Personal Examples

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I haven't mentioned much about using personal examples, but I was reminded of how powerful they can be within an apologetic speech. This last week my grandma passed away, so for Thanksgiving, we drove out to Montana to attend her funeral. My family has always been really close to my grandma, and when she passed, it was really tough. But...

Because of the cross, because of the resurrection, because of the grace of God, because of the immutability of God, because of the omniscience of God, because of the mercy of God, my family was able to overcome the temptation to give up and just cry. As Christians, we have hope of eternal life. We have a promise that because my grandma knew Jesus as her Savior, she is praising Jesus before her Maker today.

Everyone has stories like these that they can start with or use in a speech. When I've done it in the past, I've received many thanks. Why? Because when you share how the character or the accomplishments of God has changed your life, it affects the person who is listening. They can relate, understand, and take hope in the promise of life as well.

I encourage you...
Take a moment when you write your speeches and identify how God has shown himself merciful, omnipresent, or gracious in your life.


Category One - Quotes

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If you've sat through a round of Apologetics, you've probably heard a quote from Wayne Grudem in almost every speech. He is a great source to quote, but he's often overused. To bring variety to your category one speeches, here are some quotes from other sources:

John Piper (Salvation)

“The wisdom of God has ordained a way for the love of God to deliver us from the wrath of God without compromising the justice of God.”

Benjamin Franklin (Sovereignty, Interest)

“I have lived a long time, sir, and the longer I live the more convincing proofs I see of this truth - that God governs in the affairs of men.”

Corrie ten Boom (Significance)

“Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.”

Martin Luther (GQ1)

“God writes the gospel not in the Bible alone, but on trees, and clouds, and stars.”

A.W. Pink (GQ3)

“Gospellers have much to say about what Christ's death accomplished for those who believe in Him, but very little is said about what that Death accomplished Godwards. The fact is that the death of Christ glorified God if never a single sinner had been saved by virtue of it.”

Martin Luther (Grace)

“God does not give grace freely in the sense that He will demand no satisfaction, but He gave Christ to be the satisfaction for us.”

Martin Luther (Grace)

“This is the mystery of the riches of divine grace for sinners, for by a wonderful exchange our sins are now not ours but Christ's, and Christ's righteousness.”

Donald Bloesch (Righteousness)

“Our peace and confidence are to be found not in our empirical holiness, not in our progress toward perfection, but in the alien righteousness of Jesus Christ that covers our sinfulness and alone makes us acceptable before a holy God.”

James Montgomery Boice (Trinity)

“The important point is not whether we can understand the Trinity, even with the help of illustrations, but whether we will believe what the Bible has to say about the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and about their relationship to each other.”

Category One

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Category One is about the Existence and Nature of God. This category includes topics such as:

  • Ominiscience of God
  • Eternality of God
  • Grace of God
  • Why would a loving God create hell?
  • If God is real, why can't people see or touch Him?
  • How can God be one and yet three?
  • "The Old Testament God is a God of hate, while the New Testament God is a God of love."
  • "What we believe about God is the most important thing about us."
  • "If God understands my humanity and sin nature better than I do, why does He still hold me accountable for what I cannot help doing?"
Download all topics.


Part 4 of How to do an Impromptu Card: 6 Strategies Part 2: Strategies 4-6

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6 Strategies

Part 2

Strategies 4-6

Strategy Number 4: Generics.

Get generic hooks and or stories you can use and apply to a variety of topics. You can also do this with generic quotes… (For example, category two, often quotes about the reliability of scripture can be widely cross applied.) Also you can pre-outline most cards. Especially for definition cards… AG, Topic, Outline, Points 1, 2, 3, significance re-outline, tie back, and closing statement. That does have some flexibility, but as each one does their cards they will develop their own style. Have blank cards with that outline written on it already so you don’t have to write or think about what comes next during a round.

Strategy Number 5: Practice cards you don’t have.

It’s silly not to. If you only practice cards you have, then when you get to a tourney and draw cards you don’t have, then you’ll find yourself fully unprepared to defend that topic. Also consider that in real life you won’t have time to go home and write a card first, before answering somebody. Get used to defending your faith on your feet, it will be healthy for you.

