Why Telling Your Story is NOT the Best Way to Share the Gospel

Anyone who’s ever taken a class on how to share their faith has heard some well-intentioned teacher say, “You don’t need to learn a lot of big words. Just tell them your story. Just tell them how Jesus changed your life. No one can argue with that.”

Then everyone sighs a big sigh of relief because they thought they’d have to spend time learning how to answer hard questions. Questions like “how do you know Jesus rose from the dead?” Or “how do you know the Bible’s inspired?”

I understand why this method of what we used to call “witnessing” is popular. Well-meaning pastors realize that people are scared to tell people about Jesus, and they want to find an easy method that they can use to teach their congregation how to share their faith without actually having to ask them to do anything—at least anything hard.

The problem with this method is that it doesn’t work anymore. It might have worked 20 or 30 years ago,  but in 2013 any post-modern worth his salt will respond “that may be true for you, but it’s not true for me.” And well he should. If the person sharing his faith is saying that you should try this because it worked for him—if he is basing his argument for following Christ on his own experience—then it’s only fair that the person responding should be able to say that his experience is just as valid.

In a way, the Christian who uses only his own experience to tell non-Christians about Jesus is giving the post-modern the home-field advantage. He is implicitly agreeing that what matters most is personal experience, not truth.

In her essay for Come Let us Reason ( B&H Academic 2012), Toni Allen writes that women, especially, “tend to depend on their experience and emotional connection with God as the primary justification for the beliefs they hold.”

Now, I’m the first person to say that the mountain-top experiences we have with God are amazing, mind-blowing, and unable to be described in mere words. And it is also often the experience of God that first draws us to Him, before we have any kind of knowledge to back it up. Many people experience God before they ever come into contact with the historical evidence for the resurrection .

But it is still just my (or your) feeling. I can tell another person what I’ve experienced, but I can’t transfer that feeling to them as if I was exposing them to the flu. As Allen says “our experience may play an important role when sharing Christ with non-believers, but it may not provide the cogent force necessary to overcome intellectual barriers to faith.”

Let’s put it this way: If I’m talking to a Buddhist who claims to have experienced Nirvana and I am only able to respond by describing my own experience of encountering Jesus, what differentiates my experience from his? Do I have any evidence that what I encountered was the one true God while his experience was just some kind of meditative high?

No.

And while we’re at it, how do I know that the transcendent experience I had while worshipping wasn’t just an emotional overload brought on by endorphins, chocolate, and looking at pictures of puppies or starving children. I can’t really even use the argument that I know Jesus is real because He’s changed my life. Lives can be changed by any number of things, including anti-depressants, hypnosis, twelve-step programs, and watching “What Not to Wear.”

Telling someone that all they have to do to effectively share the gospel is to tell the story of how Jesus changed their life is doing a disservice to Christians who want a robust understanding of why Christianity is true. And it can be damaging to the Christian with atheist friends who continue to challenge his faith.

Of course we need to tell our stories. Humans are storytellers by nature. It’s how we connect. It’s how we learn about each other and how we form communities. The problem is that in a post-modern context, one story does not correspond to truth any more than another.

While telling our story will often be the first thing we do when we begin sharing the gospel, it has to be backed up with good apologetics. “How do we know Christ was raised from the dead? How do we know the gospels are reliable? How do we know that the high we get from singing repetitive worship choruses is any different from what a Muslim experiences at evening prayers?

These are the questions that apologetics answers. And no matter how much that well-meaning pastor wants to make talking about Jesus easy, it’s not. It’s not rocket science, but it does take a serious commitment to learning why we believe what we believe.

As Christians, we have truth on our side. Not the kind of truth that makes us arrogant (hopefully), but the kind of truth that corresponds with what is real. There are good arguments for the existence of God and good evidence that Jesus rose from the dead. There are logical, rational, winsome ways to demonstrate that Christianity is the best explanation for most of what goes on in the world, including why evil exists and why people suffer, but a million opportunities will be missed if we let post-modernism make the rules.

So the next time some well-meaning Christian tells you that all you have to do to share the gospel is to tell people your story, ask him how he knows it’s all true?

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DISCLAIMER: Blog entries made by individual authors reflect the views of the author and not necessarily the view of other CAA authors, or the official position of the group at large.
About Leslie Keeney

Leslie Keeney is getting her Masters of Philosophical Studies at Liberty University. She is interested in moral apologetics, and how myth, narrative, and pop culture can reveal the best of man’s universal moral intuition. Leslie lives in Lynchburg with her husband, two kids, and two cats. You can connect with her on Google+, Twitter, and Facebook. Leslie blogs at The Ruthless Monk

  • Kitwalker05

    You point out some good things here Leslie. I don’t think it is an either/or but rather a both/and. I think part of the problem you talk about is that people only ‘witness’ at specific moments and this is not real effective. Our lives need to be lived out loud where we share Christ everyday as naturally as we talk about our family or football. When we do this, everyone around us will see that Christ is not an experience or genie but someone who is an integral part of our lives.
    The difference that separates our testimonies of Christ from the Buddhist is the work Holy Spirit. This is not a cop out but a reality that we must consider. We must not think that conversion is our responsibility. Even so, the third aspect you focus on is critical. We need to be trained in apologetics to be able to answer the hard intellectual questions. To dismiss these questions is not fair to the inquisitor and does not give make our faith any,ore than an ‘experience’. We can defend our faith with reason and logic and we must be prepared to do so.
    As our lives begin the reflect all aspects mentioned above, witnessing and evangelism comes thick and fast because it is part of our DNA and everyday conversation. It is not forced or awkward as most Christians experience. Together, through personal testimony, the work of the Holy Spirit and a reasoned defence, we are prepared to share our faith in everyday life. Post-modern or not, people are still people and it is surprising how responsive they are to simple non-intellectual testimony once they know you are genuine.

