The Table Podcast

Helping Your Church Explore Faith Questions

In this episode, Mikel Del Rosario and Dena Davidson discuss how to help the church explore faith questions and apologetics issues, focusing on her ministry at Bayside Church in California.

Timecodes
00:46
Davidson's ministry at Bayside Church
01:32
Davidson shares her background with apologetics
06:28
Davidson highlights the apologetics program at her church
14:32
Why do some people object to apologetics?
20:29
How does Davidson include apologetics into church ministries?
28:54
Did Davidson face challenges as a woman in apologetics?
31:01
What are some practical ways to incorporate apologetics into a church?
36:56
Davidson reflects on the impact of apologetics in her church
Transcript
Mikel Del Rosario
Welcome to The Table where we discuss issues of God and culture. I’m Mikel Del Rosario, Cultural Engagement Manager here at the Hendricks Center at Dallas Theological Seminary. And our topic on The Table today is helping your church defend the faith, helping your church grow stronger in their faith. And I have a guest today coming to you all the way from sunshiny California, in Northern California. It’s Dena Davidson, my friend Dena, at Bayside Church. Thanks for being on the show.
Dena Davidson
Hello. Oh, I’m so excited. Thanks for having me, Mikel.
Mikel Del Rosario
Yeah. Dena is the Campus Life Director for Thrive School at Bayside Church in Sacramento. And I’ll just have you introduce yourself, Dena. Tell us a little bit about your work at Bayside.
Dena Davidson
Sure. So my husband and I, we oversee a discipleship program for about 80 students. And so that involves everything from teaching them to show up on time to helping them understand the deep questions that their doubts that they have with God and wrestling with those. And so we both get to lead the program. I teach an ethics course for those students. And we’re also parents. I think that’s important to share. We are figuring that one out. We have a one year old. And so, yeah, we have 80 kids plus one.
Mikel Del Rosario
Wow. So how did you get involved in apologetics ministry, and helping people defend the faith and grow stronger in their faith?
Dena Davidson
Such a good question, because I didn’t set out to be in apologetics ministry. So I always knew that I wanted to go into ministry from the age of 16 years old on. And I had been home schooled all throughout my life. And when I got to college age, I decided I was gonna go to a secular university and be a philosophy major, just ’cause I loved it. I knew I was gonna go on to grad school, thought I would be a Bible major. That was not offered at a secular university. So I just was interested in philosophy.

So I majored in philosophy. But obviously ended up having a lot of questions about my faith because of that experience. And I went into that experience thinking I had a really grounded, reasonable faith, but was exposed to a lot of questions that I just frankly didn’t have the answer to. So as an undergrad, I just decided that I, personally, wasn’t gonna abandon my faith just because of questions. I always knew that I wanted to go and hear the other side. So I ended up enrolling in Biola’s Master in Christian Apologetics program, and just for my own personal knowledge.

And while I was there, I was exposed to what I would call this other world in Christianity that I had no idea existed. And I met just some of the greatest thinkers, I think, of our day. And I got to read and listen, and I ended up just feeling like my questions really were answered. And that birthed in me a passion to make sure other people had access to those answers, and knew that there were incredibly smart people thinking about whatever question they had, and that they weren’t alone in trying to get answers.

And so just out of my own personal experience, I had this knowledge base that other Christians didn’t have. And so as I launched into working with college students, it was almost just a natural evolution. People knew I had this background, and so they started asking me, “Hey. How can we start answering our student’s tough questions?” And from there it became a part of my everyday ministry that I would help people get answers to the tough questions.

Mikel Del Rosario
Wow. Well, as part of me thinking about our discussion today, I put something out there on Twitter. And I asked people what are the top challenges you have nowadays in terms of apologetics? And I got a variety of responses back. But one of them was interesting. It was getting other Christians to understand the need for apologetics. And is that something that you felt you had to do at Bayside before you started doing your ministry? Or was the need just so evident by the student’s questions already?
Dena Davidson
Yeah. I think part of the challenge is in the name. No one knows what the word apologetics is. But when you explain that apologetics is the great answers to the tough questions, suddenly everything shifts. And so, fortunately I actually work in a church where it was our senior pastor who knew that we needed to have an apologetics presence on our campuses. And so he was the one who actually approached me and said, “Hey. I have this vision to do an apologetics conference. You’re doing something with apologetics. Can you run it?” And I had no idea what I was saying yes to. I just thought that was so cool that my senior pastor was A, talking to me, and B, asking me to put on something that I love so much for the rest of the church.

