by John Ellis
This time last week, I was driving south on I95 after conducting encouraging and spiritually profitable Interactive Apologetics sessions at Emmanuel Bible Church in Mauldin, SC, and Greenville Classical Academy in Simpsonville, SC (click here to read in more detail what Interactive Apologetics is). Reflecting on the sessions as I drove, I praised God for His kindness and prayed that Christ’s Spirit would continue to bring forth fruit in the hearts and lives of those who attended.Besides working with EBC’s teens, including a two part session on transgenderism, I had the privilege of conducting the session with adults for the first time. Ever since I began doing this, I’ve wanted to try my interactive apologetics approach with adults. To be honest, I wasn’t sure how it would go with a room full of adults, many of them sporting seminary degrees. If my atheistic arguments are quickly stymied by sophisticated apologetic arguments, what would I have to talk about for two-plus hours? Thankfully, and to my relief, I was encouraged to discover that Interactive Apologetics works well with adults and I heard either directly or indirectly from almost all of the approximately 30 people in attendance that they were encouraged and were renewed in their zeal to make disciples. On a lesser yet still important note, they were also entertained. (I’m open to suggestions for recommendations for a name other than Interactive Apologetics). My two days in the classrooms at Greenville Classical Academy were also a tremendous blessing for me. The faculty was welcoming and appreciative and the students were great. We had a lot of fun as we explored our faith and better ways to communicate the good news of Jesus Christ via apologetics. By God’s grace, I continue to hear good reports from my time there. One teacher at the school is already in the planning stages to have me come back this Spring. Moving forward, we are focused on building this and booking more sessions. To that end, a new website will soon appear along with various promo material. I have also been encouraged to attend T4G this April with the goal of networking. On the front end, as we get going, I’ll be doing much of the work myself with the goal of hiring an actual graphic designer and web designer to create better materials. Below, I’ve included the content of an initial one-sheet, which will most likely go through some editing over the next couple of days. I have heard from several professor and pastor friends that they would love to help me promote this, and the one-sheet will be my way of helping them do so.For the next month or two, much of my time writing will be devoted to finish re-writing my memoir and finishing my one-man play Boxing God. I have finally wrapped my brain around the notion of self-publishing. While I believe that I could eventually find a publisher for A Godless Fundamentalist, the book’s value is mainly twofold: 1. Friends and family continue to ask me to hurry and publish it so that they can put it in the hands of others. 2. My story is an integral part of Interactive Apologetics, and it will be helpful to have my memoir available for those who attend the sessions. Likewise, Boxing God is my story of rebellion told through my voice before I repented of my sins and placed my faith in Christ. While Interactive Apologetics is designed for Christians, Boxing God has unbelievers as its main audience and I’d like to be able to package the two together.As promised, the content for the initial one-sheet is below. We are still waiting on some student testimonials before finishing it and sending it out. If you are interested in helping promote Interactive Apologetics or think your church, Christian school, or homeschool group could benefit from it, please let me know and I’ll send you the one-sheet when it’s finished.
What It Is: For many Christians, the thought of Apologetics conjures up images of debate stages, seminary professors facing off with credentialed atheists, and weighty books filled with unfamiliar words like ontology and epistemology. Those of us who love and appreciate Apologetics fill our minds with Aquinas’ Five Ways and a variety of other classical and evidentialist apologetic arguments. And those things, the common approaches and assumptions about Christian Apologetics, are right and good gifts to Christ’s Church. The reality is, though, that the majority of us will never engage an atheist on a debate stage, nor will we dialogue with skeptics in venues that allow for tidy presentations of apologetic arguments. For most of us, our apologetic and gospel conversations with skeptics and unbelievers will be messy and frustrating. This is where Interactive Apologetics and John Ellis steps in.
Using his experience as an atheist and the skills learned as a professional actor, John engages fellow Christians in a “real life” conversation about Christianity and God. Playing the role of an atheist, he asks for help in finding answers to the doubts and questions he has. During the free-flowing conversation that follows, John challenges the participants with a variety of atheistic and skeptical arguments. Upon the conclusion of the initial discussion, John goes back over it, helping the participants find more productive ways to lovingly engage unbelievers in conversation while obeying Christ’s command to make disciples. During the second half, better answers and apologetic arguments are discussed, but the main thrust for the event is how we engage atheists and skeptics.
Meet John Ellis: Raised in a Christian home by his pastor father and Christian schoolteacher mother, John rejected God from a very young age. After high school, he attended Bob Jones University where he studied theatre. Entering adulthood as an atheist, he focused his attention on pursuing his theatre career and finding meaning in progressive activism. By God’s grace, John was brought to the end of himself through a variety of means. In July of 2004, just a couple of weeks shy of his 29th birthday, John repented of his sins and placed his faith in Jesus Christ. He currently lives in the Orlando area with his wife and their two children. Prior to their move to sunny Florida, John was privileged to serve as a pastor at Arlington Baptist Church in Arlington, VA.
Testimonials: “John Ellis’s ministry to our teens was invaluable. His interactive role-playing was like submitting our youth group to a theological and apologetic examination. He helped me diagnose some key problem areas and now I am creating weekly lessons that address what our kids need to be spiritually healthy.” Michael Murphy, Youth Group Leader Emmanuel Bible Church in Mauldin, SC
“As an apologetics and theology teacher, I cannot recommend John Ellis highly enough. John, first of all, did an outstanding job portraying an atheist. Most of my students were fully engaged the entire class. Second, he helped students grapple with the intellectual challenges to the faith. Third — and most importantly — he helped students see that the spiritual dynamic of the conversation is the most important aspect of dialogue with those with whom we disagree. Making disciples, as he says, is far more important than winning arguments.” Dr. Russell Freeman, PhD., Upper School Principal and Bible Department Chair at Greenville Classical Academy in Simpsonville, SC
“I was uncertain how my middle schoolers would interact with someone they thought really was an atheist. John tailored the subject matter and tone of his interactive role-playing to fit my students perfectly. They felt comfortable enough with him to defend their faith while having some gaps in their understanding revealed. I can now follow up with them to encourage and equip them for future encounters with people who have questions about Christianity.” Michael Murphy, M.Ed., Bible Teacher at Greenville Classical Academy in Simpsonville, SC
“Interactive Apologetics engages the head and the heart in a creative approach to difficult subjects and conversations. John uses his experience as an actor and a former atheist to draw the audience into a meaningful dialogue on such topics as the problem of evil and the veracity of the Bible. The unique format allows John not only to role-play realistic encounters with atheists, but also to share his own story and offer loving, truth-filled guidance in the realm of apologetic conversations. John has structured the event to be practical and encouraging for anyone, with an emphasis on making disciples, not on winning arguments.” Brian Pinner, Worship Leader at Emmanuel Bible Church in Mauldin, SC
Info/Booking: Please contact John Ellis at firstname.lastname@example.org or 703-989-6399 with any questions or booking inquiries.