As I was gathering some books together to get signed by some of my favorite authors, I paused. “Is this a bit over the top? Am I geeking out too much? Have I unknowingly put these men on a pedestal where they don’t belong?” These were some of the questions going through my head.
I recently had the privilege of attending the National Conference of Christian Apologetics put on by Southern Evangelical Seminary in Charlotte, NC. Spanning two days, one can hear some of the smartest and most recognized figures in apologetics today. There are no shortage of lectures, ranging from beginner to advanced levels. This was my second year to attend, and I hope I get many more opportunities.
One of the things that stuck out to me most both times was how accessible the speakers are. You read their books, listen and/or watch their presentations on YouTube, but seeing and hearing them in person is something different; something special. These are also some of the most patient people I have ever seen, some running on tight schedules, yet taking a few moments to listen to your comment or answer a question. Of course, if you can’t catch them after or in between lectures, you might find them at their vendor table, ready converse with admirers and sign books. That’s what I was looking forward to, but those questions kept nagging me, even as I had my books signed.
It wasn’t until a day or two later I found peace with those questions. It always seems to happen after attending something as encouraging as a conference. Yes, my intention was to give a small description of the NCCA, but also to give some practical ideas about apologetics and personal study. So, here they are.
- Find A Spiritual/Intellectual Mentor. This does not have to be someone you know personally. In fact, I had many men I was mentored by whom I had never met and who didn’t know I even existed. Read books and listen to podcasts by the leading voices of the day. Reach back a bit farther and learn from those they learned from. I realized my “geeking out” wasn’t a bad thing. I would much rather hold up men I respect and who have helped me intellectually and spiritually than the celebrities of the world. It’s ok to have a favorite author or speaker and admire them, as long as we don’t idolize them. They, too, are men.
- Find Like-Minded People. Not everyone is “into” apologetics. Just because you might be doesn’t mean you should look down on others or make yourself out to be more clever. However, you should find a community of those with similar interests to commune with. Whether it be a local apologetics chapter, online group, or group within your congregation, find some way to talk with others to keep that spark alive. An intellect unused is a dying intellect.
- Find A Conference Near You. This certainly won’t be an option for everyone, but I do know more conferences are popping up in more and more cities around the nation. You may have to travel a little ways, and I know that kind of planning is never fun. But, if it is something doable and cost-effective, find a conference near you to attend. As I said, it is one thing to read and listen to certain people, but actually sitting at their feet and learning from them is another experience entirely.
Recently, I have found myself becoming intellectually lazy. I have allowed other things to take up my time and attention. Attending the NCCA has fanned a flame in my heart and mind that could have gone out at any moment. I know these suggestions might seem simplistic, but the payoff will be something truly amazing. We must remember the questions we are answering are some of the most important ever asked. They have eternal consequences, and we cannot allow our God-given passion and intellect to die. Get to work!