Posted on Aug 29, 2009 by CCK Office
Nigel Ring has lived in Brighton and Hove for over 25 years now. He heads up the newfrontiers administration team and serves as Terry Virgo's Administrator. His also has a passion for the upliftment of the poor and often travels to countries like India, Sierra Leone, Ghana and Zimbabwe to oversee some of the projects newfrontiers has initiated in these countries. Nigel writes..
Posted on Aug 21, 2009 by Rich Spear
RS: Do you have a particular football team you follow. Dundee United perhaps? DR: No, the opposite in fact, I was chaplain for Dundee, their city rivals and I'm not chaplain any more but I do support them and Barcelona are my other team... It's like I drive a Mini and I have a sticker on the back that says "My other car's a Porsche". I support Dundee but my other team is Barcelona. RS: How did you first come to be interested in Apologetics yourself? DR: Well, (a) I hate the term Apologetics and yet I use it so I'm not blaming you for using it! I do what I call Apologetic Evangelism. (b) Since the day I became a Christian I've been interested in communicating the Gospel and that's what I consider Apologetics to be: communicating the Gospel. So since I was about 17 years old. RS: Yeah, the fact that you've just said you hate the term apologetics kind of leads me on to my next question really which is: In listening to you debating and reading your book "The Dawkins Letters" I notice that there is quite a difference in style between yourself and someone like Alistair McGrath and Tim Keller. Is that a conscious thing that you set out to do? DR: Well, different people have different gifts. I know AM and I know TK, and admire both of them enormously especially Tim whom I regard as a personal friend. Actually, in some ways we probably have a fairly similar style on different things. I would say that my concern about apologetics in general is the impression for ordinary people in the church is that it's undertaken by academics. That you've basically got to be from Oxford and read Wittgenstein and Nietzsche, and people like that and talk like that and so think ‘yeah it's a good thing to do, and we're glad we've got some clever people on our side, but it's not for me'. My intention deliberately is to say ‘actually Apologetic evangelism is just communicating the gospel, we should all be doing that, we should all be interested in it. It's a lot more than just reading a Josh McDowell book or handing out Lee Strobel. It is thinking about your faith scripturally and then applying it to the culture you live in. So, there is no point in you telling people the gospel if you're using a language they don't understand and the best way for you to communicate with them is to think about your own faith and apply it to the people who are around you. So, there are many ways of doing Apologetics but part of what I do is what I call ‘Popular Apologetics'. I love going into pubs and doing talks in pubs and elsewhere, where you get your average joe yelling out a question to you and it's just thrilling to see how God uses that. So you're right it's a different style, it's less academic probably though I still have to do a lot of the academic work... I hope this doesn't sound wrong but I also think it's hugely entertaining! It's interesting, the gospel should be interesting anyway and I don't stand up to do stand up comedy and that, but when people are firing questions like last night here in Brighton at the Jubilee Library a guy came out afterwards and said ‘man, that was just a fantastic hour, that was just so entertaining' and another guy came out saying ‘you are in enormous danger of making Christianity appear attractive'. RS: Haha, well we wouldn't want that! DR: Oh no! RS: So David, how do you and the church in Dundee go about motivating or having a congregation full of people who are well reasoned (as it were), in explaining the gospel to people? DR: Let me use the football analogy. My team made it once to the Scottish Cup Final. What we did was - I remember I was heading off to the game and I had all my gear on and everything as well - I was so enthusiastic I was talking to complete strangers. In other words I was full of enthusiasm about this particular game, it was really hard to stop me talking about it. I use that analogy in terms of Jesus Christ. Because what I want is - I want people to be so enthusiastic about Jesus Christ that you actually have to shut them up. So my first thing is, in the congregation I want people, whether they're at a service or whatever it is, to be bursting to tell people. Once they've got that enthusiasm then it's a question of channelling it. RS: Indeed. In the public eye, obviously people like Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens and Sam Harris get an awful lot of coverage. Perhaps more than many Christians. Do you think that as Christians we should be very fearful of people such as that having a very strong say in the public limelight? DR: No. I would be more fearful of the default position which was secular humanism. There was a program "Beyond Belief" - I actually listened to it yesterday after we did the talk here on my IPod - and they were arguing that we now live in a post-secular society. The gentleman who was presenting the program said in the 1980's and 90's a program such as "Beyond Belief" on the BBC would have been unthinkable. You mentioned religion and everyone was like "For goodness sake, no one's interested in religion". Now he says it would be unthinkable not to have programs like that. So there are now some sociologists who are talking about Britain being a post-Secular society. Which is fascinating! So the Church needs to come up to scale with that. We've hardly got into the notion of it being a secular society but I think that analysis is large and correct. And that's why Dawkins and so on are so vehement and public; because they've been seeing that happening. Now the danger here for Christians is that we think "Oh that's good, Religion's on its way back". No, the primary sin in the Bible is idolatry not atheism. And when you've got New Age and all the cults and all the different religions and all the weird variations of Christianity, we shouldn't be rejoicing that people are religious. In some senses it's easier to preach the gospel to secular people then religious people. We should be very wary of that. Yet none the less we should still recognise that this is still drawing in people...that they've got a spiritual interest at the very least. RS: Ok. Thank you very much for that. To close, just a couple of questions really. Firstly, who would you say your greatest influences have been since you became a Christian? Maybe writers... DR: John Calvin's book "The Institutes of the Christian Religion". Calvin is an apologist that no one thinks of but he planted over a thousand churches. That's phenomenal. I mean over two million French people were Christians - Evangelical protestant Christians. So he's been an enormous influence. Tim Keller has been a strong influence. I've always enjoyed the writings of C.S.Lewis. But a lot of non Christian writings as well. I just don't divorce that. I think the gospel should be every part of my life. RS: Ok. And finally. Perhaps along similar lines. What would be the - this is quite a hard question to answer really - top three books that you would recommend to people looking to give a reasoned explanation of the gospel? DR: Well, again it's fairly straightforward. If you're thinking of people who are, I don't know, Times readers and the Guardian readers I'd say Tim Keller's "The Reason for God". Anyone under forty in a community like Brighton, who's relatively intelligent that is going to be a phenomenal book for them. People who were brought up religious, Tim Keller's "The Prodigal God". C.S.Lewis' "Mere Christianity". The thing that drives me more then anything else is just in reading the Bible when I see that God is all about mission - mission and evangelism is not an optional extra or something just that we talk about or something just that we do overseas. But it's our very life. So that would be it. RS: That's brilliant. That pretty much rounds up everything that I had to ask. So thanks very much for your time David.
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