    • http://www.theruthlessmonk.com/ Leslie Keeney

      Kit, I totally agree. Showing people Jesus is a combination of living out our witness, knowing the reasons we believe, and telling our story. The hardest of these (to me at least) is living my life so that people see Jesus. And the bottom line is that it is the Holy Spirit that will convict them, not the brilliance of our arguments. We just need to do our jobs and be prepared-because if we are living out our lives so that people see Jesus, people will ask.

  • Steven Carr

    Some Christians used to flagellate themselves to get religious experiences.

    Is that still a valid method of experiencing God?

  • Joel B.

    This is good. However, sometimes a persons testimony can serve as evidential material for a non-believer to consider. It really depends on what the testimony includes. Other times, people aren’t looking for arguments in favor of theism, but for reasons to believe that God is good or that God is faithful. In these cases, a persons testimony may be extremely valuable. I’ve done ministry with people who have reasons for believing in Christian theism, but who are yearning to know if God is actually good to people today. Of course, I could argue with these people that 1) if God is a maximally great being, he is extremely likely to still be involved in our lives, leading us towards Him (contra deism), and 2) that if Jesus actually reveals God to us and actually rose from the dead, then we have every reason to believe that God is intimately concerned with our lives and will continue to be involved. While these are good reasons to believe in God’s continued faithfulness and goodness, I’ve just found it to be the case that some people need an extra evidential boost. A personal testimony, it seems to me, can offer the kind of boost and contemporary affirmation that some people are looking for. Often times, our philosophical, theological, and historical arguments seem so removed from the “now” (I’m not disregarding apologetics. I’m a huge fan and student of natural theology). I’m just saying that our testimonies can reveal to people a God who is involved in the lives of people today. Of course this is personal and subjective, but I don’t think this removes the evidential elements therein. Again, testimonies can serve as an extra boost or “topping” to one’s evangelistic and evidential endeavors. Thanks!

    • http://www.theruthlessmonk.com/ Leslie Keeney

      Joel, I agree that telling our personal stories is an essential part of both being human and following Jesus. You make a great point that often people NEED to hear our stories for a variety of reasons and that we should be sensitive enough to know when telling our stories is the right thing to do.

      I think it’s the triumvirate of being living witnesses, knowing why Christianity is true, and telling our personal stories that make us effective apologists. The rest is up to the Holy Spirit. But in the long run, relying on our stories alone is insufficient.

      • Joel B.

        “But in the long run, relying on our stories alone is insufficient.”

        Agreed. Thanks!

      • David Martin

        That kind of goes without saying. This article is misleading and seems to discount the power of sharing “story”. It’s only when I comb through the comments section we see you open that up and back away from the harder line drawn in the article. Jesus taught with story. Those He healed used their experience to share with others what Jesus had done in their lives. The sharing of ‘story” makes it real and if done rightly, opens the door to see apologetics actually work as opposed to using apologetic aces to win an intellectual argument for “our side.”

      • http://www.desiremercy.wordpress.com/ Chad Holtz

        I agree that relying on our stories *alone* may be insufficient, but that is why we have the Church, where we can “devote ourselves to the apostles teaching….etc, etc.”

        “I once was blind and now I see” is still the best evidence, IMO. As a pastor, my concern with an article like this is 1) it paralyzes a church who doesn’t know how to answer the harder questions when all we really need to be doing is be a light in a dark world and 2) it presupposes that a good argument will make a Christian. I believe Jesus is calling all, but some will resist the Spirit of God and others will do so less. If I share how Jesus transformed my life from an addict to someone now redeemed and set free and they want to argue with me, then my best seminary answers aren’t going to do very much but prove I can debate.

  • Douglas Jones

    It takes both!

    In my own experience, I heard the gospel but did not understand it because
    I had two unanswered questions: “Who are these Christians?” and “Who is
    Jesus?”

    Some insisted that all I had to do was believe the
    good news, i.e., all I needed to hear and believe was that Jesus died
    for my sins and rose from the dead to give me new life. But I replied,
    “I can’t believe in Jesus if I don’t know who he is!” (I screamed out
    silently on the inside – out of my emptiness)

    My questions were
    answered by the love of new friends who were Christians, who sacrificed
    their lives (Christian love), and the good news of John, chapter 1 of
    which is an apologetic explanation of who Jesus. This enabled me to
    understand that Jesus was not just a religious leader, but that He was
    the Creator God.

