In our fourth year of existence, Defenders has had its biggest year of growth. We increased our multi-media specialist’s hours from 10 to 25-hours a week, acquired three new recurring clients, hired on a part-time administrative assistant, and one of our ministry partners moved to the Chicagoland area in order to have easier access to our services and space at our office in downtown West Chicago, IL. As with many non-profit start-ups, the first few years are on financially unstable ground. Whether it will survive or not during those infancy years is known only to God. I am pleased to say that with the support of generous donors like yourself and the revenue from our clients, Defenders Media is on stable financial ground moving forward. In other words: We did it! But our work is far from over.
One of the biggest highlights of our year was our annual conference. This year’s theme was on Gospel Differences, and we brought 4 New Testament scholars to duke it out on the stage. This year we invited a non-Christian, Bart Ehrman, to present his case. Many of the attendees found it helpful to respectfully hear such a perspective, even though they disagreed with it. One of the attendees (from Ohio), wrote, “Nice to have Bart Ehrman present for a differing view. Very beneficial.” One of the locals (from Hinsdale, IL) wrote, “I find it difficult to answer [how to improve the event] when the event is so good.” Finally, one student at TEDS wrote, “Great conference, Kurt & co.! Really appreciate what you’re doing here in the mid-west. I hope we can keep this ‘apologetics’ network and connect again in the future.” For some of our attendees, our annual conference serves as a wonderful opportunity to meet with other folks who think like them and are interested in the similar issues. But lastly, I was honored by the respect that we earned from the outsider(s) (1 Thessalonians 4:12).
What I was most interested in was how Christian apologetics – the intelligent “defense” of the claims of the faith – has changed in the many years since I was involved in the movement, shifted in ways I never would have imagined, very much away from our old fundamentalist assumptions and assertions into a far more reasonable and intellectually sustainable form of discourse that requires actual research and knowledge rather than hard-core theological assertion based on completely dubious premises.Bart Ehrman, “Modern Evangelical Christian Apologetics,” October 20, 2019, https://ehrmanblog.org/modern-evangelical-christian-apologetics/
By inviting Dr. Ehrman, we have perhaps opened some of his followers to consider that evangelical Christianity is a viable option (in their own eyes).
By way of more personal updates: In 2018 Michaela and I purchased a home in West Chicago, IL that required a full-on rehabilitation. The home was deemed inhabitable by the city; it had been vacant for 6 years, homeless people had been living in it, and the house was an absolute mess. I’m talking, no flooring (in some cases no floor boards; down to the joists!), busted copper pipes, no heating, no kitchen, nasty bathrooms, etc. etc.. In May of 2019 we moved into this now-beautiful home. So if you’ve following along with me for some time, you’ll discover that have quite a bit of tenacity: I run a non-profit organization, am dedicated to a putting out a weekly vodcast, physically rehabbed a house, and finished a Ph.D. … in addition to family time (which included the addition of our 3rd child!), a seasonal basketball and softball league, and keeping up with a couple TV shows and some movies.
In November I formally submitted a final draft of my doctoral dissertation. I worked on it for five years and it analyzes the doctrine of Original Sin in the so-called Semi-Pelagians (monks from 5th century southern France). I defend the dissertation over in Scotland in late January. Assuming all goes well, I hope to find a publisher to publish the academic book within a couple years. In the meantime, I also would like to begin writing some more popular-level works to introduce the Gallic monks (as I call them) to larger audiences. This scholarly research (including original translations of material never brought into the English language) is sure to ruffle feathers in both Calvinist and Arminian camps (but more so Calvinists).
My interest in New Testament studies remains active. I’m working on a draft of a critical response to a journal article which critiques the genre of the Gospels as Greco-Roman bioi. Lydia McGrew, whose writings I follow critically, has a book which just released this month.
I have begun applying to tenure-track posts at some universities; one is in the state of Illinois, others outside the state. One of the long-term goals has been to acquire a teaching post. However, it is extremely competitive for these positions because the market is saturated with PhDs looking for jobs to teach. I have known this for many years and it is one of the reasons I started Defenders Media 501(c)(3) four years ago. If I am unable to land a position at a university or a fully funded Executive Director position with a non-profit, Defenders Media, and the money I’ve raised through Veracity Hill, will become my full-time paid position. I have put in full-time hours at Defenders and Veracity (with the exception of the home renovation project I undertook from June 2018 – June 2019), but have intentionally paid myself below average for an Executive Director these past 4 years in order to build a sustainable non-profit organization that could continue on with or without me. After all, it is not “Kurt Jaros Apologetics Media Ministries.” The work is too important to depend upon any single person to be completed.
That said, in 2020 I am looking to raise more funds for both Defenders and Veracity Hill. My goal is to bring in $2,500 in new monthly recurring support for two purposes. First, I would like to increase the funds designated toward the Executive Director position. I am, presently (and humbly) the hub of a wheel that holds the day-to-day operations together. In the long run I would like to hire/promote an operations person in my stead so that I can focus more on speaking, teaching, debating, researching, and writing. Second, I would like to bring one of our workers from part-time hours to full-time hours and this will require more revenue. I can ensure you that if we make that goal, we’ll be able to put out more content and increase our audience in doing so. So, the goal in 2020 is $2,500 in new recurring support. If you presently don’t support this program, or the work of Defenders Media, would you consider becoming a devoted partner today?
Veracity Hill: veracityhill.com/donate
Defenders Media: www.defendersmedia.com/donate
What about Apologetics315?! In 2018 Defenders acquired this popular website resource ministry. It is by-and-large volunteer run. However, we would love to raise support for advertising in order to reach thousands of people every day with content from your favorite apologists! If you’d like to partner specifically for that important ministry you can do so here: www.apologetics315.com/donate
Thank you for your interest in the work we are doing for Christ’s kingdom!