So I thankfully did not have to convince that senior pastor that this ministry was valuable. But since then I’ve had to convince a lot of pastors that showing up for an apologetics class, having an apologetics series for their student ministry is an incredibly valuable thing. And I do think there area lot of pastors out there who are maybe a little bit jaded about, “Ah, apologetics doesn’t work. No one becomes a Christian because their questions get answered.” And so I have had to face a little bit of that, for sure.

Mikel Del Rosario
Yeah. I think it’s interesting sometimes, apologetics, whatever somebody’s first impression of apologetics was, whether it was somebody who was talking more about science and origins, or whether they’re talking about abortion or pro-life, whatever it happens to be, whatever their first contact, that becomes apologetics in the minds of a lot of people. And depending on the tone with which that’s done, it can sometimes turn some people off to apologetics in general. And so that is a challenge for us as we begin to think about how can we help our church get the answers to the questions that many Christians and in non Christians who are seeking are asking as well.
Dena Davidson
Yeah. That’s so good. Very true.
Mikel Del Rosario
So tell us a little bit about starting the apologetics conference that you mentioned. I remember the apologetics seminar, it was called, and that I got to be a part of that, the very first one. Remember we launched that, what was that, 2011?
Dena Davidson
We did. Yeah.
Mikel Del Rosario
How did that all come about?
Dena Davidson
My senior pastor asked me to put on this seminar, he called it, for apologetics. And he basically, he had this feeling back … it was 2010 … he said the new atheists were writing a bunch of books against Christianity, and people were beginning to really wrestle with, is my faith reasonable? Is my faith true? And so he came to me and he said basically, “I feel like the atheists are coming after Christians, and we’ve done nothing to prepare our congregation to handle that attack. So would you get some of your professors from Biola to come and speak at our church, and host this apologetics seminar?” I said, “Yes. I would love to do that. I would love to expose the people on Sunday morning to what I’m getting to experience in my classes.”

So I ended up getting with some classmates, actually, from that program and just saying, “Okay. What are the questions that people have? If we were to answer any tough question about Christian faith, which are the ones that we would tackle from the stage?” So we brainstormed a ton of topics. And then we came to Biola and we said, “Here are some of the things that we want covered. Who do you have that’s great who can speak on these topics?” And they were so amazing to coordinate with us and say, “We’ve got this great speaker. He does a great talk on this particular question.”

And something that I think a lot of people miss about apologetics ministry is that it is not just about the right answer. It is also about the environment in which you’re giving that answer. And the fact of the matter is, if someone has a question, they can go read a book to get the answer. So when I’m doing apologetics ministry, and I’m crafting these conferences and these seminars, I’m not just thinking about what is the answer we need to give, I’m also thinking about what experience do we need to create to make people really excited to come and learn? And so we do a lot of things at our conferences, even at that first seminar, to make sure that people are having a great experience.

Something that’s huge, so simple, we have a never ending supply of free coffee. That’s huge. We have free snacks. And then we also create these moments where people turn to each other in the middle of a session, and they’ll just start having conversation with each other. ‘Cause I remember being a student in class, and some of my best light bulb moments didn’t happen from listening to the lecture, they happened later in conversation with the person right next to me as we were working it out. And so I’ve always been super passionate that when I’m creating these apologetics experiences for people, even back to that first seminar, it’s not just about the answer. It’s also about the environment that people are learning the answer in.

