When it comes to sharing our faith with friends and family, is it more important to present Biblical facts and evidence for believing the Bible or the personal story of how Christ has changed our own lives?
Apologist J. Warner Wallace says, while personal testimony has a place in faith discussions, there’s a danger in relying primarily on our own story.
“People ask me all the time to share my personal testimony. My personal testimony doesn’t matter. What matters is, is it true? If you’re convinced that Christianity is true based on how it changed me, then you’ll doubt the minute you see me be a jerk. Because we’re all jerks in waiting. We’re going to do something do or say something that’s going to embarrass us.”
“If the whole reason why you thought Christianity was powerful truth was because I had some transformational experience, you’d say ‘what a hypocrite!’ You’re going to have doubts. But Christianity is still true, regardless what kind of person I am on that day. What matters is not how I look today, or how any Christian looks today: it’s whether or not Christianity is true.”
As an apologist and homicide detective, Wallace encourages everyone to delve into the evidence that supports the Bible’s claims. However, he says evidence alone isn’t enough to change hearts.
“I don’t think just data can be all that persuasive…it’s truth in the context of relationships. When we have a relationship with someone and then we share the truth with them, that is far more powerful than just having a relationship alone but never wanting to offend them with the gospel, or being somebody who’s got all the data in place but doesn’t take the time to know the person they’re talking to.”
“It’s not an either – or. It’s a both – and. I think that you really is about truth in the context of relationship.”
If you fall into a habit of emphasizing relationship over truth, it is helpful to intentionally cultivate what we know about our faith.
“Just don’t forget to mention the truth, or be able make the case for the truth. It’s a lot easier for us to be nice than it is for us to be knowledgeable; you can be nice immediately, but it might take you months to learn to speak wisely about what you believe. I think our default is just to be nice because that’s easy to do without any preparation, but we need to be knowledgeable also.”
Personal testimonies of God’s work in our lives can be powerful and compelling to others – because our story is a part of His story. However, it’s essential to remember that Jesus’ transforming work in us is powerful because it affirms the eternal truth of who He is and what He has said.
“If you ask me to tell my testimony, I’d say I was a skeptic who examined the evidence as carefully as I could, and believed upon the testimony of the eyewitnesses.”
“New Testament believers, before they did anything else, their primary method of evangelism was to say that the Old Testament predicted A, B, and C…and we saw it with our own eyes. They testified as eyewitnesses of the resurrection and I can testify based on the evidence of the resurrection. What matters is not my transformation or lack of transformation, but is this true?”
The more time we spend getting to know God and studying the truth in His word, the better able we will be share that truth in love with our friends and family.
“We accept human testimony, but God’s testimony is greater because it is the testimony of God, which He has given about His Son. Whoever believes in the Son of God accepts this testimony. Whoever does not believe God has made Him out to be a liar, because they have not believed the testimony God has given about his Son. And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.” 1 John 5:9-11
J. Warner Wallace is a cold-case homicide detective, popular national speaker and best-selling author. He serves as a Senior Fellow at the Colson Center for Christian Worldview. He is also an adjunct professor of apologetics at Biola University and a faculty member at Summit Ministries. He’s the author of Cold-Case Christianity: A Homicide Detective Investigates the Claims of the Gospels, God’s Crime Scene, and Forensic Faith.Biblical facts vs personal testimony- J Warner Wallace