again. And if you have that in your heart, they're going to say, oh, I'd love to give you an opportunity, a place to have some teaching in our church. There are exceptions. Speaker 1 00:21:07 Let's acknowledge that there is among the pastorate. What I call a vocational hazard of over control. There is among the pastorate, a vocational hazard of feeling threatened by someone who knows something that they don't know that happens. And so if you are in that church with that kind of a leader, you're in a church with a person who himself is probably not the best leader. And it's probably showing in the ministry of the church. I can't promise you that this will work in every circumstance, but if you're in a halfway healthy church with halfway healthy leadership, just make yourself relationally and to serve. And you'll be amazed. The doors that open that wouldn't have opened with you, just sending an email, wouldn't have opened with you, sending a flyer, wouldn't have opened by you and saying, I know something you don't know, wouldn't have opened by any number of ways. Speaker 1 00:22:04 If you connect relationally. And how often have I used that word? I don't apologize for it. That is the key word. If you connect with a heart to serve, which I hope I've said often as much. And if you connect with a heart of love for Christ and his church, you'll get the opportunity to minister. I'm sure of it. I'm talking, talking to apologist here really on behalf of pastors, next time I'll be returning to addressing pastors as friends, as people who, my respect as people whom I love. And as people whom I hope I can help equip with some specific knowledge on specific things that they, as generalists, don't have that much time maybe to study in which I, as a specialist can hopefully help them. If you're not a pastor, if you're not an apologist listening to this, please pass this along. In fact, I would really encourage you to follow this podcast on your podcast app of choice. Speaker 1 00:23:05 I'd really love to have you give it a five star rating that helps me get the word out to pastors and to others that I hope to help equip. And I hope you'll be back next time you can follow [email protected]. Just go there and click the subscribe button and you'll get information on podcasts and blog posts. When they come up, you'll get the free download of chapter two of my book, too. Good to be false. And we'll get to stay in touch that way too. You'll learn more about the heat to light ministry that I'm launching here. Now. I'm so grateful that you're here. I really appreciate it. I hope it helps me make a difference for you and your ministry and for you in your church. So until next time I'm Tom Gelson. Thank you for listening. Speaker 0 00:23:55 The thinking Christian podcast is copyright by Thomas Gilson for more information, visit the thinking Christian [email protected].

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