There is a theory about organizations, workplaces, and churches which is called the Pareto Principle or, more simply, the 80/20 rule. The theory is that there is either 80% of the people doing 20% of the work, or there is 20% of the people doing 80% of the work.
Does this rule apply to apologetics & evangelism in the church today?
Apologetics/Evangelism & Christendom
I was first introduced to the concept of “apologetics” in 2010 when I volunteered with the first Apologetics CanadaConference. I wasn’t aware that there was such thing as making a case for the Christian faith which was rooted in logic & reason. I had evangelized before, but I had not sought to give a thorough and thoughtful response to some of the tough questions that non-Christians have and the ones that Christians struggle with.
What transpired was a deeper journey into apologetics and many hours spent learning (and continuing to learn) a defence for the Christian faith. Was I the only one in this predicament? Had everyone at church secretly known about the study of apologetics all along and I was somehow left out? I think not. I think my story is similar to what happens to many Christians today when they discover that apologetics even exists.
It’s true that there are those who have been devoted to the study of apologetics for many years; however, I do not think that this was mainstream thinking among churches.
Many churches in Western society come from a tradition of simply presenting the Gospel through Scripture (which I am all for!); however, this method was particularly relevant for modernity and saw great success in the form of evangelistic crusades and street evangelism. This is the concept of simply preaching a one-way conversation at someone and hoping they make a choice to believe the message presented in the same way over and over.
What about in post-modern times? Is this still the most effective way to do evangelism? I would argue that there are stumbling blocks in peoples minds which prevent them from even hearing the Gospel or quoted Scripture, and apologetics should be used as a means to get to the Gospel (always). We are not giving an argument for Christianity for argument’s sake; rather, it should be aiding the effectiveness of evangelism.
The 80/20 Rule
Sadly, it is from this history that I contend that 80% of the general laypeople in churches expect the 20% of the “experts” in academia to do the hard work of apologetics. I won’t go so far as to say that 80% of the church doesn’t evangelize (although some have argued that it is a fair estimate).
When the 80% are faced with tough questions during evangelism, they are prone to point to the 20% who have the PhD’s and studied meticulously for many years. Rather than 80% of the church doing 20% of the hard work of apologetics, the burden falls to a select few people to give good cases.
Imagine a Church in which 80% of Christians were able to give a good case for the Christian faith. That means that 80% of the Christians who an Atheist comes into contact would be able to intellectually give good reasons for their belief in God. At that rate, the work load would be more evenly shared out and would require only 20% of the hard work, producing an overall higher result in effectiveness.
I am willing to bet that if we could reverse the 80/20 rule as it currently stands in our lifetime, this would be a confidence boost to 80% of Christians to have the boldness and courage to share the Gospel with their friends. Evangelism would be on the rise if the 80% did the 20% of hard work in learning apologetics. It would be great if 100% of Christians were able to give a logical defence for their Christian convictions!
It’s always encouraging to see Christians engage with apologetics material for the first time so that we can work to reverse the 80/20 gap that exists. Apologetics is not just for the 20% of smart people with PhD’s; rather, it is for every Christian from every walk of life. The parent, the friend, the family member, the socialite, the worker, the colleague, etc.
Let us work towards the goal of reversing the 80/20 rule and increasing the effectiveness of our evangelism to a post-modern world
– Tyson Bradley