Mikel Del Rosario
I remember it was such a … the vibe was so great. The whole place was … I did a very early morning breakfast thing, and there were 200 people that packed out this little coffee shop, our video venue that you guys had. And how’s the response been since say the first time you did it, and then the second time? How has the response been?
Dena Davidson
Yeah. So that first one, we called it a seminar. And for like is anyone gonna show up? I was on my knees every day just saying, “God, let us not lose money.” That was my greatest vision. “God, let us not lose money on this event.” And you kinda thought, “Okay, maybe 500, 600 people are gonna show up.” And 1300 people ended up coming to that very first seminar.
Mikel Del Rosario
Wow.
Dena Davidson
And it was at that moment that our church paused and said, “Wow. There is a need here that maybe we haven’t realized.” So the very next conference we had, we hosted it a couple years later, and there were over 3000 people at that second one.
Mikel Del Rosario
Whoa.
Dena Davidson
Yeah.
Mikel Del Rosario
Wow.
Dena Davidson
It was such a situation. No one was expecting that amount of people to come. We didn’t have parking for it. We ran out of coffee. We ran out of snacks. We ran out of seats. We ran out of everything, so much so that we actually had to go and apologize to all of the restaurants that were nearby our church, because people had parked and walked like half a mile to our church, just to show up to our apologetics conference, which is just the most insane thing ever. And it’s been crazy just seeing that when you create an environment where people feel free to come and ask the tough questions, and you pair that with a speaker who actually has great answers to the tough questions, people will show up, and they will show up in droves to get great answers to their tough questions.
Mikel Del Rosario
Tell me a story about someone who attended one of those events and had their lives changed by it.
Dena Davidson
Yeah. So one story that stands out … I won’t share his name … but we had this gentleman who actually we did radio ads for the apologetics conference. So he’s listening to the radio and he was happening to listen to Christian radio, but he was an atheist. But he was a really sad … he was going through a really hard time in his life, and he was so angry with God. But the Christian radio station just made him feel better. So he’s like, “Whatever. I’ll just put this radio station on.” Ended up hearing an ad that we had on the radio for the apologetics conference. And he got so frustrated. He’s like, “There are no good answers to the tough questions. I’m gonna go to that church and just prove them wrong, and make sure that they … I’m gonna talk to someone there.” And that was his attitude in showing up, was just basically, “I heard this ad on the radio, and this is … none of this is real. So I’m just gonna tell you how it is.”

So he came and he sat and he actually listened in to Lee Strobel. Lee Strobel was speaking at our Friday night, one of our first sessions. And Lee gives this great presentation on the resurrection of Jesus, and why it’s a credible miracle to believe. And at the very end, ends up sharing his testimony of how he was this rational atheist who then came to faith in Jesus Christ simply by pursuing the answers to his questions.

And in that moment the world shifts for this man who’s shown up to prove that Christianity is wrong. He’s literally hearing Lee Strobel’s story and saying, “That is my story. That’s why I’m here, to prove that this is wrong.” Ends up in that session praying the prayer to receive Jesus, because Lee brilliantly decides there needs to be a salvation moment at this apologetics conference. Receives Christ, and he ends up becoming one of our great volunteers, just serving at Bayside, and moves and comes and starts attending our church just so that he can be close to what God is doing, and continue the work that God started in him at that conference.

Mikel Del Rosario
Wow. That’s amazing.
Dena Davidson
That was not what we were planning when we were thinking, “Okay, what do these Christians need to hear when they come and sit and hear about their faith?” That was not on the radar.
Mikel Del Rosario
Yeah. And when you do events like this, you have to understand that there’s not only your church audience, where you have Christians, and then you have people who really aren’t Christians who are in the church anyway, and are checking things out, and are seekers. And then you have people like this who the Lord just brings them in, sometimes hostile people who the Lord just chooses that time to grab ahold of their hearts, and we see life change happen from what sometimes people push back against and say is just an intellectual kind of pursuit. But God can use good arguments as well. Arguments in the philosophical sense, not fighting with people, but giving good reasons for what we believe.

So you mentioned earlier that sometimes you have had to answer some objections from Christians, actually, in the church who say we should be spending time on other things, we should … this apologetics really doesn’t work. Apart from, I suppose, just sharing these kinds of stories, how else have you found that you needed to respond to somebody who maybe didn’t understand quite how God uses apologetics in the church?

Dena Davidson
Yeah. I think I first just spent a lot of time asking them what apologetics means to them, and why they think that providing great answers to tough questions is not a worthwhile pursuit. That’s a major thing that I do. I just spend time asking them what are their objections to apologetics? And it usually boils down to one of two reasons. The first is that they’ve had a bad experience with it, like you were talking about earlier. And so I listen to their story about they may have see someone use apologetics to try to argue people into the kingdom, or people us apologetics to actually tear people down. And after listening to their story, I just, in love, present a different option. And I say, “That sounds like really bad apologetics. But just because someone has done apologetics poorly doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do it. It means that we need to do it better.”

And then I just start sharing from my own personal experience, what apologetics has meant to me. And I share with them how I grew up in a pastor’s home, and I had a very rational faith. But there came a moment where I desperately needed some good answers to tough questions. And thank goodness I was exposed to apologetics, because I came to a fork in the road in my personal faith, where it was either gonna be I am walking away from Jesus, or I’m gonna love Jesus, but just not be able to love him with my mind. My intellect is gonna have to be divorced from my faith. And both of those options are terrible. And we need to help the Christians that come to that similar fork in the road. So I just try to really cast a vision for what apologetics can be. So that’s that first reason.