Strategy Number 6: Anchor Cards.

Anchor Cards are simply a couple key cards within each category that can be easily used to form another speech when you don't have something prepared for it. For example, category 3 is about the nature, purpose, and destiny of man. A card within that category which applies to many others is the Meaning and Significance of the Sin Nature. Using what I've already prepared in that card (points, quotes, verses, stories, or analogies), I can develop within in my prep time a speech on another topic such as What is meant by the Fall of man?

For this technique to work best, it is helpful to become very familiar with your anchor cards. For instance, memorize the verses and quotes and practice pulling the analogies different ways. Knowing the anchor cards in and out will help you develop your speech quickly in prep time, as well as when you are talking with someone who doesn't know the Lord. The points and sources you have prepared will come easily to mind and help you answer any question related to that topic.

Thus concludes the series on how to do and prepare for impromptu cards. (Written with the assistance of Leslie Reavely. :)


Part 3 of How to do an Impromptu Card: 6 Strategies Part 1: Strategies 1-3

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6 Strategies

Part 1 

Strategies 1-3

Strategy Number 1: Scripture Cards: One of the criterions the judges will use is how much scripture and outside sources you have and use in a card. This is often a problem when you draw topics you don't have, for this try these strategies out... First, read your Bible several times a year (you're not going to regret in Heaven or in witnessing situations having studied God's word). Diligently study and know your Bible well. Second, do topical studies of the Bible on the specific areas of the categories, ie Existence and Nature of God, Scripture… Third, use those times of study, whether topical or just in your normal reading, to take notes and write on cards verses that can be used in those areas of study. So that even if you don’t have a card for the subject you can still use the verses you have to back up your understanding of the concept. So what you will have in the end is cards full of scriptures broken down into the categories and into concepts/cards groups beneath that. (Card groups are topics that are similar concepts repeated from the definition into a GQ or SA.) You can also do this with quotes…

Strategy Number 2 is to look for those card groups; sometime a GQ or SA will mimic a definition like three topics based around the incarnation of Jesus. So you study the incarnation and often you can borrow quotes and scriptures from a different card, be creative, but don’t stretch it too far, judges can tell when that happens, make it reasonable.

Strategy Number 3: Go, grab a dictionary and find a definition for every definition card. There is no excuse for not spending that half hour to hour putting those onto cards. That way you will always know what something is, and at least have one source on any and all definition cards. Which can be cross applied to almost if not every other topic there is. It's just common sense, do it now.

Next... Part 4 of How to do an Impromptu Card, the final of the 6 strategies... (Part 4 will end the series.)


Part 2... 3 Min Impromptu Lesson

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     After you've chosen your topic, I recommend that you treat it like an average Impromptu. Now for my three minute impromptu lesson. (Each person does Impromptu’s differently, bear with my abbreviated method.)

     First figure the topic out, then establish your thesis. Figure out what your position on the topic is, establish it, then build your points around it. “God’s sovereignty is critically essential to God’s nature and our faith.” (Example of one for sovereignty.)


When beginning to build your points break the topic down to it categories...









            Great people from History

            Personal Story

            Bible Story



Sketch out the categories you feel comfortable drawing from, (say art, history, and literature...) then find examples from each of your chosen categories (e.g. God was sovereign over George Washington's life when he was younger...)  and start gathering them around your thesis. Then I arrange them in building order from basic premises, to the conclusion which was stated in your thesis. Practice this and over time you’ll get better.


            Okay, now to transform that to apologetics, use the same goal of forming a thesis. For the definition cards, write out the definition and then figure out why it is significant, then build your points to prove it’s significance. (You can use similar categories... just add in scriptures, examples from sermons, or books you've read, Bible stories...) Then go about building the point verses and examples to build you definition.


For General Question’s answer the question, and then figure out why your answer is important. e.g. Cat 1 GQ 4: “How can God be both merciful and just?” Figure out the answer then tell me why that is important to my faith, a easy way to figure that out is to ponder why would somebody ask that question. Again using the examples and categories adjusted to apologetics can help you dig up examples and resources.


