California, a Cowbell, and Apologetics

We recently returned from a wonderful time of ministry in California where I again had the opportunity to have an “Isaiah 53” table on Venice Beach. Open tables of this sort are allowed on Venice Beach for free, which is one of the things I appreciate as someone involved in a nonprofit venture (or faith missions, in other words). For those who are unaware, an “Isaiah 53” table is a table on which I place literature pertaining to Isaiah 53, other Gospel tracts, and a laminated copy of Isaiah 53 written in both Hebrew and English. One fun part of this Venice Beach outreach is that we actually get some interesting camera footage of me talking with people and answering their questions. This means that the edifying conversations we have in outreach can further edify viewers on the internet. Sometimes, we might also capture and share some funny moments, as was the case at this past outreach.

Last Saturday morning while we were there talking to folks and generally enjoying ourselves, a band composed mostly of homeless people beating all kinds of drums and percussion instruments was playing near us. They had a propensity for loudly overusing a cowbell as a main  instrument. They were making a good deal of noise, which finally drew the negative attention of one of the beach bungalow owners nearby. Needless to say, this concerned citizen decided to call the police. The policeman that came over to talk to them was extremely cordial and polite. He decided to tell them one of the major uses for the cowbell (any of my friends reading this who live in farm country or in Vermont will get a real chuckle): the officer explained that the purpose of a cowbell is for people to ring it in order to call cows to come into the barn. In other words, he wanted the band to think of a cowbell as a sort of doorbell for cows. I grew up as a city boy in the suburbs of Chicago, but even I know that this is not the correct use of a cowbell. A cowbell is put around the neck of a cow so that the farmer can find the cow, not so that the cow can answer the door. None of the band members had ever been involved in the agricultural sector nor lived in a rural environment (at least not from what I could tell), so they simply believed what the policeman was telling them. We who knew the truth stood there staring at him with looks of disbelief on our faces, trying not to laugh. Life is full of sermon and blog illustrations, and sometimes God just drops one into your lap that is too good not to share.  You may ask what the point of this story is other than giving us all a good laugh, but this particular story contains a little nugget of truth about the value of apologetics.

Now, faith in the ideas of others can be a good thing or it can be a bad thing. Apologetics fits into this in the sense that many unbelievers have misconceptions about the Christian faith and the theology of the Scriptures, much like the policeman and the band did about the cowbell. Often they go to places like the web, which contains both valid and invalid information. One of the jobs of the apologist in making the Christian worldview winsome is to deal with some of these misconceptions (or shall we say misused cowbells). There are those that question the value of apologetics, but often before you can share the gospel you have to remove the false impressions so that they can hear the genuine gospel. So, as I continue in the ministry I realize that I will be dealing often with people’s false understandings. As you read this, please consider that those of us who are involved with teaching the Scriptures, apologetics and sharing the gospel are reliant upon the rest of the body of Christ for support. Your faithfulness in partnering with them is what allows them to remove the false cowbells from the ears of others so that the gospel might truly be heard.