Mikel Del Rosario
You mentioned before, so that one atheist who came, who ended up giving his life to Christ. You’ve had other atheist responses to your conferences, and they weren’t all positive, yeah?
Dena Davidson
Yeah, no. So this is a fun story. I think it was the third apologetics conference. We’ve done these before, and all of a sudden we get contacted by our local atheist group. And they tell us that they want to actually bring their group of atheists to our conference and wear these tee shirts that say, “Ask an Atheist.” And so we get this weird email in our inbox, and we’re like, “What’s happening? What do we do with this?” And it was just a real moment where we had to decide, what is the purpose of this conference? And we had no idea how to respond. So we just thought, well, we’re just gonna set a meeting with them. Let’s just hear them out. Let’s hear what they’re vision is. We are assuming that they’re coming in ’cause they want to dismantle our faith. But we should hear them out.

So we ended up inviting them to have coffee with us, and me and another organizer of the conference, we just sat down with them and heard why they would be interested in coming and wearing those tee shirts, and letting Christians ask them questions. And it was completely opposite of what we were thinking. So come to find out, they actually believe that Christians have a really negative image of atheists. They think Christians believe that all atheists are evil, and our completely morally corrupt. And they wanted to come to this conference and just provide an environment where people could see that they could have conversations with an atheist, and it wouldn’t have to be a bad thing.

So, we didn’t let them do it. And you’re like, “Oh, that’s such a great story.” We didn’t let them do it, because we felt like, even if they were to handle it maturely, even if they were to handle those conversations maturely, we felt like there would be a lot of Christians who came to that conference looking for a safe place to ask questions, and the very presence of someone saying, “Come ask me about what I believe,” would halt that process for them. And so we shared with these two guys, Gary and John, we said, “We really value what you want to do. Let’s create another environment here at Bayside where we can get Christians and atheists and Muslims, and people from all faiths interacting. So you’re welcome to come to the conference.” In fact I gave them two free passes and said, “Hey, I want to know your feedback. This is our best attempt to answer you guys’ objections to the faith. Why don’t you come and just sit in and tell us how we’re doing.”

So gave them two free passes. And I met up with them afterwards, and they sat in on my breakout, and they gave me notes. They said, “We thought this was a good point, this was a bad point. We didn’t like this that the speaker said.” And it was so helpful. They had really genuinely good feedback that I was glad that I listened to. But we ended up creating another environment where we could get face to face and say, “Let’s all be on an even playing ground, and just talk about a question like what is morality? And let’s hear your perspective, and let’s hear the Christian perspective. Let’s hear the Muslim perspective and the Buddhist perspective.” So that was an interesting situations

Mikel Del Rosario
That is interesting. Not something that every church would get in their email box every time they do a conference like that.
Dena Davidson
Totally. Absolutely.
Mikel Del Rosario
I think the church’s educational ministry shouldn’t neglect apologetics in any area. So besides just the conferences, I know you’re involved in teaching apologetics to a variety of age levels and different groups in the church as well. Tell us a little bit about how you incorporate apologetics into student ministry at Bayside.
Dena Davidson
I’m only imagining that someone listening to this podcast, they may have a passion for apologetics, but may not have an understanding of how they can use that passion. How do they find the people to actually have the tough questions? So my first piece of advice for that … and then I’ll answer your question … is make sure you’re sharing with your pastors that this is your passion, and that this is your background. Because I know that I am running into students all the time that have tough questions about areas that I’m not an expert in.

For instance, I’m not at all an expert in scientific apologetics. So when I meet a high school student that gets referred to me ’cause I’m the apologetics person, “Oh, ask Dena. She knows apologetics.” Sometimes people refer people to me, and then I’m just honest with that student, “Hey. I don’t have a good answer to that tough question. But thank goodness I know someone in our church who is an expert on that tough question. Let me link you. If you want to talk about the problem of evil, we can talk about that all day. I’m good at answering that question. But when it comes to evolution and the age of the earth, I’m not gonna be your best resource.”

