By: Ernest Grant, II (Originally posted on www.iamernestgrant.com)
After waking up in the middle of the night to the signature high-pitched cries of my sweet daughter, I rolled out of bed to warm a bottle of milk and reached for my iPhone. When my blurry sight cleared, I saw that I received a text message from a pastor at my church; it was a link to a recent interview by the hip-hop and social media phenom Kevin Gates.
His interviews always provide cultural insight. With over a million people following his Instagram account, he has a cult-like following that adhere to his words and rhymes like he’s a modern hip-hop prophet. So, after putting the baby to sleep, I popped in my headphones and listened to the controversial Baton Rogue rapper open up about his marriage, new album, and belief in God.
He was very upfront about his beliefs. It was a combination of Islamic and Christian thought laced with rawness and profanity. He believed that each religion served the same God and could be reduced to three principles: love God, love your neighbor, and love everyone around you. Because of his worldview, it wouldn’t be uncommon for him to pull the tour bus over to pray to the east, get religious tattoos, or be seen reading the Bible.
Before falling into an exhaustion-induced coma, I thought about how Gates’ philosophy of religion was not much different from the people that we encounter everyday in the inner city. He confirmed what inner-city missionaries have long known–many people in the urban context have complex, ever-evolving pluralistic religious worldviews. They combine different, often contradictory, spiritual elements and blend religious practices to form a personal pseudo-religion that suits their lifestyles and passions. It’s urban syncretism in its purest sense.
I probably shouldn’t be, but I’m always surprised by the number and variety of worldviews masquerading as truth, especially in our inner cities. So how is the Christian to engage the multiplicity of religious viewpoints? How do I combat heresy in a way that conveys God’s truth in a faithful manner? The answer is simple, but not easy. Be a block apologist! Drink deeply from the Scriptures, live dependently upon the Spirit, and contend for the faith with coherent responses to skeptics.
Here’s a crash course in what I like to call “Block Apologetics 101.”
Apologetics is “the art of explaining the faith in such a way as to make a reasoned defense against its detractors.”  It’s was originally used as a speech of defense in a courtroom as part of the judicial system, and a classic example of this is Paul’s verbal sparring match in the Areopagus (Acts 17). He observed, listened, reasoned, and disputed pluralistic claims of the philosophers.
With this in mind, I want to give you 3 helpful tidbits about being a Block Apologist in your context.
1) Develop a Robust Foundation
This may sound rudimentary, but it’s essential. Relieve yourself of the pressure to know everything about all of the convoluted worldviews in the inner city. You should definitely know about competing religious views, but you can accumulate your knowledge progressively. That’s one of the biggest pressures we face. Know the Gospel cold! Nail down key doctrines like the Trinity, deity of Christ, and defending the authority of Scripture, specifically the accurate transmission and translation of the Bible. This is your sure foundation! (Acts 18:28, Eph 2:20) Memorize some scriptures location and have a quick reference key in your bible with a list of go to verses. This will aid you in your engagement.
2) Don’t Be Afraid to “Catch an ‘L’”
Few things are more humbling than “catching an ‘L.’” You’re not always going to have the answer to obscure bible questions, and sometimes you’ll get tripped up while evangelizing. I was evangelizing once and a young lady flipped me like a pancake when I explained the Trinity. It was embarrassing, but it turned out to be one of the most fruitful experiences of my spiritual life. The Lord used the event to spark fervor for the study of the Scriptures. So, when you’re on the block and get stumped by some confusing line of reasoning, simply tell the person you want to do more research, grab their contact information, and reach out to them once you’ve studied more. God uses little experiences like this to build relational bridges and sanctify us.
3) Earnestly Desire the Salvation of the People You Engage
Finally, when I hit the block, I keep in mind that God has sent me as his witness. I’m not out there to win debates or be a theological bully. I’m there to display the excellence of Christ in my witness and to invite people into a relationship with Him. Every time I get on the street I ask God to help me earnestly desire the salvation of people. I believe that many of the people that He is drawing near to Himself are in those streets, and I want them to know the power of the atoning work of my Lord! I always pray through 2 Thessalonians. 3:1 “Finally, brothers, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may speed ahead and be honored.” I want the Word of God to be honored and I’m praying that he does the work before I hit the block.
What are some helpful ways you’ve sought to share Christ in your city?
Feel free to leave your thoughts in the section below.
Grace and peace!
 Manser, M. H. (2009). Dictionary of Bible Themes: The Accessible and Comprehensive Tool for Topical Studies. London: Martin Manser.
Ernest Grant, II is an inner city missionary with a heart for the urban context. He’s served as the Connections Pastor at Epiphany Fellowship of Camden for the past 5 years, and his role focuses on community outreach, civic engagement, the assimilation of new converts & disenfranchised Christians into the life and mission of the church, and discovering new & innovative ways to reach people in his city for Jesus. He graduated with a degree in Earth Science from Kean University and worked at a large Environmental Investigation/Remediation firm before completing his Master’s at Reformed Theological Seminary (D.C). He’s currently pursuing his Doctorate of Education in Organizational Leadership at Richard Stockton University and is privileged to be married to the love of his life, Sarah. The two have a beautiful baby girl named Amaela Folasade.