The pastor’s basic role is one of shepherding or overseeing a local congregation of believers. It’s a kind of miniature version of how Christ is the shepherd or overseer of all believers (1 Pet. 2:25; 5:2-4). It’s truly a privilege, then, to fill such a position.
Few are called to be pastors, and those who are bear many responsibilities. These include, among other things, leading (1 Tim. 5:17; Heb. 13:7, 17, 24), preaching and teaching to (1 Tim. 3:2; 5:17; Titus 1:9), being an example to (1 Pet. 5:3), and caring for (1 Tim. 3:5) the church.
However, one thing that seems to be frequently overlooked—or, at the very least, underappreciated—by many pastors as a responsibility they should bear is that of apologist. I can’t speak for everywhere else in the world, but this certainly seems to be the case here in our largely anti-intellectual Canadian church culture.
Let me suggest, then, four reasons why I think pastors—including you, if you are one—need to be trained in apologetics.
1 – The Pastor Needs It
Perhaps the most obvious reason why a pastor should be trained in apologetics is for their own sake. The Bible itself considers it more noble to examine the scriptures closely than not to in assessing whether or not Christianity is true (Acts 17:11). And knowing not only what you believe but why you believe it instills a stronger faith in the believer.
All this will help the pastor as a believer and as the leader of their church to love God with all their mind (Matt 22:37 | Luke 10:27) and to lead by example in doing so. This brings us to our second reason why pastors should be trained in apologetics.
2 – Their Church Needs It
There are far too many stories out there of churchgoers approaching their pastors with questions and doubts about the faith only to be met with ignorance at best or dismissiveness at worse. This simply shouldn’t happen.
If pastors are to lead their congregations, they must lead in all areas of the Christian life. This includes the development of Christian thought, which is part of loving God with all your mind. And just as apologetics would strengthen the pastor’s own faith, so too would it strengthen that of their congregation.
Perhaps if more pastors were able to offer better answers to the questions and objections raised by some of their congregants, fewer people would fall away from the faith.
3 – The World Needs It
In addition to shepherding the church, the pastor must also be an ambassador to the world. After all, when the world looks for a representative of a church, who do they look to? The pastor.
The world has raised up countless barriers to faith in the forms of arguments and objections raised against Christianity (2 Cor. 10:3-5). In response to these, Christians are charged to offer a reasoned defense of the faith to anyone and everyone in hopes of persuading them of the truth of the gospel (Col. 4:6; 1 Pet. 3:15). How much more should this be the case for pastors and other ministry leaders, the frontline representatives of Christ and his Church?
And as if the needs of the pastor, the church, and the world weren’t reason enough, there is at least one other reason why a pastor should be trained in apologetics: Scripture commands it.
4 – Scripture Commands It
Yes, as was just mentioned, the Bible commands all Christians to engage in the reasoned defense of the faith. But that’s not what we’re talking about here. There’s a specific command to pastors.
In Titus 1:5-9, the apostle Paul lists a number of qualifications for the position of “elder” in the church—a term interchangeable with “pastor”/“shepherd” and “overseer” (Acts 20:17, 28; Titus 1:5, 7; 1 Pet. 5:1-2). In verse 9, he says, “He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.”
The Greek word translated “rebuke” in this verse (elenchō) bears the meaning of “to refute” or “to convince.” This is why in the example Paul then gives in vv. 10-16, he says, “Therefore, rebuke (elenchō) them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith, not devoting themselves to Jewish myths and the commands of people who turn away from the truth.” The goal of this particular rebuking—one of refuting falsity and convincing of truth—is that those under the pastor’s oversight might be “sound in the faith.”
This is supposed to be a qualification for pastoring! Pastors are to be able to teach sound doctrine (theology) and defend sound doctrine (apologetics). If they lack either, then, according to Scripture, they should either get equipped or reconsider their role in the church.
Call to Pastors
If you’re a pastor and have never been trained in the reasoned defense of the faith, get training. Better late than never.
Maybe even consider further education. I’m not necessarily talking about getting another degree. It could be a certificate, or even just one course. (Auditing a course is a relatively cheap way to go, and there are some free courses available out there.)
And get people in your corner who can help you grow and can themselves grow alongside you in the defense of the faith. If you can, connect with someone who already has training.
If you need further assistance figuring out where to start, please don’t hesitate to contact us here at Ratio Christi. We’re here to help.
Additionally, in Ephesians 4:11, the phrase often translated “the pastors and teachers” or “the shepherds and teachers” might also be rendered “the pastor-teachers” or “the shepherd-teachers.”