So the first way that I really help our student ministry pastors is by exposing them to the people within our church that have a passion for apologetics. I keep a list of people that I recommend so that when a student pastor comes to me panicked because this kid is gonna lose their faith, I know who to connect them to. So that’d be the first way that I help our student pastors is by just … I don’t have to be the person that answers all the questions, but I can be the bridge that connects them to the person that can.

The second way is I really give our student pastors a vision for apologetics that’s probably opposite of what most parents want their kids to experience in apologetics ministry. So let me explain. I think when parents send their kids to youth ministry, especially high school students, they’re hoping and expecting that their child’s faith is gonna be really shepherded and tended to and grown. My vision for apologetics with high school students specifically is I think we should absolutely mess them up, and expose them to all the tough questions that they’re gonna encounter in college. I really believe that they should hear from us the things that they need to be wrestling with.

So I try to have that conversation regularly with our student pastor team to say, “Hey. I know you’re inviting me to come in and talk about apologetics to your students. I’m just warning you that when I leave your students are gonna have more questions, and that’s great, because I promise you, if I speak on apologetics for an hour, when they get to their freshman philosophy class, they’re not gonna remember what I said. But hopefully, when they get to their freshman philosophy class, they’re gonna remember that there was someone who was really intelligent, who knew about the deep questions of the faith, and she said, ‘Hey. You don’t need to worry about this. You need to ask these questions. You need to work hard to get great answers, but you don’t need to worry about this, because you heard it here, and there are great answers to the tough questions. You just need to go out and find them.'” So that’s another thing.

Mikel Del Rosario
So the first time that a student hears an objection to the existence of God, for example, or to the reliability of the Bible, that it’s not in a hostile environment, but it’s one, “Hey, I remember that from my church. Maybe I don’t remember the answer right now, but I remember there was a whole seminar I sat in. Maybe I could dig up my notes, or maybe I could find something from that conference, or look it up again. But the idea is that I don’t have to stay awake, lie awake in bed at night wondering can I really believe that God exists where there’s evil in the world, or do I have to just chuck the faith so I can be reasonable?” Students can continue to hold on to their faith in the Lord while wrestling with these philosophical issues, knowing that there are good answers to the hard questions. I think that’s really good that we expose them to these things early on, so that it’s not the first time they’ve heard it, once they leave the church and are out on their own in college.
Dena Davidson
I think of it like marriage counseling. When I went and received marriage counseling, when I was engaged, I got premarital counseling with my husband. And, as a young engaged gal I just thought, “Oh, this is gonna be so fun. We’re gonna talk about our relationship. We’ve got such a great relationship.” And so I went into premarital counseling, and I quickly learned that the whole purpose of the counselor was just to make us fight. And I thought, “Okay. This is terrible. What is happening to my relationship?” But a year down the road I was so grateful because he didn’t create fights, he simply showed me the fights I was going to have a year down the road. And I was so happy that I knew those fights before I got married, and that I was given some tools to help in those moments.

And that’s my vision for apologetics, especially with high school students is we should show them the questions that they already have, and the questions that they’re gonna be exposed to while they’re here, in the presence of great church leaders who they can reach out to for help. For a variety of reasons, when high school students graduate, they don’t just graduate their high school, they graduate their faith. And a lot of that is because they are disconnected from church leaders. And I don’t think we’re gonna be able to fix that in one broad sweep by one apologetics talk. But I hopefully have planted forever in their mind the idea that there is someone smarter than them asking this question, and there is a great answer if they will simply do the hard work of seeking out that great answer to the tough question.

Mikel Del Rosario
And you’ve done this not only in student ministry, you’ve worked with women’s ministries at Bayside, as well, and you’ve incorporated this across the board. How does that work with women’s ministry, for example?
Dena Davidson
So, for instance, my friend invited me to come speak to MOPS. And I’m thinking, “Oh, because I’m a new mom.” And not really. She wanted me to come speak to MOPS because of my apologetics background, which I’d say, careful, to anyone who’s getting an apologetics degree. It is such a specialized branch of knowledge, that that will forever be the thing that you’re invited to speak on, because people are desperate for the training that you receive. So that’s just a word of caution. And so I thought, “Oh, they don’t want to learn how I’m trusting and relying in the Lord now that I’m a mom. They want to hear some apologetics.” And so I came and I shared with this MOPS group about the problem of evil, and why a good God would allow so much suffering.

And specifically we dove into the questions that a lot of moms have, like what happens if my kid is sick? What happens if I lose a child? And we just dug into those really dark, deep questions, and I was able to share, as a mom, but also as someone with an apologetics background on some possible things that may help them in their season of life.

