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Many people contact RZIM asking about how they can begin to get involved with evangelism and apologetics. Getting appropriate training is of course an important first step, but even after attending apologetics courses it isn’t always clear what to do next.

One practical way of applying your knowledge is to develop your own apologetics group in your local area, which is what one collection of RZIM supporters have done in Manchester. We caught up with one of the organisers, Philip Lewis, who shared with us more about how the initiative began:

What do you do with six heads full of knowledge, hundreds of hours of training, loads of enthusiasm and a desire to encourage and equip others to ‘teach others also’?

My wife, Brenda, and I had completed RZIM’s three training weekend courses and we went on to do the two year Diploma in Biblical and Theological Studies at Wycliffe Hall, Oxford, which was, at the time, offering a 50% option in Apologetics through the Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics. On top of our full time jobs as Hospital Consultant and Head Teacher of a Christian School (as well as having eight children and multiplying grandchildren) we spent about thirty extra hours per week studying, writing essays and being generally encouraged by the excellence of the course and the academic stimulation, by our fellow students and the rich fellowship and social interaction afforded by each Wednesday evening (for which we notched up 19,000 miles of driving between our Cheshire home and Oxford over the two year period).

Apologetics in Manchester

Josh, Jon, Philip, Brenda, John and Lydia

We still felt hungry for more and were aware that to rely just on the RZIM team to provide the resources was likely to deplete them and leave them more thinly spread. We had already decided to host an outreach dinner for my patients and colleagues using the excuse of 25 years as a consultant to invite them to what ended up as a meal for 120 at which Michael Ramsden gave an address on The pursuit of happiness, followed by forty-five minutes of questions. It seemed an obvious opportunity to invite the RZIM team to run a first North England Training Day that weekend, which was attended by 350 appreciative delegates.

At the same time we heard that three OCCA alumni and a Wycliffe graduate were returning to the Manchester region. Lydia Asker who, after her degree in English, completed the one year OCCA course, then worked as a Zacharias Trust intern for a further year. She was about to get married to John Allister, who after five years of teaching Physics had completed the BA course at Wycliffe Hall. John was returning to become curate in Macclesfield, where they now have their home. Josh Thorp, then a Manchester medical student, had secured 75% funding to use his intercalated year studying at OCCA on the one year course, before returning to complete his medical degree. In the month of our dinner and day conference Josh just happened to be training on my medical team. Finally, Jon King, who had been a house lawyer for Goldman Sachs, had completed the OCCA business programme and was moving to Manchester to become a barrister.

With encouragement from David Lloyd and Michael Ramsden we convened a meeting and agreed between us that we should start a local apologetics training group which we have called Apologetics in Manchester (AiM). We have had eight meetings so far (three each term) and we meet on Saturday mornings between 10:00am and midday in a superb informal cafe-style venue at a local theological college, which has been very welcoming. Applying what we had learned on the DBTS about the importance of social relaxation and interaction, we have a simple format starting with coffee and doughnuts, ten minutes of worship, Session one, more drinks and doughnuts followed by Session two. There is usually some small group interaction around tables, followed by a plenary and a prompt finish. We also run an apologetics bookstall.

Between each meeting we meet to eat, plan and pray, study the feedback and prepare. We are richly blessed with our various giftings and areas of interest and have received enthusiastic feedback from the delegates, who so far have numbered up to forty. Josh provides the meanest minutes and Jon King is outstanding as webmaster, providing fantastic adverts. We have based our curriculum loosely on the RZIM training video series. Our subjects have been:

  • Only an idiot would believe in God
  • Conversational Apologetics
  • How do you see the world?’ (examining worldview)
  • Sceptics rule, OK?
  • Does suffering disprove God?
  • Has science disproved God?
  • Has history disproved Christmas?

Our next sessions are planned to include:

  • If I was God, I’d make myself clearer
  • Islam
  • The Resurrection

Whilst we clearly believe that God has brought us together, we hope that some of you who have been similarly blessed and encouraged by RZIM training may consider following our example and setting up apologetics training in your own localities.

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