Preaching Articles

It is no secret that American culture is becoming increasingly post-Christian.

Recent research reveals that only 23% of Millennials believe that Scripture is truly the Word of God. Another 26% have adopted a liberal interpretation of Scripture by believing that it may contain some of the Word of God but should not be taken literally. In short, less than half of the next generation have any respect for the text of Scripture, and only a small minority of that group believe that it is authoritative.

Consider this data in light of William Edgar’s observation that “…Christians have grown so used to their own language, terms, and culture that they have become isolated from those who surround them” (Reasons of the Heart, 12).

There is a two-fold problem at hand:

1. In our proclamation, we have assumed a Christian worldview on the part of our listeners, and this is a false assumption.

2. As we are communicating poorly, our audience isn’t even listening.

Recovering Apostolic Apologetics

The solution to this growing problem is to recapture the apostolic method of preaching. The first sermons of the apostles do two things: (1) make much of Jesus and His gospel and (2) defend the truths contained in the gospel.

In Acts 2, Peter preaches the gospel message, explains the Scriptures and defends the claims contained therein by referencing the miracles of Jesus.

In Acts 17, Paul reasons with the men of Athens through preaching the resurrection of Jesus and utilizing philosophical language that his listeners understand.

In the very next chapter (Acts 18:24-28), Apollos preaches about the ministry of Jesus and refutes those who would deny that Jesus is the Messiah.

Beyond the sermons preached by the first Christians, much of the text of Scripture itself is written as an apologetic.

The first chapters of Genesis are both a Scriptural account of creation and an apologetic against Ancient Near Eastern cosmogonies.

Even many of the miracles recorded in Scripture are meant to serve apologetic purposes. These miracles range from the plagues in Egypt demonstrating the futility of Egyptian gods to the healing miracles performed by Jesus revealing that He is the Messiah.

The text of Scripture is so littered with apologetic elements, I would argue that it is difficult to preach the whole counsel of God without incorporating apologetic elements into one’s sermons.

Why Apologetic Preaching?

How does incorporating apologetics into our sermons work itself out practically? Quite often, apologetics should be included out of necessity.

For example, in an age of increasing skepticism and ever-present access to materials from men like Bart Ehrman, we need to provide basic arguments at the onset for every new book series. When introducing a sermon series on II Timothy, it would be beneficial to briefly mention some of the evidence that leads us to believe this letter was written by Paul.

Why? Because many in our audience are being influenced to believe that we have no idea who wrote the books of the Bible. Are there some texts for which authorship is difficult to concretely ascertain? Absolutely! Nonetheless, the Scriptures are hardly anonymous in authorship.

Some texts of Scripture easily lend themselves to apologetic application (such as I Cor. 15), while others are more difficult (i.e. Song of Songs). Yet in today’s culture even the most innocuous of passages requires an apologetic.

For instance, when speaking of the gospel picture housed in the relationship between a husband and his wife, we must preach (even briefly) an apologetic for God’s definition of marriage. The marriage covenant is one of the clearest pictures of the gospel, and it has practical applications for Christian living. However, it is under assault. So, when preaching on marriage or the picture of the gospel it provides, we must include apologetic elements.

It may seem that what I am proposing actually falls outside the context of corporate worship and should instead be considered as part of personal evangelism. The reality is that when the church gathers to worship through Word and song, that time is specifically for the instruction and edification of the saints.

However, we can never assume that every self-professed believer is actually a believer. Further, we cannot live under the assumption that the person in the pew is free from the influence of our culture and battles with doubt. Moreover, whether recognized or not, most Christians adopt as their own the interpretation and application of Scripture that which is taught by their pastor.

Therefore, if we model an apologetic-free approach to the biblical text, that is what our people will practice. Thus, in an effort to edify and build up the body of Christ, we must “contend earnestly for the faith …” (Jude 3) from the pulpit so that the pew will be a place of confidence and a place of preparation for cultural engagement.

Each generation of the church in each setting has the responsibility of communicating the gospel in understandable terms, considering the language and thought-forms of that setting. – Francis Schaeffer

Dayton is the lead pastor at Redeemer Church (, a gospel-centered, missional church plant in Rocky Mount, NC. He is also Adjunct Professor of Religious Studies at Judson College. He frequently posts book reviews on his personal blog
Browse All

Related Preaching Articles

Talk about it...