For Statement Analysis’ Follow the instructions, figure out what the quote is saying, then break it down, using four point refutation: 1) what he said, 2) why he’s wrong, 3) what I say, 4) why I’m right. The first two points analyze, the last two refute, it fits perfectly with the format of the statement analysis topics. This one is slightly harder to use the examples on, but the format of thesis, points still flows. Not only that, but analogies are still an awesome way to argue, so brainstorming for examples or analogies can help strengthen your arguments and give the speech a common theme based off of that. 

...Part 3 Will be the first 3 of 6 strategies you can use to prepare ahead of time.


The Dreaded Impromptu Cards...

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            It is inevitable that during sometime in your apologetic career you will have some impromptu round in which you will draw three topics and not a have a single card for any of them. If not it will happen in real life. Sometime when witnessing, or talking at church, or even when a little sibling, or later in life as a parent, people asks questions to which we won’t have an essay to hand them our answer. This discourse below is written to you as a student for how to prepare for a round type situation when you don’t have a card… here is part one…


The Dreaded Drawing of Topics

            When you draw three topics always go for what is familiar, and more importantly what you can connect with. Usually that means the subject you have done a card on being that you’ve researched that one more then any other topic. For example, for me this is the concepts of missions, the Cross of Christ, and other specific topics are very close to my heart. In terms of apologetic cards, I love the concept of the Sovereignty of God, or the Omni’s. (Omniscience, omnipresence, omnipotence…) So sharing on these is quite easy for me. As such I speak with more passion and logic on them. This is what I mean by, pick a topic you can connect with. In the situation of not having any of the three cards, chose the one you can connect with most. IE, canon of scripture vs. repentance or sin nature. 

Part 2 on the way.... (3 minute impromptu lesson...)


Typical Card Outline

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  • Attention Grabber - A story or quote to grab the listeners' attention and support your topic. Be careful not to pick an opener that doesn't apply to your speech.
  • Thesis - Simply a sentence that sums up your position on the topic. Sometimes the word "thesis" is intimidating and hard to understand, but it is simply stating the direction you are going to take within your speech or giving a definition. For example, a thesis for the Sin Nature definition card could sound something like this: "The sin nature is the inbred nature of every man that leads him in rebellion against God." (Notice: It is just on sentence about what I believe the sin nature to be.)
  • Topic - State the topic you have chosen. This is a must! If the judges don't hear the topic, they will be distracted during the speech and possible a little lost. But more than that, they could potentially mark you down a rank for failing to state the topic.
  • Roadmap - Mapping out the points you are about to cover. For instance: "To further explain the Sin Nature, we'll first look at 1) where it came from, 2) the consequences, and 3) the significance.
  • Points - You will transition into your points to build upon your thesis and further explain your topic. Support your points and position with outside quotes (i.e. C.S. Lewis, John Piper, Wayne Grudem...) and scripture. One or two quotes or scripture is enough for one point. After your read through an outside source, analyze it to clarify the meaning of it to your judge. Those judging you will be looking for that.
  • Re-roadmap - Restate the points you covered. But state them in a different way, to add variety to your speech.
  • Restate Thesis - This is optional. But to make things clearer for the judge, you can restate your position.
  • Crushing Blow - A quote or verse to sum up your speech and leave them with final impact.

Note: This is optional. You can be flexible with how you prepare your speech.



