Most people think of apologetics as either an intellectual exercise or a way to try and convince unbelievers of the Christian faith. Neither of those views is accurate. Ministry-minded apologetics serves many functions: it powers our evangelism, it strengthens our own faith, and it is relevant to understanding the changes in today's culture.
Joe Gorra offers another aspect of how apologetics, specifically the ministry of answering questions from both believers and nonbelievers, is ministerial: we become heralds of God's word. In A Reasonable Response, Joe offers five reasons for having a ministry that is engaged in answering questions. It is his fifth point that is especially poignant. He writes:
When answering people's questions, not only must we "go beyond" what is in the foreground and help people discover a background, but we must also help direct people's attention to how God is at work in their lives and in the lives around them. We announce how the kingdom of God is near to them. We invite them to acknowledge this, not because we are trying to "close a deal" between them and God (for He's really good at completing good work that He's started), but because we owe it to our fellow human beings to let them in on the "divine conspiracy." This is not a call to be loud and noisy with our answers, or to be "triumphalist" in our answers, but to find meaningful ways to declare, herald-yes, verily, and truly, preach-in order to bring attention to what is in their midst! After all, doctors, meteorologists, and pundits of society and the "good life" do this all the time; they bring knowledge (hopefully!) to bear on our life.I think Joe has put his finger on something that is both insightful and instructive. If we are approaching apologetics correctly, others should see God more clearly. Certainly, the atheist may balk at the positions we take, but that is no different than what they did to the prophets of old or the evangelists who sought to spread God's word. We should see ourselves first and foremost as messengers who are delivering the truth of the Gospel in its fullness to both God's people and a lost world. That is the correct attitude to take. It diminishes contention, increases consideration, and offers a humble approach to a ministry that runs a risk of puffing up its ministers. That's a great approach to take.
If we are sincerely interested in offering answers, we must not shrink from the opportunity of helping others notice how the gospel of the kingdom of God, indeed, Jesus Christ Himself, is near to us by the ministry and presence of the Spirit, and can be found whenever He is sincerely sought. To draw attention to Jesus' authority, presence, ministry, words, deeds, knowledge, wisdom, mission, and even His very questions and answers is to herald Him. How sad it would be if we answered people's questions but did not seek to help them pay attention to the living and risen Christ who is here, and not far off. How incomplete it would be to grant them wisdom to their questions but not invite them to be encountered by the Fount of all wisdom and understanding. In short, we might understand heralding as calling people to be confronted by the significance of the moral and spiritual authority of God for their life.