Why “Just Telling Your Story” Is NOT the Best Way to Share the Gospel
by Leslie Keeney
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.”
And 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—at all. First of all, 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 basing his argument 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 agreeing that what matters most is personal experience, not truth.
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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 describe in mere words. And it is also often (but not always) the experience of God that first draws us to Him, before we have any real knowledge to back it up.
But it is still just a feeling. I can tell another person what I’ve experienced, but I can’t transfer that feeling to them as if I was exposing someone 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.”
I will go even further and say that it will almost never provide the cogent force necessary to overcome intellectual barriers…
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