  • http://hamilim.netronix.com/ Mike Tisdell

    Leslie,

    In your biographical note it says ” She is both modern and post-modern (and the postmodern part means she’s OK with the paradox).” Many of the problems you touch on in your article are the result of the church accepting a postmodern ideology, so I am wondering what you meant by this statement in your biographical note and how you reconcile your acceptance of postmodernism with conclusions of this article?

    • http://www.theruthlessmonk.com/ Leslie Keeney

      Great question! My understanding of post-modernism is that is not ONE belief system, but a collection of beliefs that when put together create what we call “post-modernism.” The aspect of post-modernism that I argue against in the post is the belief that there is no objective truth; that truth is created by the community. I am committed to the idea that objective truth exists regardless of an individual believes.

      What I think post-modern has given us is the understanding that we are all influenced by our upbringing and cultural worldviews, and that in a certain sense we can never be completely objective. Or as all my philosophy profs say “The Cartesian experiment has failed.”

      For myself, I believe that there is an objective truth that exists regardless of what we think, but that how we perceive that truth is heavily influenced by our upbringing and worldview, which in a way is a marriage of modernism and post-modernism.

      The fact that I am comfortable living in the tension that there is an objective truth, but that we can only “see through a glass darkly,” is, I think, a characteristic of the post-modern mind.

      I hope that helps. Thanks for the question.

      • http://hamilim.netronix.com/ Mike Tisdell

        Leslie that does help.

        And yes I do understand that post-modernism composes a wide collection of beliefs.

        That being said, I do think that modern thinkers have often been wrongly characterized as not recognizing that culture, upbringing, etc… affect our perception of the truth; questions about how our biases affect our perceptions of the truth have been raised by both modern and postmodern thinkers. Nor do all post-moderns reject a belief in objective truth (at least in theory) but rather they question our ability to know objective truth with ANY degree of
        certainty. Modernism asks questions about what we can know but postmodernism questions our ability to know anything at all. It seems to me that the logical conclusion of every postmodern argument is epistemological nihilism, whether those voicing those arguments accept those conclusions or not, and that to me
        seems wholly incompatible with a true biblical theology.

  • Matt

    Sharing the Gospel is not a intellectual exercise, but spiritual. Intellect may change minds, but only the Holy Spirit can change hearts. If you are available and unimpressed with your own intelligence, the Spirit may speak through you with a simple smile, an act of kindness, or a loving comment. God may work through you by presenting a foolish idea, like only Jesus saves or your own story. He may actually even use a good argument once in a while, but rarely one that is well thought out, rather one that came to you at just the right moment when you didn’t know how to respond. We shouldn’t be foolish Galatians in life or in sharing the love of Christ. I’ve heard many testimonies from a large variety of religious backgrounds, including Muslims, Buddhists, and Athiests. They all have a similar element, “I met some Christians and I saw something different and I wanted it.”

    • Bob Pegram

      Christianity had to be shown to be logical and historically accurate before I would surrender to God. We are supposed to conform our MINDS to God as well as our hearts and actions.

  • Bob Pegram

    Good article Leslie!

    I cringe when I hear Christians who can’t logically defend the the truth of the Bible and Christianity. Some aren’t willing to say that the non-believer they are talking to will go to hell if he or she doesn’t surrender to God on God’s terms. Non-believers can see insincerity and inconsistency a mile away.

    Some “Christians” have never surrendered to God on God’s terms. They think they surrenderd to God, but it was on their terms with their conditions. If they are real believers, God ill get them to surrender he rest of the way and it will be painful. Either that or they aren’t believers at all.

  • Luke Hulce

    I do dimly perceive that while everything around me is ever-changing,
    ever-dying there is, underlying all that change, a living power that is
    changeless, that holds all together, that creates, dissolves, and
    recreates. That informing power or spirit is God, and since nothing else
    that I see merely through the senses can or will persist, He alone is.
    And is this power benevolent or malevolent? I see it as purely
    benevolent. For I can see, that in the midst of death, Life persists, in
    the midst of untruth, Truth persists, in the midst of darkness, Light
    persists. Hence I gather, that God is Life, Truth, Light, He is Love. He
    is the supreme good. But He is no god who merely satisfies the
    intellect, if He ever does. God to be God must rule the heart and
    transform it. He must express Himself in every smallest act of His
    votary. It is proved not by extraneous evidence, but in the transformed
    conduct and character of those who have felt the real presence of God
    within. To reject this evidence is to deny oneself. This realization is
    preceded by an immovable faith. He who would, in his own person, test
    the fact of God’s presence can do so by a living faith, and since faith
    itself cannot be proved by extraneous evidence, the safest course is to
    believe in… the law of Truth and Love. Exercise of faith will be the
    safest where there is a clear determination summarily to reject all that
    is contrary to Truth and Love. I confess that I have no argument to
    convince through reason, faith transcends reason. All that I can advise
    is not to attempt the impossible.

