Small groups are a great setting for apologetic learning. Within the context of a discussion group, ideas can be more thoroughly examined, questions openly explored, and difficult concepts unpacked. Of course, as followers of Christ, our goal is never just head knowledge but to see God’s truth lived out in us. And small groups offer the advantage of not only enhancing learning through interaction, but in providing an enviroment of support for participants to apply and personalize truth in their own lives.
With an array of apologetic resources available, starting up a group can be a lot less intimidating than it once might have been. Study guides, DVD presentations, workbooks, and other materials offer enough scope to accommodate the academic level of the participants and the apologetic experience of the facilitator. You don’t have to have to have a theological or philosophical degree to be able run an effective group. If there is a hunger for hearts strengthened by a deeper faith and a more robust intellectual life within your congregation, there’s little excuse for not running an apologetics program at your church.
Here are a few of those resources that are available:
Foundations of Apologetics Curriculum
This is an excellent series that probably stands as the benchmark for small group resources. Produced by RZIM, the series includes 12 one-hour DVDs with accompanying workbooks. The series broaches a comprehensive range of apologetic arguments and strategies and features lectures by Ravi Zacharias and others including Alister McGrath and John Lennox. You can purchase the whole set ($199 USD) or the individual titles ($19 USD) if you prefer. You can also preview the DVDs on YouTube (for example here).
1. Introduction to Apologetics: Conversations That Count
2. Truth and Reality
3. The Existence of God
4. Establishing a Worldview
5. The Trustworthiness of the Christian Scriptures
6. The Uniqueness of Christ
7. The Trinity and Apologetics
8. Pluralism: Do All Religions Lead to the Same Goal?
9. Faith, Reason, and Integration
10. God, Evil, and Suffering
11. Seeing & Exploring Cultural Connections
12. Reasoning From The Scriptures
If you’re not interested in the DVD presentations, I’d recommend the Critical Questions series that RZIM also puts out. There are four discussion guides (’Is God Real?’, ‘What is truth?’, ‘Who was Jesus?’ and ‘Can I trust the Bible?) and each contain six sessions and are written by some of the top evangelical scholars, including William Lane Craig, Scot McKnight, Paul Copan, and Darrell L. Bock. The titles weigh in at around $6 USD each. One of the great things I like about this series of books is that each session focuses on a passage of Scripture and develops the discussion from there.
Crucial Questions by R. C. Sproul
Sproul, founder and president of Ligonier Ministries, is the one of the most prominent apologists alive today and the prolific author of more over 60 books. This series of booklets that he has written deal with such topics as the true identity of Jesus, the will of God, the value of prayer, and the trustworthiness of the Bible. The booklets are succinct but solid discussions of questions at the core of the Christian life and make a great option for small groups. Each usually goes for $7 USD but Westminister Books currently has an offer where you can grab them for $4.90. You can also download pdf samples of the books on the WTS store website (for example here).
1. Who is Jesus?
2. Can I trust the Bible?
3. Does Prayer change things?
4. Can I know God’s will?
5. How should I live in this world?
The Truth Project
The Truth Project represents an effort to redress the failure of many Christians to think consistently and faithfully from within the Biblical worldview. Produced by Focus on the Family ministries, the Truth Project is a DVD-based curriculum comprised of 12 one-hour lessons taught by Dr. Del Tackett. With each lesson tackling a fundamental aspect of life, the series is a good introduction to the Christian mindset and deeper philosophical ideas at the heart of the Biblical worldview. This is an exciting course, but it is not cheap. To buy the DVD set (includes 7 DVDs (13 one hour lessons)) on the Focus on the Family site, it will cost you $250 NZD.