Duncan Abel

commented on Jul 30, 2013

I agree with Francis Schaeffer. However i strongly believe that the Holy Spirit should be consulted before the preparation and delivery of any message. He knows everyone in the pew and their thoughts. Shalom, Duncan Abel

Dr Elisha Mafunga

commented on Jul 30, 2013

There Holy spirit is been defined in many way by different. The reason is that each church wants to preach some message which is tailor made to there congregation. This bring confusion confusion to people who do not understand about preaching. by Dr Elisha Mafunga

Ronald Johnson

commented on Jul 30, 2013

This is definitely the case in mainline churches. The biggest challenge is often evangelizing the people in the pews. Many people who are faithful in attendance come for reasons other than a firm Christian conviction.

Mike Brenneman

commented on Jul 31, 2013

So true Dayton! Thank you for succinctly putting into words what many of us have witnessed. 1. Self proclaimed believers often have doubts that need to be addressed, 2. There is a real decline in respect for the Bible. We preachers and Christians "can and should" overcome much of that type of thinking with those we minister to.

Michael James Monaghan

commented on Jul 31, 2013

I hope it's not 'splitting hairs' but whilst the Church should be preaching 'like the Apostles' should the content be more like Paul ?. The reason I say this is the 'The Apostles' meaning the twelve, preached to Israel. They also preached Christ and the kingdom . Acts 2 they were preaching the gospel - to Israel . Later, Peter even said that what Paul preached , was 'hard to be understood ' and that some wrest the doctrines 'as they do the other scriptures'. People don't always believe me when I say that often christians are blinkered like a horse so they are led to believe and think as their pastor or denomination rather than think and examine whether their things said , are so .

Vincent Aja

commented on Jul 31, 2013

You know every day I hear and read people talking about worship. But this is the way the Lord Jesus had begun His communication with the Samaritan woman by saying to her, you people worship the God that you people do not know of, but we the Jews know the God whom we worship: for salvation is of the Jews first (John 4:22). It was after this time that He went on to inform her that God is a Spirit, and that those who will worship Him must worship Him in Spirit and in Truth (John 4:23-24). So tell me the kind of God that we worship as everybody is talking about worship, worship even when there is this lack of accountability. Perhaps, someone may say that we are under the grace and not under the Law. Now, what did the Lord Jesus had in mind when He was speaking to the Samaritan woman? Let`s get the answer from where the true worship was explained to the children of Jacob. True worship is define in three ways like this:(1) Obeying the Laws of God which was summarized in the Ten Commandments which was and is the Universal Law. (2) The social life of the family of God must be in harmony with Word of God. And (3) The religious life of the chosen of God must sincerely be in reverence with the Word of God. And in this last part falls in the way the people should worship the Lord, and also their giving in support of the works of God etc. (Exodus 20-24).This is what is the meaning of worshipping God in Spirit and in Truth. Worshipping of God is a lifestyle and not only coming to the Church to play music and to dance. Anything like this is worshipping the God that ye know not of (John 4:22). I have told the people that the only way to get the hearts of the people is by bringing in some of the things that were taking place today in the secular world into the someone`s sermon, and compare them with the words of God according the books of Timothy and Revelation. And the people will see how current the Word of our God is.

Joel Rutherford

commented on Jul 31, 2013

Dayton, I agree wholeheartedly with your call to apologetics. I'd also like to bring in a very important truth that stands alongside. It is the power and spirit of God's Word. What the statistics point to in America today has always been true for most of the world and has always been true for every unbeliever. When we say 'The Bible say...', God speaks. For each one who has come to Christ - Phd or illiterate, raised in church or never heard the Name - it is because the very Words of God resonated in one's heart. I believe in apologetics. At the same time, we must not fear to, indeed must have boldness to, speak the scripture to unbelieving hearers. It is the Words that 'are spirit and they are life' and the Word that is 'quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword' that brings salvation and life change. Yes, share science, history, and methods of literary criticism. Remember, though, that in the absence of all these things, the Bible speaks to the hardest of hearts.

Dennis Cocks

commented on Jul 31, 2013

@Joel, very well said!

Clarence Lawson

commented on Aug 7, 2013

Thumbs up!

Join the discussion