  • Karl Meszaros

    I actually disagree with this article. It seems to say if you have the facts, they will come. I don’t see that at all. If that were so apologists would be converting people left, right and center. The reality is that people tend to base their decisions on emotions and experience. Advertisers have long known this. They rarely use facts. Take the blind man in John 9. He bases his whole view of Jesus on experience. The Bible doesn’t correct him for lack of facts. Most every conversion I’ve heard of that lasted started with experience. Something happens that makes the person question their world view. I think apologetics purpose is that it strengthens the faith when under attack. In fact that’s what the word apologetics means..speaking in defense.

    • http://www.theruthlessmonk.com/ Leslie Keeney

      Karl, I tried to make it clear that sound arguments and facts alone
      don’t bring people to Jesus. In fact I say in the post that “it is also often the experience of God that first draws us to Him, before we have any kind of knowledge to back it up.” And, it is the Holy Spirit that actually does the work.

      The point of the post is that experience ALONE is not enough to differentiate the Christian’s experience from the Buddhist’s or the Muslim’s in a post-modern world that treats all experience equally. I would never assert that persuasive arguments alone will bring people to Jesus.

      • Karl Meszaros

        Let me ask you this. What percentage of people do you think actually use facts to build their world view? My feeling is that people are functionally post modern. There is so much information out there that it overwhelms them. Even if you give them a great argument, they just assume there is a counter argument that they are just unaware of. Therefore, I think people choose their world view on what they believe works. I think that for most people, they Christianity as a world view that was tried and failed

        • http://www.theruthlessmonk.com/ Leslie Keeney

          I would have to say that I have no idea what percentage of people use facts to build their worldview. What I hesitate to do is make generalizations. That a person’s worldview is built largely upon how they were raised is a given, but it can be changed is an instant when one experiences God.

          In many cases, I don’t think people think about their worldview at all; it’s an unconscious attitude toward the world. But based on my experience (and what I’ve heard from others), each individual is different. Some would fit your description of the post-modern pragmatist, but others think deeply about the world. People are individuals, which is why some come to Christ through apologetics, some through a mountain-top experience, and some through art and literature.

  • Mark McGee

    Great post, Leslie! Jesus is the perfect example of knowing how and when to use Truth, reason, evidence and stories in presenting His Gospel. Peter and Paul were also skilled at doing the same thing in their ministry.

    Bottom line is the Holy Spirit knows the best way for us to make His appeal to each person to whom He sends us (2 Corinthians 5:20). As you said, it is our job to be prepared for the Holy Spirit to use us in any situation He chooses.

  • Michael Adams

    I will add to this by stating that when I teach evangelism or when I am evangelizing, I never “share MY faith.” My faith, my testimonial is wrapped in flesh which wavers.
    However I do “share THE gospel.” That never wavers and is the rock in which anyone’s faith should be anchored to.

  • Elizabeth Sacks

    Agreed 100 %, but I do think that to put this into action the American Church will have to consider what is being taught from the pulpit. I think this is a symptom of a bigger problem with our church, the hard questions, the tough theology, the doctrine, is being eschewed for experiential emotion and spiritual mysticism. You are right on when you say that when we place an emphasis on our experience, we invalidate the truth. How IS a Buddhist supposed to differentiate between the two? Or more importantly, are we differentiating? And if we aren’t, what does that say about what is going on in discipiling and teaching? (Not all) Churches today are focusing on a feel good Christianity that tries to be seeker friendly, and tries to compete with other more palatable options, when all we have to be is Christian. Little Christs. Part of that is “having an answer” and knowing what is true, and how to defend it. Faith is not a “leave your mind at the door, and turn your heart on full blast.” After all, “the heart is deceitful and desperately wicked.” This is an excellent wake up call to the church in how avoiding the “hard questions” has not only undermined our ability to witness, but our own foundational faith.

    • http://www.theruthlessmonk.com/ Leslie Keeney

      Thanks Elizabeth. In general, I agree with you about what we call the “seeker sensitive” movement. I am a harsh critic of churches who research people’s felt needs, then design sermon series that give them “practical” ways that following Jesus can help fix their problems. The hard questions ARE being eschewed for experiential emotion and I could rant for hours about this.

      Then I think about all the people who honestly come to Christ through these churches. And all the other people who start following Jesus even though the first theology they learn is bad theology (such as the prosperity gospel).

      Although I don’t have a lot of confidence that the American church will change its ways (and when has the church ever been perfect?), it’s individuals like you who will make a difference.

  • Tamika May

    There are effective ways in sharing our testimony while sharing the testimony of Christ. We use the before Jesus,how I met Jesus, and since I met Jesus method. Check out http://www.jmovement.net

  • Cory Klein

    I think the term testimony has lost its meaning. It used to mean testifying about Jesus, but today it means testifying about ourselves. Below is a link giving some biblical arguments about this.

