Conference Speakers Dr. Richard Land and Chip Ingram Get to the Heart of Apologetics at Southern Evangelical Seminary Event
80 Experts at 25th Annual Conference Helped 3,000 Attendees to Truly Know Who God Is in a Culture That Has Experienced a Seismic Shift
CHARLOTTE, N.C.—Their expertise was varied and their background diverse, but the 80 speakers at Southern Evangelical Seminary’s (SES) 25th annual National Conference on Christian Apologetics (NCCA) had a common goal—to help Christians defend their faith in a sometimes-hostile culture.
Two of the many speakers were SES President Dr. Richard Land and pastor and author Chip Ingram, who joined two additional keynotes: Ravi Zacharias and Josh McDowell. The conference welcomed nearly 3,000 attendees to Charlotte for 102 inspiring sessions over two days earlier this month.
Land said the focus of the conference, which had the theme of “The God Who Is,” was to enable the faithful to defend their beliefs and provide answers about Christianity in a culture that had shifted dramatically.
“There’s an old African proverb that says, ‘Tell me and I’ll listen, show me and I’ll believe,’” Land said. “Increasingly among the younger generation, when you show them how much you care, then they are ready to listen to what you believe. Younger Americans are looking for authenticity. If you say you believe this, then does that coincide with how you behave?
“In terms of Christianity and social justice, Matthew 5:13-16 tells us there’s no room for withdrawing from society and ignoring the injustices in society,” he continued. “You can’t read that passage and come to the conclusion that the Lord wants us to be so heavenly minded that we’re no earthly good. Salt has to touch that which it will preserve and that which it will disinfect. Jesus is calling Christians to be a moral disinfectant and a moral preservative in society. He is also telling us to let our light shine in the world and before men. That means we are supposed to live in the world and preach the Word. We must be close enough to the world that the world can see the light and feel the heat. The salt of the law can change actions, behaviors and habits, but only the light of the Gospel can change attitudes, beliefs and hearts.”
Land added, for example, that it is blasphemous to feed the hungry and not tell them about the Bread of Life. Or to house the homeless and not tell them that in the Father’s house are many rooms. Or to clothe the naked and not tell them about the full armor of God. Or to give a drink to the thirsty and not tell them about the Living Water.
“It’s not a spiritual Gospel or a social Gospel,” Land said. “It’s a whole Gospel for a whole people. God calls us to do both. And I’m absolutely convinced that Christians can walk and chew gum at the same time. The primary focus must always be that the Gospel of Jesus Christ can change hearts, transform lives and bring eternal life. But we also must be salt and light in society. God will lay different burdens on different Christians’ hearts as to where He would have them apply the majority of their energy on seeking to be obedient to the Great Commission and the call to be salt and light. But the church’s ultimate commitment must be to the Gospel of salvation, and we must constantly guard against ‘mission drift’ in the church.”
In his talk, Ingram, who is president and teaching pastor at Living on the Edge, an international, multi-media teaching and discipleship ministry reaching more than a million people a week, also touched upon some of these same concepts. For instance, he said Christians should perhaps rethink apologetics for the 21st century.
“We have to have great answers for the most difficult questions because our faith literally will hold up to that,” Ingram said in his address. “We’re living in a world where all the rules have changed; the culture has shifted. I firmly and clearly believe we have the right answers … but maybe we need to change the paradigm, and we need to put the wine of the right answers into a new wineskin to be effective in our day.”
Ingram, the best-selling author of “Good to Great in God’s Eyes” and “The Real God,” focused on the thesis that the nation has seen a tectonic shift in the culture that has impacted the church. Many witness that their children and grandchildren heard the right things, attended good schools and had the right role models. But once they went away to college, they no longer shared their family’s faith, values or morality. This development, Ingram said, then begs the question: “What in the world happened?”
Ingram also noted that in California, where he primarily ministers, 70 percent of the population are “nones,” with no religious affiliation; the figure is even higher for those 30 and under, he reported. Land added that just 3 percent of those in Ingram’s Silicon Valley area attend church services.
“Chip Ingram is a missionary and a prophet from the future,” Land said. “Unless God sends a mighty awakening, his California will be the state of the U.S. in 10 years.