I read this yesterday in an article by John Frame. I thought it was an excellent summary of the use and the goal of apologetics:
It is vitally important, therefore, that the apologist be a self-conscious evangelist, that he always have his eye on the goal. That goal is not to win an argument, but to bring another person to repentance and faith in Christ.
If we keep this goal in mind, other aspects of the apologetic task will also fit into place. For one thing, apologetics should be bathed in prayer; for only God can bring real fruit out of our presentations. For another, we can see that the best apologetic is often not an argument at all, but a demonstration of Christian love. Love is powerfully winsome. The success of Francis Schaeffer’s L’Abri ministry is a case in point: Schaeffer spent much time in apologetic debate, but he and his family also loved people into the kingdom, showing them that God really made a difference. On the other hand, apologists who belittle people, who bully them into agreement, who express ungodly pride in their rationality, cleverness, piety, theological traditions and the like: these cannot expect the blessing of God on their work.
The goal is salvation; apologetic argument is only one tool of many that God may choose to use. Apologetics is a servant-discipline. Apologetic argument is not, as it is sometimes presented, “the basis” of Christian faith. The Word of God is the basis. Apologetic argument is one way to apply that basis to certain problems people raise to excuse themselves from trusting Christ. It is not the only way even to deal with those problems. (Loving admonition often suffices.) Apologetic argument is one tool that is often useful, but it is important to keep it in its place, not to allow ourselves as apologists to be too puffed up with our own importance (see 1 Cor. 8:1-3).
You can read the whole article on-line here.