    http://www.reformationmissions.com/2013/06/who-are-you-testifying-about.html

  • Leah

    Hi Leslie. I appreciate how you pointed out that our experience/testimony is not sufficient in evangelism. Jesus and His disciples called unbelievers to Repent and be baptized, or to Repent and Believe the Gospel. “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes…” -Romans 1:16
    Romans 1:18-21 states “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth [l]in unrighteousness, 19 because that which is known about God is evident [m]within them; for God made it evident to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. 21 For even though they knew God, they did not [n]honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened.” According to scripture then, it says that we are “without excuse” for knowing of God’s existence. Unfortunately, many unbelievers have false motives for asking for proof of God’s existence and even the veracity of scripture. It’s not that they want “proof” or “evidence,” but they want to do whatever they can to point the finger back at God to put Him on trial so they can be on the judge’s seat weighing the evidence. Ultimately, in most cases, it’s not evidence that the nonbeliever needs to lead them to God, but it is the Gospel which is “power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” – and the Holy Spirit of course who softens the hearts of those people who hear the gospel. And the gospel is the message that Jesus paid our fine in His life’s blood, and rose again conquering death, offering us eternal life, but most people have lied to themselves as well about their own sin. Instead of allowing them to sit on the judge’s seat – where Jesus Christ the King belongs! – bringing them through the law to bring a knowlege of sin: “because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin.” -Romans 3:20, and “Now we know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are under the Law, so that every mouth may be closed and all the world may become accountable to God;” -Romans 3:19
    Also, in 2 Timothy 2:25, Paul writes “with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth,” – so repentance is the key – a contrite heart. People who insist on evidence in most cases are not being sincere because they already presuppose that the Bible isn’t true just because it would be convenient for their current lifestyle if it weren’t true. Because then they wouldn’t have to change. Be emboldened to learn and share the gospel in a way that convicts hearts, with love, but not with a selfish non-love that skips over uncomfortable truths. And remember that you don’t have to answer every intellectual question a person has for you to be faithful to God’s calling for you (and every believer) in sharing the gospel. Forgive me if I am not sharing this in the most graceful way, but there is so much more power in God’s word and in His Gospel (the “power for salvation”) than in human arguments, which we are warned not to trouble ourselves with.

    “And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the[a]testimony of God. 2 For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. 3 I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling, 4 and my [b]message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5 so that your faith would not [c]rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God.” -1 Corinthians 2:1-5

    Be emboldened, my brothers and sisters! The Gospel of Jesus Christ is Powerful, and Pray Unceasingly that He would Soften the Hearts of those you share with, and would be with you to help you, through the Holy Spirit of God.

    Agape,
    Leah

  • PuritanMarine

    Thank you for the article. I think that one of the weaknesses of the article is this statement: “…The problem with this method is that it doesn’t work anymore. It might have worked 20 or 30 years ago, but in 2013 any post-modern worth his salt will respond “that may be true for you, but it’s not true for me….”

    The problem with this method is that it wasn’t the Gospel 20-30 years ago and it is not the Gospel today. Whether it “worked” is not the issue at all. Sharing MY story of a transformed life has never been the Gospel.

    The Gospel is the news of the vicarious life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is the power of God unto salvation. Personal testimony of my inner feelings or life transformation are simply not present in the Apostolic witness. When we look at the sermons in Acts, for instance, they follow the general outline of Matthew, Mark, and Luke:

    -He was proclaimed by John

    -Performed signs and wonders in your midst

    -Was put to death on a Cross

    -Rose from the dead in vindication of His status as the Son of God

    Now, you are correct that this Gospel news will be challenged by the culture and we need to be prepared to answer questions.

    That said, the appropriateness of any apologetic can never be what seems to “work” in terms of another’s response. The question is whether, foundationally, the apologetic points to the Gospel. Again, the Gospel is News of something Christ has accomplished in real human history.

    You rightly point out the fact that my transformed life or my internal emotional improvement from the Gospel can be challenged by anyone else who has a conversion experience. In fact, Mormonism grounds its apologetic in a “burning of the bosom”.

    That said, philosophically grounding truth is not what we’re called to do in challenging men’s hearts. We need to bring them to the Scriptures where Christ testifies that the heart deceives us. We are promised that the Spirit attends the Word and testifies of Christ and we rely upon His Power to turn hearts of stone into hearts of flesh.

    Thanks again for your article but I believe it needs to be sharpened to focus away from results and more toward the power of God for salvation. I can deconstruct worldviews with the best of them but, in the end, I am reminded of Christ’s prayer to His Father where He proclaims:

    At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:25-30, ESV)

  • john collins

    I would love to hear some of this evidence for your invisible sky wizard. But firstly are we discussing the loving peaceful Jesus who gave you the golden rule or the one who was ok with slavery?

    • Larry Jones

      Please read “More Than a Carpenter” by Josh McDowell.

      • john collins

        Please read anything other than books that utterly support your opinion. Still waiting on real evidence. How bout instead you tell me why all the other gods are wrong. Allah and Vishnu and Odin etc. Billions of people not worshiping properly! Calamity!

        • Larry Jones

          You said you wanted to hear some evidence, the Bible is evidence. I should have known by your cynical post that you aren’t really open to the evidence.

