I had not in any way planned to be so apologetic this semester, but the Lord has led me to both studying and producing apologetic material as you probably have noticed. Identifying myself as an apologist is new but exciting, and it makes sense since I’ve for a long time been inspired by Stephen in Acts 6-8. He combined miracles with poverty reduction and nonviolence, and he was an apologist as well. Just look at these verses:
Now Stephen, a man full of God’s grace and power, performed great wonders and signs among the people. Opposition arose, however, from members of the Synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called)—Jews of Cyrene and Alexandria as well as the provinces of Cilicia and Asia—who began to argue with Stephen. But they could not stand up against the wisdom the Spirit gave him as he spoke. (Acts 6:8-10)
Stephen was a charismapologist! He could heal the sick on Monday and defend the faith on Tuesdays, all the time while serving soup to the widows. For Stephen, there was no conflict between demonstrating the power of God through miracles and arguing for the truth of Christianity intellectually.
Similarly, Paul was a great apologist who often “reasoned” or “argued” with people in the synagogues and on the streets to prove that Jesus is Lord and Messiah. He was also a great wonderworker:
At Iconium Paul and Barnabas went as usual into the Jewish synagogue. There they spoke so effectively that a great number of Jews and Greeks believed. But the Jews who refused to believe stirred up the other Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brothers. So Paul and Barnabas spent considerable time there, speaking boldly for the Lord, who confirmed the message of his grace by enabling them to perform signs and wonders. (Acts 14:1-3)
This combination of reason and power has enormous benefits, for similar reasons that John Wimber has laid out in his teaching on power evangelism. It’s easier to convince people that Jesus is alive when they see that He’s alive. The miraculous argument for God’s existence is in my opinion one if the most persuasive, and obviously it is of great support if that argument is accompanied with an actual miracle.
Apologetics struggle with the risk of becoming too academic, introvert and elitist, detached from ordinary life and what’s important to the common citizen. But the most effective apologetics I have done have happened on the streets when I’m out evangelising with the Pancake Church. There, intellectual discussions are often followed by pastoral care and prayer for healing or other kinds of miracles. This, I believe, is where apologetic ministry is at its prime.
[…] About two weeks ago I wrote about how Stephen in Acts 6-8 was a charismatic apologist. He was also a charismatic social worker. He was elected to serve the widows in the Jerusalem church on the merits of being filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 6:3), and he performed signs and wonders as he was helping them out (v. 8). That’s why I named my organisation after him. There are many other Biblical examples as well: as Elijah ministered to a widow in 1 Kings 17, he used the power of God to supply her and her son with food and to raise her son from the dead, saving her from economic disaster. […]