2017: A Very Mentionable Year

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2017-August

The year of 2017 was the year of the Mentionables. It all began on August 5th. I had recently created a Facebook group devoted to my writing, named “Christ-Centered Apologetics,” after the title of my book.

The purpose of the group was to promote my writings – not out of ego, but in order to raise my online profile so that publishers would consider picking up my latest book.

Of course, when one creates a group devoted to one’s writing, one has to write on it. On August 5th, I posted this on the group:

So I have this fantasy of starting a nation-wide apologetics tour and conference featuring all of the talented and devoted Apologists that I know who don't receive as much attention as I feel they deserve (I'm looking at you, Tyler VelaChad GrossNick Peters, and others (you know who you are). I would call it "The Mentionables".
(Yes, I would be a speaker as well).

I knew all three of these young, talented apologists because I had interviewed them about their small ministries during my days as a Christian journalist. Tyler was the creator and host of the Freed Thinker Podcast – a young but brilliant theologian in his own right, whose theology focused on Apologetics directed at atheism. Chad was among the first apologists I had interviewed because he ran a ministry near to me, and I got to have a face-to-face interview with him. While many have never heard of Truthbomb Apologetics, his ministry is nonetheless influential enough to have garnered the attention of celebrity apologists such as J. Warner Wallace and Sean McDowell, both of whom he has a working relationship with. Nick Peters hosts the Deeper Waters podcast, wherein he interviews influential authors, speakers and apologists. He has quite a pedigree in the argument for the resurrection among other apologetics topics.

These small-time apologists whom I tagged began immediately to converse on the thread, joking about who would drive the tour van and who would buy the snacks, and which of us was the funny one, the sensitive one, or the bad boy of the team.

But the conversation began to go beyond jokes, and went on so long, that I made the decision to create a Facebook group just to have the conversation.

On August 10th, I went in to create the group. But I made a mistake. I created a Facebook page instead of a group. A page is a front for an organization. Without officially having an organization yet, we already had a front, and people immediately began to become interested.

Given that the situation was getting serious, I decided we needed a webpage. But I wanted a professional-looking page, not a Blogger or Wordpress page. I already owned a professional webpage for myself, my writings, my art and the writing/editing services I provided. So I made the decision on August 11th to create a Mentionables webpage on my own site. A joelfurches.com/mentionables URL.

After things began to become serious, Chad Gross had dropped off the conversation, and I thought we lost him, making us a team of only three. I wanted a fourth man, so I invited another small-time Apologist I knew from my journalism days: Neil Hess. Neil ran a truly impressive website called “soul-winning ministries,” wherein he provided resources on practically every topic. Neil was a professional voice-artist, and audio and video man who created short videos on Apologetics topics aimed at students.

Neil hedged a bit, because he had gotten out of the Apologetics game, but he eventually said yes, and on August 23rd we had our fourth man.

2017 - September

It wasn’t long after we obtained an audio/video man that someone suggested we begin our own podcast. Two of our active members (and a reserve member) had podcasts already, and weren’t able to juggle a second podcast, so Neil volunteered. On September 9th, the day we had chosen to record our first podcast, we ended up merging with Nick’s podcast and recording a Deeper Waters/Mentionables combined podcast.

Things were going so well, that I began to talk with a friend from college about this new team I had accidentally formed. My friend took initiative, barely consulting me, and arranged an Apologetics conference for all of us in his state of North Carolina. Without meaning to, I had initiated the First National Mentionables conference. This arrangement occurred on September 19th.

2017 - October

To this point, no two members of The Mentionables had ever met face-to-face, and on May 18th of 2018, the day of the Conference, we would all meet for the first time.

That is, except for Chad and myself. As I said, we had met face to face for our first interview. Though he seemed to drop off the Mentionables effort at first, he re-immerged, and on October 7th, we met up again at an Apologetics conference in our home state of Maryland, representing the Mentionables at a conference for the first time.

Shortly before the conference, a fan of the Mentionables approached me. He worked for Xerox and told me he would offer any resources he could. I told him that Chad and I would be at a conference representing the group. A few days later, I received a five-pound package. It was filled with business cards and literature about the team. Yet another “coincidence” that fell into my lap as the group began to take off.

On October 7th, Chad and I sat at a resource table at the Defending the Faith conference selling books written by Mentionables members, and distributing literature about the group.

That night, Chad and I stayed in a hotel so that we could attend the second day of the conference together. While in the room, the two of us, along with Neil, recorded the first official Mentionables podcast solo episode.

The next day after the conference, Chad and I did the first live-stream for Mentionables in the car on the way home.

As the group gained traction, other small-time apologists began to approach me to join the group. At this point we had added Adam Coleman of Tru ID ministries, and had a total of 6 members. The group could sustain no more members for the type of projects we were doing. Still, it was becoming a grassroots movement for small-time apologists, and I didn’t want to begin turning people away.

This is when the Network was formed. I began taking on new apologists, not on the team, but networking them across the nation so that they could become resources for local venues, and for other apologists.

Near the end of October, on the 27th, a friend sent me a theology question. Rather than answering it by myself, I distributed the question to the entire Network, and received different answers from different Apologists. I posted the question and the various answers to the site, in a format we began to call “Question of the Week.” This was the first of many QOWs, and it became a popular Q&A format, and yet another service the Mentionables offered.

We began to expand beyond podcasts and articles, and to occasionally live-stream presentations on what I called “Mentionables Television” (MTV). I aired the first episode on October 29th. My area of Apologetics had always leaned toward psychology, and so my first episode was inspired by the popular atheist re-definition of “belief” as “blind acceptance.” I looked into and then presented the psychology behind doubt and belief.

2017 - November

The team often lamented that The Mentionables did not have their own website – just a sub-site tagged onto my website. I finally bit the bullet and purchased another professional account on November 3rd. The new Mentionables website, thementionables.org, looked great, and became the pride of the team.

While the Mentionables were still a team – not yet a network – I pitched the idea of doing a writing project together. I had discovered an article titled “50 Questions Christians Can’t Answer.” I suggested that, as a team, we wrote a document taking on and answering all 50 questions. While no one was opposed to the project, nothing had ever come of it.

But in late November, I discovered a similar article, titled “40 Questions to Ask Christians.” I proposed the exact same writing project, only this time, I proposed it to the entire network. This time the idea took off. We used the same format as ‘QOW,’ where each of us answered all 40 questions – creating a catalog of answers that the reader can peruse for each atheist question.

I hadn’t gotten a firm idea of what to do with the document once it was completed, but I definitely wanted to turn it into a resource that we could offer on the website or for distribution at the Mentionables Conference. So I approached the editor of a small, independent Christian publisher whom I knew from work I used to do for him. I thought perhaps he could offer advice or guidance. Without hesitation, he told me he wanted to turn it into a book.

2017 - December

Upon completion of the document in late December, I contacted him. The Mentionables had book contracts in hand by December 28th.

2017 has been an unprecedented year for myself and for the entire Mentionables Network. This is a ministry which has sprung up from out of nowhere. It has featured small-time but talented Apologists from across the country. At every turn, another “coincidence” has given us further opportunities to spread the Gospel and defend the faith. Despite the joke from which this project sprang, this team is no longer about making each of us famous, or “Mentionable.” It is about the Gospel of Christ: this is what is truly Mentionable, and we are but the Mentioners.