          • john collins

            The bible is not evidence. Or is harry potter evidence the harry potter is real? I promise friend, i have been where you are. Try ” letter to a Christian nation” by Sam Harris. Maybe the world isn’t as i wish it to be, but at least i live in the real world now. No more superstition and hocus pocus. No more comforting lies. Its actually better. Any charity or comfort i give is because that’s who i am. Not because in afraid of hell. My honesty is intrinsic, not taught. Good luck

            • Larry Jones

              The
              Bible is an historical account of events that actually took place; extra-Biblical
              sources corroborate some of the events. Harry Potter is a work of fiction
              written by an author acknowledging that it is a work of fiction. To
              compare the two is illogical and I think you know it. If you’re
              so satisfied in the “real world” then why did you claim to want to hear
              evidence of the existence of the God of The Bible?

              • john collins

                The bible is not at all historical. It was the efforts of dozens of men and stories passed down incorrectly 1600 years later. It contains untruth – bats lay eggs. It contains lies- the exodus, or that Jews were slaves. It clearly condoned slavery. 4 commandments wasted on gods ego, while he forgot though shalt no rape. Oooooh even better, thou shall not kill or torture in my name. No these things are fine. Just don’t take his name in vain…. it is utterly delusional to believe in an invisible sky wizard. Or a deeply flawed book clearly written by deeply flawed men.

                • Larry Jones

                  Why are you so bitter? You don’t seem too satisfied in your “real world”. Are you angry with God? I guess not because you don’t believe He exists. You must be angry with Christians. Obviously, none are perfect. Someone must have really harmed you, that’s unfortunate.
                  The Bible is the most reliable book of antiquity that exists. You obviously don’t read it for truth and instead mischaracterize it in order to mock others.

                  Jesus is the Son of God. He lived, died, and rose from the dead. Many witnessed it and wrote about it. What do you believe about Jesus and why?

                  • john collins

                    The bible just isn’t historically accurate. We know the census at Jesus birth never happened. We know the Jews were never slaves or had an exodus. We know we evolved over thousands of years. Where are my mischaracterizations? Are you saying the bible does not condone slavery? How can sin be inherited, imagine if we treated people like that….. i have no idea why you would think i am bitter or hurt (i hope its because you are naturally caring) but you couldn’t be further from the truth. I am happy, healthy and loved.
                    As for what i believe, if humans have been around for 100 000 years. Dying usually by our mid 20′s of some horrible sickness or senseless tribal war, terrified of the animals, and each other. Each life a hard short burst of misery. For 98 000 years… indifference from god. 2000 years ago he comes up with a plan to save ourselves from ourselves because a talking snake made a rib woman eat a magic apple. Sure the best plan is to impregnated a virgin, and have the son tortured to death in front of illiterate bronze age nomads. Then the final part of the plan. 1600 years later a bunch of old white virgins will get together and compile a book for King James to approve….
                    sure there may be a life form as far from us as we are from grasshoppers. In pretty sure its not outta this book though that we will come to truth

                    • Larry Jones

                      You make it sound like the writing of the King James Bible was the first time anyone wrote any of this stuff down and you totally dismiss the manuscripts from which it was translated.
                      Your sarcasm is an indicator of your bitterness.
                      You didn’t answer my question. Do you believe Jesus lived? Why or why not?

                    • john collins

                      I feel like you aren’t reading my comments. How is it you don’t wish to reply to my assertions in previous comments, and again you see bitterness and sarcasm where there is none. I am trying to engage you in actual conversation here. You ignore my clearly stated issues. We have no idea who Jesus was, but i know hes not here now. No miracles are forthcoming. No prayers are being answered. I don’t even comprehend your defense of the bribes accuracy. It still contains all the glaring errors i mentioned. Why exactly then is the Koran not valid? Its more recent and less translated? As soon as something is translated once its no longer pure, let alone hundreds of times. By men we know had different social and political agendas. We still haven’t talked about slavery, that the book actually mentions unicorns. Everything we think we know about this man is suspect

                    • Larry Jones

                      You say your trying to have an actual conversation but just about every comment makes some denigrating comment about The Bible or Christians.

                      I believe that The Bible is infallible and inerrant as it was originally written. I don’t believe it or disbelieve it because of what it says. I believe it because it is a historical document written largely by eyewitnesses. “More Than a Carpenter” is a short book that helps explain why The Bible can be believed.

                      I believe the Koran is invalid because it contradicts The Bible.

                      Here is an explanation of the reference to unicorns – http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/aid/v2/n1/unicorns-in-bible

                    • john collins

                      I guess i can’t believe that slavery is ok. Its a shame you do, i hope you find empathy one day.

                    • Larry Jones

                      I don’t think slavery is OK, and don’t know how you drew that conclusion. Here is a link to an article explaining the Biblical references to slavery – http://www.gotquestions.org/bible-slavery.html. I know you’ll find something else in the Bible that you find objectionable. But, just because you find it objectionable doesn’t mean it isn’t true or that it didn’t happen.
                      Do you claim to be an atheist or do you claim to be an agnostic?

                    • john collins

                      That is one of the worst, most inhuman articles i have ever read. Shame on you. This is a quote ” its not the bible’s job to reform society” really, then why are marriage laws so important. Any attempt to justify any type of slavery is terrifying detached from the very real suffering of others. Can you imagine the horror if someone said today that because it wasn’t race based slavery it was morally ok? Its freaking me out that you so blithely defend human misery on a scale that would embarrass the most ambitious psychopath. All day you need fancy words and explanations for all the absurdity in that book. Talking snakes, floods, unicorns, slavery, outright contradictions, incorrect morality, silly gender roles, encouraging people to kill others for imaginary crimes Luke witchcraft. But you guys have fancy explanations for it all… it must be tiring.