So, whatever group I’m speaking to, I usually just ask the person hosting me, “What’s the most difficult question your people are asking?” And as long as it’s not science related I say, “Great. I’m your gal.” If not I say, “Hey. I have a friend named Dave. He would love to come and share.”

Mikel Del Rosario
Interesting you bring up the mom aspect of your ministry, because apologetics is still, even today, a field that is often associated with men doing ministry. And what kinds of challenges, maybe from a woman’s perspective, did you run up against in terms of doing apologetics ministry at your church, coming from a female perspective?
Dena Davidson
I’ve been so fortunate. My true answer is zero, less than zero. I actually think that being a woman in apologetics has given me more open doors, because I think there are a lot of people in certain segments of the church that are becoming very aware that a female perspective is needed. And so the fact that I’m a woman has actually given me more opportunities than I would have received had I been a man. That’s my story. But I know from talking with other people in this world, that that’s not always the case. And so if anything, I think my best advice is to trust that what you have learned, and what you know, is incredibly valuable, and your role is just to answer tough questions.

If God has given you a gift for apologetics and a passion to use it, don’t necessarily just look for the doors that are not open. It could be that certain platforms are off limits for you right now. And I’d say, if a platform is off limit to you, than go create your own platform. And even if that is simply in the most honoring way possible, collecting a group of young women that are not taking their faith as seriously as they need to, and saying, “Hey. We’re gonna dive into the tough questions and we’re gonna go after this together,” be exceedingly faithful in that platform, even if it’s one of your own creating, and don’t just wait for someone to open the door for you and create the platform for you. Do it right now. God wants you to use those apologetics gifts right now.

Mikel Del Rosario
That’s great. Well, that dovetails into the next question that I wanted to ask as we think more about coming up with some of the practical how-tos of this ministry. What advice would you give to somebody, first of all, who is on staff at a church who wanted to do something like you’ve been doing, in terms of getting a class going, a seminar going? And then my next question will be, what if you’re not on staff?
Dena Davidson
If I didn’t have Thrive School as my full time gig, and I felt like God was calling me to do apologetic ministry, here’s what I would do. I would find the smartest people in my church, and I would find the best communicators in my church, and I would say, “Would you please attend a three month long Bible study with me?” I would call it a Bible study because they wouldn’t have a category for what we would really be doing, which is apologetics. And I would collect those people, the great communicators in the church, and the great thinkers in the church. And I would say, “In this group we are gonna chase after the great answers to the four toughest questions that people in our church are asking.

And then I would make all the great thinkers do all the homework, ’cause this is their thing. I would make them read the J. P. Morelands, and the J. Warner Wallaces, and the William Lane Craigs, and Gary Habermases. I would make them do all the research, and come to small group and teach us what they learned. And then I would invite the communicators to figure out the best way to communicate that to our general church audience.

And the reason why I would do that instead of doing my own class is my particular role in apologetics is to connect the resources to the people that need those resources. I share that with you in the past, Mikel. And I feel like there’s a huge gap in apologetics right now between the thinkers and the communicators. Most people that have the platform to communicate … I say this with grace … are not the great thinkers in the church. Some of them are, but not everyone is Tim Keller. And not everyone is C. S. Lewis. C. S. Lewis was one of the greatest thinkers, and one of the greatest communicators. And so I would be passionate to connect the thinkers with the communicators and help the communicators really understand what they’re missing in communicating from the platform.

So, I forgot your original question, but that makes me really excited.

Mikel Del Rosario
Yeah. Well that was … you answered the second question which was, what if I’m not on staff? And so you were trying to … you’re putting this thing together as the connector between the communicators and the thinkers, and then finding … this is a very grass roots level kind of thing. And pastors actually love it when, instead of somebody saying, “Hey, Pastor. I have this idea. What if we do this Bible study with these people,” vs. coming up to the pastor and saying, “Hey. We’ve been thinking about these hard questions for the past 15 weeks. Is there a place where we can just share some of these things that we’ve learned?” What pastor wouldn’t love it, that someone’s already started this grass roots kind of thing, getting people to read these kinds of books, and communicate and help other people grow in their faith.

So, if you are on staff though … say you’re the youth pastor or say you’re a children’s ministry director, even worship pastor let’s say … you have a heart for seeing this in your church. How would that differ? What advice would you give them?

