This is an excerpt of a Q&A published in Faithfully Magazine No. 3 (Spring 2018), available for purchase here.
Lisa Fields is the founder and president of Jude 3 Project, an apologetics ministry that seeks to help Christians know what they believe and why they believe it. Jude 3 Project places a strong emphasis on questions and objections to the Christian faith in the Black community. Fields has a Bachelor of Science in religious studies and communications from the University of North Florida and a Master of Divinity with an emphasis in theology from Liberty University. Fields explains Jude 3 Project’s beginnings and her dreams for the ministry’s future.
You are a pastor’s daughter, but ministry was not originally part of your plan. Were you resistant to the idea of ministry at first?
Yes, very, very resistant. When I was an undergraduate, I told my dad that, if I ever dated somebody that said he was going into ministry, I would dump him immediately.
I started school as an investment finance major, and I wanted to become a stockbroker, move to New York and work on Wall Street. Life didn’t go like that, but that was my plan.
Why were you resistant to ministry?
Because I grew up in a pastor’s home, I knew that it takes up all of your time. I didn’t have anything against church, but I knew that church was not just at church. It comes home with you. I was like, “No, I’m good on that.”
Jude 3 Project’s website says that you found God “in a very real way” when you were a freshman at the University of North Florida. Can you elaborate on what you mean by that?
When I was in high school, I was active in my youth ministry, of course, but faith was still my parents’ faith. I believed it because it was what my parents taught me to believe. College was the first time that I had to choose it on my own.
I had a real encounter with God during my freshman year of college, and then my faith became very real to me once I took a New Testament course during my second year of college. I really wrestled with my faith. That’s when I decided to say, “I don’t understand all of the complex things that are in Scripture, but I’m going to devote my life to understanding them and helping other people understand them.”
Jude 3 Project focuses on apologetics in the Black community. How would you explain apologetics to those who are not familiar with it?
I always start with 1 Peter 3:15 where Peter says we ought to be able to give a defense for the hope that we have. The Greek word for “defense” is apologia. It’s to be able to intellectually defend the faith, but Peter also says to do it with gentleness and respect, so it’s not just the information you give out but the attitude we have when presenting that information. It’s also embodied with a life lived well. Apologetics will fall on deaf ears if there’s not a life to back that up.
What sparked your interest in apologetics?
It was my time at UNF struggling through that New Testament course. My professor said she was going to change everything I thought I knew about Christianity on my first day of class. I thought I was taking a class for an easy A. I grew up in church all of my life. I wanted to deepen my understanding. I thought, “My parents taught me the Bible; this should be easy. I’ll blow this away.”
Bart Ehrman wrote our textbook, and he is a New Testament critic. It really rocked me because I had never thought critically about it. All of my friends grew up in church like me. We never had intellectual conversations about Scripture. We just accepted it as it was, and this was the first time I had to critically think through why I believed the Bible. That really challenged me.
My dad introduced me to Ravi Zacharias International Ministries, and I fell in love with apologetics because that was what I needed at the moment to help me get through that space and time. It became a passion of mine.
I knew there weren’t many African Americans in the field, and I wanted to bridge that gap. I thought somebody could change that. Little did I know that, four years later, I would be one of the people trying to change that narrative.
When did you realize apologetics for the Black community was lacking? How did your vision for Jude 3 Project unfold?
I realized it when I was researching apologists during my struggle as an undergraduate and not seeing myself represented in the field.
I wanted somebody else to [meet that need]. I knew of a megachurch in town, so I emailed the pastor and suggested he start a website and gather scholars together to talk about these issues. It’s funny because I still frequently talk to him, and that’s the one email he never responded to. I wanted somebody else to do it.
After I graduated [from college], I started teaching apologetics classes at my church. My church mother said, “You’re really good at this. When are you going to get your master’s degree?” I told her I would get it later. That was at the end of the summer in 2012, and the Lord just started tugging on my heart to [get my master’s degree].
I looked online and saw that Liberty University was one of the few schools that still had open enrollment because school was about to start. I applied and got accepted. I quit my job at Bank of America on a whim and moved to Lynchburg (Virginia) because I knew that was what God wanted me to do. I didn’t even tour the school before I made the decision.
During that time, I got more and more involved in ministry. I thought during my last year of seminary that I should create a website like I was telling the pastor to do. I didn’t have the money as a broke seminary student to create a website so I taught myself how to create a website out of not having the funds to pay anyone to do it. It started off as a website that pointed people to different apologetics websites and also included information I knew about African Americans in apologetics so we could train leaders.
On July 12, 2014, I had my first event in Jacksonville. I did that with two other friends, and I did a few more events like that. One day I randomly had this concept to just do a few podcasts on the connection between hip-hop and theodicy. It was about 15 minutes long. I did it by myself, and people really liked it, so I did a series of five or six different songs. Then I did another series on sexuality, and that’s when I started having other scholars on like Preston Sprinkle, Shawn McDowell and Sam Allberry.
It was very random. I don’t think I’ve ever had a strategic plan. I just moved as God directed me. The podcast has really been the catalyst for a lot of the things we’ve been able to do through Jude 3 Project.