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Jubilee, Peter, and myself had decided on going witnessing at a large mall one Sunday afternoon, little did I know what awaited me.
For most of the time the witnessing had been fairly normal, people were normally indifferent, but not hostile. Caring little to them we were just a way to pass time. The time to witness, was about over, for some of us had a ways to go home, when I spotted Luke and Amy. A teenage couple of about 16, sitting on some benches near a gumball machine of mythic proportions. After making way over, and stumbling through small talk the night began in earnest. It wasn't that Luke and Amy were hostile, much more dangerous to their souls they were curious.
In under two minutes Luke asked the question, "why would a loving God create hell? (Cat. 3 GQ 7) Instantly I flipped to my mental rolodex of apologetic cards. It is necessary here to digress to explain that I participated in apologetics in its inaugural year, and the one following. But since then I've half worked as a 'critiquer' at my parents apologetic study group they host. That understood, allow me to resume. When my mind settled on why God created hell two things happened. First, I didn't panic because I had an answer, second, I found my answer unsatisfactory. Maybe your answer is something like mine was, "God created hell because He had to be just, and for Him to be just there has to be punishment for all sinners." It sounds good coming out in front of fathers, elders, and church men. But in front of a 16 year old boy who only sees sin as the type of people who kill, rape, and abuse children, it doesn't work. Accordingly I found myself going wider to explain sin from God's perspective so that Luke could see his actions as rebellion against God.
Without my apologetic card God still would have been sovereign; but I would not have been able to bring truth to mind with scriptures. Even though my arrogance when I wrote the card didn't adjust for real life, it still served me in a time of need.
Oh, but the evening had just begun, the next two hours were roller coaster of apologetic cards, all over the map, from questions about God, who He is, what is justice, what is sin, why do we have sin nature, why... Luke and Amy parted with me on friendly terms, my feeling like I'd just talked my way out of a firing squad, Luke with things to think about. God knows the result, but I can tell you, apologetics gave me a base from which the Holy Spirit could work, as well as learning place from which to discover how much I have to learn.
Accordingly, in your year of apologetics practice humility and try to understand where the question is coming from, and second of all, persevere. At times your brain will want to quit because it can't think of an attention grabber, but know that the truths you are defending are worth treasuring in your heart, worth the diligence it takes to compose them into clear and concise thoughts on paper. Pray, and write on...


Tips to Starting Apologetics

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Starting Apologetics for the the first time can be overwhelming. There are so many topics, so much to learn, and it feels like so little time. Although that is mostly true, you can approach the year with enthusiasm. Here's how...

1) Pray
  • There is nothing better than prayer. Relying on God for strength to write cards and wisdom on how to write them will relieve you of much worry. Apologetics is about God, if you ask Him, He will help you make His name great.
2) Start with what you know.
  • Most of you probably have an idea what the Grace of God is, considering it has changed your life. Since you already have a foundation for what it is and probably what verses apply, then start by writing that card. Beginning with something you are already familiar with will give you good practice in formatting your speeches.
3) Tackle Definitions first.
  • Writing cards for the definitions of each category is a great way to start compiling your box. Most of them are easier to understand and outline than statement analysis' or general questions. By completing the definitions, you will have a good foundation for writing the others.
4) Cross apply cards.
  • A lot of cards are similar in nature. Either the topics are alike, or quotes and verses can be used again. When this is the case, it is helpful to write the card that is similar to the other. By cross applying the research that you have done, and possibly the outline, you can save time. Maybe even write two at once, with the same material.
5) Pray
  • Digging into God's word and getting to know Him better can never take too much prayer. Neither can writing a speech on what you learned. Throughout the whole speech season-before, during, and after you write a card, pray. Ask God to fill you with Him. Ask Him to reveal Himself to you. And pursue Him with your whole heart!
"It is the small knot of friends who turn their backs on the world who really transform it."
C. S. Lewis


How to Write a Card

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(Thanks to Sono Harris and Gini Winslow for some of their tips.)

Research and study the topic. (i.e. Wayne Grudem's Systematic Theology, Bible)
  • Bookmark or make note of the key quotes and verses that apply.
2. Find or write out a definition or formulate a thesis statement (depending on the topic).
  • A thesis statement is simply a sentence or two summing up your opinion of the topic.
3. Decide what you want to say and how you want to say it. You can't say everything in 6 minutes, so choose what you consider the 2-3 key points.

4. Go back to selected quotes and scriptures, choosing the ones that best support your points.
  • Scriptures and quotes help you say what you're trying to say with more authority.
5. Outline your card. (According to NCFCA rules, card size must be 3x5" to 4x6")

Example Card:

Definition or Thesis
Point 1
Point 2
Point 3
Re-road map


A Testimony of Apologetics

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