Dena Davidson
So God’s gifted you with a platform, he’s gifted you with an audience. And since you already care about apologetics, I would invite you, as the person with the platform, as the person with the audience, to make sure that you are thinking the best thoughts and communicating it in the best ways. And so, you gotta know yourself. Are you the deep thinker? If you are, them make sure that you are asking the questions, not at the highest level, but at the deepest level. Go full Aquinas of argument, objection, counter argument, objection. Think it all the way down. Think about the atheist who is coming to your youth group, hopefully. What would they ask if they were given the mic? Make sure, first of all, as the person with the platform and the audience, that you’re thinking at the deepest levels.

Secondly, you also need to know if you’re the best communicator. And this is something that is really humbling, but you may need to take a speech class. You may need to get some feedback on how you’re doing in communicating. As someone that hosts apologetics conferences, let me tell you my greatest challenge is finding great thinkers who are great communicators. And so I would really challenge you, if you’re not a great communicator, that is something that you need to work on. And so become a great communicator. Take a speech class. Get feedback. Every time you speak make sure people are telling you if it was making sense or not. And if you can humble yourself in that way, then you’ll make sure that the passion that you have for apologetics and giving thee great answers to the tough questions, that that’s actually translating to the audience who’s listening.

So that’s an extremely specific thing that I would do. But I do see it as one of the greatest gaps in apologetics today. And so if you’re asking how you can fill in, that’s a gap I see.

Mikel Del Rosario
Yeah, that’s great. Well, what would be, let’s say for you personally, Dena, what would be the number one takeaway that you’ve had so far from being involved in helping your church defend the faith and get answers to these hard questions?
Dena Davidson
My number one takeaway. Total Miss America moment so I can repeat the question to think of the answer. I think my greatest takeaway is that people are really struggling. People are really struggling with tough questions. And it takes time and thought and study and work to become a good communicator, in order to get them the great answers. And so I think a lot of the reason, if I can help the person who’s listening understand, a lot of the reason pastors are hesitant to take up apologetics, that second reason, is actually because it’s a lot of work. It is way easier to get up on stage and preach from passion than it is to preach from careful thought. And so I would say this takes time, and you need to be patient with yourself, and patient with your pastor if he’s struggling with this.

Patient with yourself, if you’re a pastor and this is something you’re struggling with, and ask for help. Ask for help. If you’re struggling with knowing how to bring this to your people, then find someone who’s doing this really, really well, and say, “Can I just ask you a thousand questions about how you’re doing this?” Someone I would follow is Mark Clark. I think … this may be so bold … but I think he’s an emerging C. S. Lewis of our generation. I think every generation has someone that not only has great answers, but also understands the questions that people are asking. And I feel like, in recent times, the person who’s doing the best job of really hearing the questions that people are asking, is Mark Clark. So read what Mark is writing, and do the Bible studies that he is producing, and follow along with the journey that he’s taking his church on. Because I see him doing what is needed so very, very well.

Mikel Del Rosario
Well thanks, Dena, so much for that, and for sharing your experience with us. You’ve done so much at Bayside, from not only doing these conferences, but working with youth and women’s ministry, and then with Thrive School, as well. Some churches have that school connection as well, too. And so you’re able to do both. Well, thanks so much for being on the show. Really appreciate it.
Dena Davidson
I’m so glad to have joined. Thanks for inviting me.
Mikel Del Rosario
And we think you so much, too, for being on The Table podcast with us. If you have a topic you would like us to consider for a future episode, please email us at thetable@dts.edu. Again, that’s thetable@dts.edu. And we hope you will join us again next week on The Table podcast where we discuss issues of God and culture.
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Dena Davidson
Dena Davidson is the Campus Life Director of Thrive School and runs the Thrive Apologetics Conference at Bayside Church which attracts over 3000 people. She lives in California with her husband and daughter. Davidson holds an M.A. in Christian Apologetics from Biola University.
Mikel Del Rosario
Mikel Del Rosario is a PhD student in New Testament Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary, Project Manager for Cultural Engagement at the Hendricks Center, and Adjunct Professor of Apologetics and World Religion at William Jessup University. Mikel co-authors The Table Briefing articles in Bibliotheca Sacra with Darrell Bock, manages the Table Podcast, and helps Christians defend the faith with courage and compassion through his apologetics speaking ministry. He holds a Master of Theology (ThM) from DTS and an MA in Christian Apologetics from Biola University.
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