“…Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect…” (1 Peter 3:15, NIV)

There is no way to prove that the millennial generation is more opinionated than their predecessors, but it appears as though they view their own opinions as unassailable and woe to the person who dares to challenge what they believe.

Regardless of what someone believes about life, politics, or faith, if they are unwilling or unable to enter a discussion or debate with someone who disagrees with them, they will ultimately be the poorer for it. Peter admonishes us to “Always be prepared to give an answer…” If they are intimidated or frightened when someone dares to disagree with them, it may be an indication that either they do not know what they believe well enough to defend it or perhaps, what they believe is indefensible.

Specifically, we ponder the question as to whether the typical follower of Christ is equipped to articulate an answer to anyone who wonders about or questions their faith? Certainly, there must be those who are confident and prepared to give a reason for their hope, but how many would respond nervously and secretly hope that the conversation would shift to another topic?

If we conclude that there are too many Christians ill-suited to mount a defense for their faith, what can be done to remedy the situation? Short of attending Bible college, what opportunities are available to offer instruction in “sound doctrine?” Systematic teaching of doctrine was once the purview of Sunday School or catechism, but in many churches, they no longer are offered. In his farewell address to the Ephesian church, Paul declared: “For I did not keep from declaring to you the whole counsel of God.” (Acts 20:27, MEV).

If the Fivefold Ministry is charged with the responsibility to “equip his people for works of service,” it must be done intentionally and purposefully, otherwise, it will be ineffective. We understand the dilemma that pastors face in the present era of short attention spans and many competing activities and choices. “New believer classes,” if they are offered at all, are generally not comprehensive enough to provide a solid foundation, but the underlying reason could be that many are unwilling to make discipleship a requirement for fear that people will depart for less demanding pastures.

While being sympathetic to the realities of our present-day, nevertheless we must find a path to prepare God’s people to be able to respond and interact when they are questioned or challenged about what they believe. An unprepared Christian can do more harm for the cause of the gospel by opening their mouth than by keeping silent. As the saying goes, “It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.”

Peter goes on to say that our answer should be given “with gentleness and respect.” It is unrealistic to expect to have an answer for every possible question, but the unprepared are more likely to respond, out of fear or embarrassment, with hostility or even arrogance. William Barclay makes the following point:

“…any argument in which Christians are involved must be carried on in a tone which God can hear with joy. No debates have been so acrimonious as theological debates; no differences have caused such bitterness as religious differences. In any presentation of the Christian case and in any argument for the Christian faith, the tone should be the tone of love.[1]

We must always remember that the goal is not to prepare God’s people to win an argument with someone but to win them. This requires more than knowledge of doctrine and theology; it requires a life that has been transformed and reflects the attributes of God. Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase of Paul’s instruction to Timothy sums it up nicely:

“God’s servant must not be argumentative, but a gentle listener and a teacher who keeps cool, working firmly but patiently with those who refuse to obey. You never know how or when God might sober them up with a change of heart and a turning to the truth, enabling them to escape the Devil’s trap, where they are caught and held captive, forced to run his errands.” (2 Timothy 2:24–26, MESSAGE)

It is time to evaluate the effectiveness of our discipleship processes because the world will always be challenging the church to give an answer or justify the reason for our hope.

Steve Ekeroth

 

 

[1] William Barclay, The Letters of James and Peter, 3rd ed. fully rev. and updated, The New Daily Study Bible (Louisville, KY; London: Westminster John Knox Press, 2003), 267.

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1 Comment

  1. Devin Sareen on August 14, 2020 at 1:16 pm

    Good article. It reminded be of a friend I met at the University who was from Thailand. He once told me that he used to go to a christian meeting near his home, in Thailand, just to argue and antagonize the believers – – – until he became one himself!

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