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Tom Gilson

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Tom Gilson

Building a Movement of Fully Equipped Followers of Christ

(Note: If you want to contribute by check, automatic bank draft, or other means, please see here.)

For years Sara and I have dreamt of the day when “the knowledge of the glory of the
Lord will fill the earth, as the waters cover the sea” (Hab. 2:14). But you’ve seen the trends: seventy percent of American youth growing up in good churches leave the faith after they leave home. The number of Americans claiming “no religious affiliation” has nearly doubled from 10% to 19% in recent years.

When asked their reasons for leaving the church, the number one reason they give has to do with doubts about whether Christianity is true. This is tragic: there’s no need for such doubts. The foundation is strong. We have excellent reasons to be fully assured that Christianity is true.

But the word isn’t getting out.

God has been preparing us for such a time as this, allowing me to take leadership in nationwide strategies to equip believers with reasons for confidence in Christ. The field of Christian ministry I’m working in is called apologetics, from the Greek word for reasons in 1 Peter 3:15.

Currently I’m leading two initiatives:

The Apologetics Leadership Alliance

In July 2014, at the headquarters of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries, I led a small group of leaders from across the country, exploring ways we could be more effective in equipping believers for real confidence, through apologetics. That led to a much larger meeting in San Diego the following November. Many of the country’s top writers, speakers, and scholars in the field of apologetics were there. We’re meeting twice a year now to support one another’s ministry in refreshingly new, united ways, and especially to discover what we can do together that we could never do separately.

The Thinking Christian Connection

As I’ve worked with this powerful group of leaders over the past few years, though, I’ve noticed something missing. They’re well aware of it, too: Who’s passing along these excellent answers to people like you and me?

We all face these challenges, whether on the job, in conversations with friends and family, or in our communities. I know you've noticed how quickly it’s intensifying. Youth are walking away from Christianity in large numbers because of unanswered questions. The percentage of religiously unaffiliated persons has doubled in recent years.

Wouldn’t it be great if there were at least one person in church who could help coach, train, and equip parents and youth — everyone, actually! — in reasons for confidence in Christ and in His way?

There is such a person. Not in every church, but many if not most.

But there’s still something missing.

Potential Leaders Needing  Training and Encouragemennt

God has placed individuals in churches everywhere who have a special interest in understanding and teaching reasons for confidence in Christianity. Usually there's only one or two in each church. They have powerful potential to help build and strengthen their fellow church members, but they’re often disconnected, and not necessarily equipped for effective church ministry.

In all the leadership meetings I’ve attended, I’ve never found anyone has given focused thought to helping them connect and minister more effectively. Until now.

The Thinking Christian Connection

Lately I’ve been able to meet with a dozen or so such people in the Cincinnati/Dayton area. One of them is a local church leader hoping to bring an apologetics conference to Dayton. He’s been working mostly alone. Another goes to the bus station in Cincinnati to share Christ, and to train other people in how to share their faith as well. He feels alone.

It’s a common situation: they’re solid Christians who want to have a ministry, but they’ve been going it alone. They need encouragement even more than the national-level leaders whose books and talks they love to study. They need to learn how to break through their own barriers, and barriers in their local fellowships, to have stronger ministries with other believers.

Discipleship In Action

So we’re forming a group here called the Thinking Christian Connection for mutual encouragement and learning. It’s really just discipleship in action, with a particular group of people: people whose ministry of teaching and encouragment could spread throughout their churches and beyond.

What About Pastors?

There are three pastors in our local group. They need encouragement, too! I’ve had other pastors tell me they’d rather have another church member — someone with more time to study — take leadership in this part of the church ministry.

Local and More

Even as I’ve begun this group I’ve been hearing from Christians in other parts of the country wanting the same kind of encouragment. I’ve had inquiries from Indianapolis and Milwaukee. I belive I’ve identified a qualified leader to start a group like this in southern California (that’s in process this week). The concept is simple and it could grow. There’s real potential for this idea to have a strengthening impact on churches everywhere.

Your Help Is Needed

If you’re interested in joining or starting a group, the place to begin is at the Thinking Christian Connection website. If not, still I think you can see the potential of this ministry to build and equip Christians for the unique challenges ahead of us.

The ministry is poised for rapid growth, but I need resources. My work as an editor for the Christian website The Stream is a three-quarter-time job, leaving time for this other ministry but supplying only three-quarters salary and none of the expenses the Thinking Christian Connection incurs.

So I'm grateful for your investment in this ministry. It's helping significantly to change individuals who can change churches that can change the world.