                    • Larry Jones

                      You misquoted and mischaracterized the article. The author states that the purpose of the Bible is not to reform society. The purpose is to reveal God to us and show us that we can be free of the slavery of sin. If all people followed Christ, the type of slavery you find so abhorrent would be abolished. Regarding a person that has experienced God’s gift of salvation, the author says “as God reforms his soul, (he) will realize that enslaving another human being is wrong.” Neither the article nor the Bible says involuntary slavery is “morally OK”.

                      You say the Bible contains “incorrect morality”. How do you determine what is “correct” morality?

                      Also, you still haven’t answered a few of my previous questions.

                    • john collins

                      Again, you somewhat purposefully miss the point. i love how this article clearly takes something the bible absolutely supports and through apparent word and logic magic. Now you are against slavery!! Except i am not a moron. Your holy text supports slavery. Period. It is only through mental gymnastics that it doesn’t. This is not inerrant. And i am not done. Witnesses do this on the stand all the ” oh no officer, what i actually meant was …” where in the bible does it say no slavery, or no rape without the need for interpretation. Certainly 2 of the largest moral questions of our time right. Show me hoe the bible gets there without someone telling me black means white. I thought this book was perfect!

                    • Larry Jones

                      When are you going to answer my questions instead of just repeating the same drivel? I’ve addressed the slavery issue, you just don’t want to accept it.
                      The New Testament clearly condemns sexual immorality. Rape falls into that category. I doubt it matters to you though, because you think the Bible is a bunch of made up stories.
                      The issue we’re dealing with is whether the Bible is historically accurate or not. Have you read “More Than a Carpenter” yet?

                    • john collins

                      Honestly you cannot actually buy that article. It directly contradicts the bible. Period. After you have explained away slavery, unicorns, historical facts that aren’t true, killing people for imaginary crimes like witchcraft, the tacit approval of rape by forcing victims to marry their attackers doesn’t something ever just click and say… a perfect text just does not require all this defense and extrapolation and sophistry.

                    • Larry Jones

                      How does that article directly contradict the Bible?
                      You call witchcraft an imaginary crime. But worshipping a god other than the God of the Bible is only an imaginary offense if God does not exist. The issues we’re dealing with is “does He exist” and “how do we know”.

    • http://www.withalliamgod.wordpress.com/ Prayson W Daniel

      John, thank you for your comment. I believe it is out of mark(red herring) here because this article does not deal with existence of “invisible sky wizard” nor the topic of slavery. I will be glad if we can stay on the topic.

      • john collins

        I bet you would prefer that. I would too if i was arguing the case of magic being real. Without the invisible sky wizard there is no discussion. Every religious discussion is about an invisible wizard. Its a foundational argument. Also the logical fallacy you were trying to point out is the straw man,not the red herring. Far be it from someone who believes in witchcraft and magic to let facts get in the way. Do you think the best retort to the assertion that the bible is an inherently flawed book is that its not topical? Without the wizard and the book, what’s left?

        • Larry Jones

          Are you sure that the logical fallacy you introduced was a straw man and not a red herring? I think “invisible sky wizard” is a straw man and the slavery issue is a red herring.

  • Millard Kinnison

    That would depend on your story wouldn’t it? Letting others know how God changed your life is still a wonderful idea. So basically what I’m hearing is that they don’t need to know how Jesus changed my life. Why did the Apostle even tell his then? Oh, wait, that was a long time ago and no longer valid. I smell Joel Osteen all over this and I wouldn’t give that idiot room in my garage (providing I had one that is). I’m not saying that’s all there is too it because it not. But our personal testimony is a powerful that if overlooked the unbeliever might get the idea that nothing bad ever happened to us. I’m sorry but I know you mean well but you are missing the total mark.

  • Abraham

    People now a days are more smarter….than God. Spend time sharing Gospel than debating what is the best method. Ask God, seek his ways not method….

  • Christine

    Most apologetics are not proper to use with professed athiests. You must show them that without God, they can’t know anything. Presuppositional Apolgetics is good to learn for trying to cut through their arguments and expose the fallacy of their worldview. For help with that, go to http://proofthatgodexists.org/

  • Greg Smith

    “In a way, the Christian who uses only his own experience to
    tell non-Christians about Jesus is giving the post-modern the home-field
    advantage. He is implicitly agreeing that what matters most is personal
    experience, not truth.” So, the woman at the well’s story (John 4) wasn’t truth? Or the man born blind given sight (John 9) wasn’t truth? What was the difference, not the testimony but those hearing it.

  • Matt Brown

    I think that the detractors of this article are missing the point. This article builds off of the following assumption:

    Christian C telling Non-Christian N their story of coming to faith is neither a necessary or a sufficient condition for N to come to faith.

    This assumption is obviously true. Consider the following situation.

    Person P is born, taught to read English and then stranded on an deserted island with nothing but a bible and sufficient food and water supply. P begins to read the bible and understands the gospel and commits their life to Christ.