1. Veritology: What is Truth?
2. Philosophy and Ethics: Says Who?
3. Anthropology: Who is Man?
4. Theology: Who is God?
5. Science: What is True?
6. History: Whose Story?
7. Sociology: The Divine Imprint
8. Unio Mystica: Am I Alone?
9. The State: Whose Law?
10. The American Experiment: Stepping Stones
11. Labor: Created to Create
12. Community and Involvement: God Cares, do I?
Tactics in Defending the Faith
This DVD package is focused on the ‘how’ of apologetics, rather than the content of apologetic activity itself. Made available by Stand to Reason ministries, the set includes six one-hour interactive sessions with additional directions for discussion, role-playing, self-assessment quizzes, recall exercises, and other memory tools. The package is primarily for Christians who already have some familiarity with apologetic arguments but wish to sharpen their skills in presenting the truth clearly and persuasively. With PowerPoint slides and printable material for both group leaders and participants, the package costs $49.95 (USD).
Stand to Reason also has several other resources that are worth looking into, including their Ambassador Basic Curriculum and the Ambassador’s Guide to the New Atheists.
The third edition of William Lane Craig’s textbook is a comprehensive introduction to the defense of the Christian faith and I’d recommend this only for a serious and committed group. Despite that disclaimer, Craig’s book is not pitched soley at academics or pastors, but is both accessible and enormously rewarding for the Christian layperson willing to invest the effort. The 416 page book includes discussion of the relationship between faith and reason, the existence of God, the problems of historical knowledge and miracles, the personal claims of Christ, and the historicity of the resurrection of Jesus. Along with the freely available online resources (study questions and powerpoint slides), the book is an ideal tool for those who want to go deeper into the latest Christian arguments in astrophysics, philosophy, probability calculus, and Reformed epistemology. Order the book from the Biola University website here or Amazon.
Unbelief is not just for nonbelievers. Christians too can encounter doubt and skepticism. In fact, at the heart of our sin is often disbelief in who God is and in His promises for our lives. This DVD series, developed by Desiring God ministries, focuses on combating the practical outworking of unbelief in the lives of Christians. The 12- week guided group study, divided into five manageable daily segments, seeks to help Christians wage war against such sins as anxiety, pride, shame, lust, despondency, and more. You can purchase the DVD set with presentations by John Piper and 12 Battling Unbelief Study Guides for $59.99 USD or get individual copies of Piper’s book for $11 USD.
1. Introduction to Battling Unbelief
2. A Passion for God’s Glory and Your Joy
3. A Passion for Practical Holiness
4. Is It Biblical? (Part 1)
5. Is It Biblical? (Part 2)
6. Origins of Radical Love (Part 1)
7. Origins of Radical Love (Part 2)
8. Battling the Unbelief of Anxiety
9. Battling the Unbelief of Covetousness
10. Battling the Unbelief of Lust
11. Battling the Unbelief of Bitterness and Impatience
12. Review and Conclusion
Also worth investigating are Piper’s excellent series Seeing and Savoring Christ and Don’t Waste Your Life.
The Christianity Explored Course is directed at those who have not made a commitment to Christ but are wanting to discover more about what it means to follow him. The course has been around for over ten years and offers a much better alternative to other courses like Alpha. Intended for a ten-week period, the series takes participants through Mark’s Gospel and raises questions that cut to the heart of Christianity, including ‘Who is Jesus?’, ‘Why did he come?’ and ‘What does it mean to follow him?’.
The DVD set (with 14 talks) – $79.
Christianity Explored Study Guide – $4.99
Christianity Explored Leader’s Guide – $9.99
Christianity Explored DVD Starter Pack (includes 9 study guides, 3 leader guides, DVD, and How to run the course manual) – $149.99
Preface: Before we begin
Week 1: Introduction
Week 1: Introduction
Week 2: Jesus – Who was he?
Week 3: Jesus – Why did he come?
Week 4: Jesus – His Death
Week 5: What is Grace?
Week 6: Jesus – His Resurrection
Exploring Christian Life:
– The Church
– The Holy Spirit
– The Bible
Week 7: What is a Christian?
Week 8: Continuing as a Christian
Week 9: Choices – King Herod
Week 10: Choices – James, John & Bartimaeus