Sean McDowell explains how to make Christian apologetics into a career

Two Air Force JTACs discuss mission parameters prior to calling in CAS
Two Air Force JTACs discuss mission parameters prior to calling in CAS

Sean McDowell has managed to integrate apologetics pretty tightly with his career, and in this recent blog post, he offers some options to others who might want to follow suit.

He writes:

We live in a golden age of apologetics. There are more books, curricula, blogs, conferences, academic programs, and people interested in apologetics than ever before. As my friend (and boss) Craig Hazen says, “Apologetics is a growth industry.”

Part of the vision of our Biola M.A. Christian Apologetics program is to train apologists to be a resource for the local church. In fact, our dream is that churches would consider the need for a “Pastor or Apologetics” as important as a men’s ministry leader or a youth pastor. Until this dream becomes a reality, here’s a few ways to make a career in apologetics (If you think I have missed any, please let me know):

He has several options listed in the post:

  • Professor of Apologetics
  • Ratio Christi
  • Author
  • Blogger
  • Speaker
  • Christian School Teacher

At least one personal friend of mine does each of these six options! They are all doable, but you really have to be the best at what you do if you want to pursue them, simply because of the lower demand. People don’t value truth these days as much as they value fun and entertainment.

Let’s look at number 6 in particular, because this one seems to me to offer the most linear, low-risk, option:

6.Christian School Teacher. Before accepting a teaching position at Biola University, I taught theology and apologetics full-time at a private Christian school in southern California. Since teaching high school involves grading and disciplining students, it is very different than writing or speaking. But it is a valuable way to help Christian students think deeply about their faith, and also to critically engage non-Christian students (I had many atheist, Buddhist, and Muslim students in my classes). If you want to teach at a Christian school, you will need both apologetics/theology knowledge (an undergraduate degree or M.A. is probably sufficient) as well as training as a classroom teacher.

Of course, there is a rival view to the view of doing apologetics full time, and that view is that you should do your regular job full time, and try to have an apologetics ministry on the side. J. Warner Wallace calls such people “tent-making apologists” because, like the apostle Paul, they fund their ministry by working a normal job (Paul made tents to drive his ministry).

Air Force TACPs confirm target locations with their map
Air Force TACPs confirm target locations with their map

Wallace lists 10 reasons why tent-making apologists are effective, and this is one I have personal experience with:

Tent-Making Christian Case Makers Reach a Skeptical Audience
As an atheist, I was very skeptical of Christians when I thought they were trying to sell me something. In fact, this was a major stumbling block for me. As a high school student, I used to watch local televangelists with scorn if they repeatedly asked their viewers to send them money. Don’t underestimate this disdain on the part of skeptics. As a tent-maker, I’ve had many conversations with skeptics who have given me a hearing simply because they respected my position as a volunteer Case Maker. One told me, “At least I know you’re not in this for the money.” Tent-making Case Makers are uniquely positioned to reach a skeptical world.

This blog has no ads, because I pay wordpress to have them removed. I do post Amazon links in the What I am Reading section, but that’s only to recommend to people what I am actually reading, not to make money.

And these two are near and dear to me:

Tent-Making Christian Case Makers Thrive in Any Economy
I started thinking again about the power of tent-making Case Makers after reading Lydia McGrew’s fantastic post, “An Army of Tent Makers.” Lydia is a brilliant Case Maker who continues to have a powerful impact even though she’s not a vocational apologist. In her post, Lydia discusses the current financial climate and the limited opportunities for people seeking full-time employment as apologists. While it’s often difficult to find full-time employment in the field of Christian apologetics or start a donor-funded apologetics ministry in a challenging economy, tent-making Case Makers aren’t limited by bad economic climates. In addition, as Lydia points out, “In the end, if we can have this army of tentmakers, there will be (Lord willing) money to allow some people to work in full-time ministry. But it’s going to be quite a small proportion of those who are interested or would ideally like to do so.”

Tent Making Christian Case Makers Survive in Any Political Climate
Times are changing and our politicians and judges are less and less friendly to non-profit organizations. A federal judge recently struck down a law giving clergy tax-free housing allowances, and atheist groups continue to challenge the tax exempt status of religious non-profits.  If the non-profit status of apologetics ministries is someday successfully abolished, vocational Christian Case Makers will have to rethink their strategy. Tent-making Case Makers will already be standing in the gap. Tent-makers are flexible enough to survive, even in difficult political environments.

My regular readers know that I follow current events and what I see worries me. Earning and saving is my way of weakening the fear of the future, so that I can make a small difference today without being paralyzed by worry about tomorrow. It really is important for Christians to earn and save so that they can do ministry today without crashing and burning tomorrow when things get difficult. Although some silly people think that the height of Christian ability is to disregard the future and do wild, adventurous things today, those people are wrong.  A Christian ought to be wise about balancing ministry and finances, so that they aren’t an embarrassment to the Kingdom, or a financial burden to others. Any of the young Christians who I mentor regarding college and careers and finances will tell you that I am an absolute bully when it comes to making young people study useful subjects, get early work experience, and curtail spending on fun and thrills in favor of saving and investing.

Wallace wrote another post where he listed the occupations of a bunch of tent-making apologists, including me. I think the important thing is that you have to earn money and you have to do apologetics. Finding the right balance is your decision, but whatever you decide, make sure you are effective and make sure that you don’t starve now, or in the future when you are older. We all have to retire some day, you probably don’t want to be working full time in your 70s at a job you don’t love, just to put food on the table.

One thought on “Sean McDowell explains how to make Christian apologetics into a career”

  1. On a related note, Sean lists “professor of apologetics” as a possibility, but I really believe we need more dedicated Christian scholars across many different professional academic fields, especially Philosophy, New Testament Studies, etc. People like WL Craig, Gary Habermas, etc. who can really impact entire academic fields, which tend to be so secularly/liberally inclined.

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