    P never had anyone share their story with them. Then how was P saved? by the gospel!

    With the articles main assumption anchored, What is the real claim the article is making? It seems to me that it could be summed up by saying the following:

    It is possible that for a given person, *merely* sharing your testimony with them, not only is not necessary but could be harmful.

    This can be seen in the context Leslie places her statement in; that in the context of a non-christian asking question about why Christianity is true. It is in this context that it is plausible that merely sharing your testimony could be harmful for the purpose of sharing Christ.

    • Greg Smith

      Matt, can’t speak for the others… the way I read it; it was an either or, and or is best. Paul used both… Jesus even told some to return to their homes and tell what God had done for them.

      Just because it isn’t intellectually palatable in a post-modern society doesn’t diminish the power of God’s Spirit.

      • jemc

        Looking at the title of the article on hand, “Why telling your story is not the best way to share the gospel” is very instructive. In other words, your story and the gospel are two different stories. The gospel is the salvific story of Christ while your story is the personal validation of the power of the gospel effecting change in your life. Thus, the main thing is the gospel and not our conversion testimony. In effect, without the gospel there can be no personal testimony. Essentially, it must be the gospel that must be presented that would bring salvation to anyone, for faith comes through hearing the word of God and it is through the word that the Holy Spirit can use to convict the person of his need of a Savior nothing less and nothing more.
        On the other hand, personal testimony that had been alluded already is considered subjective. Your experience is unique to you and cannot be forced on others. God deals us individually for no conversion event is identical in nature and therefore cannot be universalized.
        However, your life testimony can be used as a bridge to the gospel to provide evidential material for the transforming power of God. Nevertheless, with or without your testimony the Holy Spirit can do His work in saving someone with the message of the gospel alone.
        Moreover, there may be some instances that you need to provide rational justification on what you believe however reason is limited and therefore not adequate. Say for instance we claim that “God exists.” There is no empirical and rational proofs for that because God is beyond the senses and reason. We will just come to him in faith. (Hebrews 11:6) Therefore, those who would not believe, that is simply their choice.
        Apologetic may be necessary sometimes and we need to do it to persuade people to come to Christ. Especially when post modernism argues that there is no absolute truth. If there is no absolute truth, all their propositional claims are subjective and therefore stand on a shaky ground and devoid of strong foundation. Post-modernism deconstruct every thing and what is left is all liquid, freely flowing without an strong anchor. Thank you for the enlightening discussion.

        • Greg Smith

          What comes to mind is John 4 woman at the well… “And many of the Samaritans of that city believed in Him because of the word of the woman who testified, “He told me all that I ever did.” Later, they believed because of the words of Jesus (40-42) So, don’t discount personal testimony.

          • jemc

            I supposed the case of the Samaritan woman is not the norm, however, her testimony was preparatory to the Samaritans personal encounter with the Savior. The testimony of the Samaritan woman was validated by the very words of the Savior “now we have heard for ourselves”v42.
            Furthermore, I believe it is not a disjunctive form or an either or thing because personal testimony alone is not the gospel per se and therefore cannot stand by itself.
            On the other hand, the gospel can stand by itself to save sinner without the personal testimony of the witness. However, I hasten to add that I would rather subscribe to a conjunctive form having the personal story as the bridge and the gospel story as the main. So in effect I am not totally discounting personal testimony in presenting the gospel. It has a place when it is necessary.

            • Greg Smith

              John 1 was preparatory… v 45, 46; the woman at the well was not. They believed. Had Jesus not stayed and spoke with them, they still believed. Had they died that very instant before hearing from Jesus, they would’ve been saved, because they believed in Him.

              It’s good that you don’t discount personal testimony, as how many of the Psalms are just that? Ps 34 as an example.

              All I’m saying, have been saying, is not to discount the work of God through personal testimony… John 9 again comes to mind.

              • jemc

                John 1 is a remote narrative from John 4 and it has no direct relation or causal effect with the Samaritan’s story.
                What I mean, the story told by the Samaritan woman about the savior to her kindred was preparatory to the great story told by Jesus himself to them. In other words, her personal experience was simply a jumping board to point them to the Messiah.
                Personal story itself devoid of the gospel cannot save. So it is the gospel that is essential. The story of the blind man in John 9 was simply the story of the work of Jesus and it was not the gospel.
                All what I’m saying is, personal testimony minus the gospel is insufficient to effect genuine conversion.

                • Greg Smith

                  Acts 16:30, 31; the Samaritans did before hearing from Jesus Himself… because of her testimony.

                  Anyway, good talking with you.

                  • jemc

                    The story of the Philippian jailer is a case in point where Paul did not tell his conversion story but simply answered to the query “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved….” And that suffice it to say that the message of the gospel is powerful even without the props of our conversion experience. Thank you, too, for the sharing. Blessings!

  • Matt Robinson

    Other than reading the bible faithfully, what other ways in your opinion are affective to learn how to share the gospel?

  • Timothy Yung

    We can do both. We can give evidence for Jesus’ resurrection and also share our story. This is not an either or thing.