Author Archives: James Loftin

Words That Shine (Part 2) by James Loftin

It could happen to you today. It could happen in a coffee shop, in the car, in the gym, on the phone, at work, or at church. Someone may ask you a question that takes your breath away. The question might come from a colleague, a new friend, or a family member. “Why are you a Christian? You seem like a smart person. So how did you begin this Christian thing you’re doing?” 

Some things are clear. You are a Christian. When God graciously ushered you into new life, he gave you the Holy Spirit to guide and empower you. You know a good bit about the Bible and the faith. You have heard countless sermons and testimonies. You may have even shared your own testimony at times. You want to share something that honors Jesus and is helpful to the seeker. In addition to all those realities, the Bible invites us to “be prepared.” Preparation takes effort and time. In life, we are all generally excited about preparing for things we enjoy or deem important. What is more important than shining the grace of Jesus with words that are clear, loving, and helpful?

In Part One of this article, I offered a theological framework and motivation for preparing a testimony that is more likely to be understood and appreciated in all settings. In Part Two, I provide practical guidance on how to prepare that type of testimony.


Guiding Principles

  • One Attitude. You are a sinner saved by grace. You are not perfect, but the love of God is changing your life. The attitude of a faithful witness is humility and a love for God and the person who is in front of you.
  • One Link. Realize that God’s Spirit is always ahead of you. Even if the listeners have never heard the Gospel, God has been at work in their lives in other ways. Your witness will not be the first or last link in the chain of events that God is orchestrating in their lives.
  • One Chapter. An effective witness is different than a sermon or a doctrinal teaching. Your witness should not try to cover every biblical doctrine. Your focus is on the person of Jesus and how he has changed your life. You are sharing one chapter of your life – the events, people and thoughts that led up to you deciding to follow Jesus.
  • One Goal. Your goal is to provide a joyful snapshot of the beauty of Jesus and the positive way he has changed your life. Your hope is that the listener will respect your story as a valid testimony even if they disagree with you or are not interested in changing their own beliefs at this moment. 



  • How and why did you decide to follow Jesus? In many settings, the words “Christ follower” are less offensive and more understandable than the word “Christian.”
  • Consider using one episode or illustration to try to communicate the wonderful change that God has brought to your life.
  • What roles did friends, family, the Bible, pain, fear, or forgiveness play in your decision to follow Jesus? 
  • How has following Jesus made a positive impact on your life?
  • Focus on Jesus and how you relate to Him. 
  • Assume that the listener knows nothing accurate about the Bible or Christianity or your church or your lifestyle and culture.
  • If you want to include the Bible in your witness, use no more than one verse. Give the reference and if your listener has no knowledge of the Bible, briefly explain what the Bible is.
  • End well. Stop short of offering an evangelistic invitation. Your immediate goal is to joyfully share your personal story. Feel free, however, to end with a statement like, “I would love to talk more with you about my faith if you are interested.” Don’t be surprised if the Spirit is moving and your friend wants to continue talking. The listener may have heard you but needs time to think about your witness before talking more. Peter’s use of the words gentleness and respect suggests that we will want to be patient. Be comforted by the fact that God may use someone other than you in the next phases of your friend’s spiritual quest. 



  • Use the 1st person singular pronoun “I”. Using the 2nd person pronoun “you” sounds like preaching and may be offensive. 
  • Use short, simple sentences. English may not be the first language of your listeners, and they may know very little about the experience and concepts you describe. 
  • The entire witness should take no more than 4 minutes (one page or 700-800 words in 11-point font).


After writing your witness, share it with a group of Christian friends. Ask for their honest advice to improve the witness – word choice, focus, clarity, length, etc. Make these changes and memorize the witness. You will then “be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have” (I Peter 3:15). 

In part one of this article, I wrote about a man I met in a coffee shop in China. After chatting for a few minutes, he asked me, “Please tell me why so many Americans are religious Christians?” In that moment, I thanked God that I was prepared. I had the desire to shine God’s love in that holy moment, and I had words. I was ready. My response went something like this. “Good question. Yes, many Americans are Christians. I’m not sure how they would answer your question, but here is my answer.” I then shared my witness. It took three minutes. He maintained eye contact the entire time. I ended by asking if he would like to meet again to talk more. I moved from that city soon after that first encounter. I never saw him again. I have no idea if my friend ever trusted Jesus. I do know that God brought us together. I know that I loved him well, and I shared the Good News with him. I’m thankful that God prepared my heart and I prepared my words. I was ready.

Regardless of your personality or vocation, you can be ready to share. Your testimony will point someone to Jesus. Your sharing will be GOOD NEWS. Your words will shine!

Words That Shine by James Loftin

But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect. – I Peter 3:15 NIV


I ducked into a small coffeeshop one cold, wet morning in northern China. As I sipped my latte, I noticed I was being watched. He looked as cold as I did. He was dressed nicely, and I assumed that he, like me, was on his way to work. Regardless of what my mother taught me, staring is not considered impolite in some cultures. I took another sip, smiled, and made eye contact with my fellow coffee drinker. He responded with a little wave as he said, “Good morning” with a heavy accent.

I knew what would happen next. It happened to me almost every day. I was an obvious guest in the country and people are curious. I invited the man to my table, and we began to talk. My new friend desperately wanted to practice his English and learn more about Western culture. He asked many questions about vocabulary, business, the USA, and my life. Some of his questions were more personal than most westerners ask. I understood and engaged him enthusiastically. Eventually, he asked a question that drove my heart back to I Peter 3:15. “Please tell me why so many Americans are religious Christians?” As I shot up a prayer for guidance, I quickly recalled my context. Although there is a growing number of Christ followers in China, the vast majority of people have had no exposure to the Gospel. I realized that I needed to choose my words carefully. 

One does not need to be far from home for this situation to become reality.

Is there someone in your life that has no background in the Church or the Bible? Do you go on mission or business trips that involve cultures where there are few if any Christ followers? Is there someone who has moved to your neighborhood as a refugee, as a university student from another country, or as an international businessperson? I suspect that God has already given you a desire to demonstrate and share the Good News with these people. But here is the question: Are you prepared to share your faith graciously and with words that effectively communicate with someone who is from a faith and background far different from yours?


Created in God’s Image

In Matthew 5:14, Jesus looked his disciples in the eyes and made a shocking declaration: “You are the light of the world.” We are created in the image of God. One aspect of God’s image is our Creator’s gracious willingness to bring light into darkness. When Jesus identified his disciples as the light of the world, he announced that in the core of our redeemed souls is the ability and passion to spread the light of Christ. This is our spiritual DNA. You were made for more than the enjoyment of your forgiveness and the other blessings of God. You were made to shine. As we allow God’s Spirit to shine through our words and actions, we bring God glory, and we join God’s mission to transform the world with the love of Jesus. 


Transformation Needed

To shine more brightly, most of us will need a transformation of our attitude as well as our actions. As you seek God’s help in reclaiming your identity as the light of the world, the Spirit will change how you see your role in God’s mission and the way you live out your faith. In this transformation, passion will replace dread, urgency will replace idleness, expectancy will replace a lack of faith, engagement will replace spectatorship, intentionality will replace haphazardness, confidence will replace insecurity, and daily shining will replace episodic shining. A casual approach to shining for God will be replaced by an attitude of adventure that seeks to change the world with the Good News of Jesus Christ.


Maximum Impact

Our Savior is calling us to live in such a way that our lives will have maximum impact on the world with the good news of God’s love. We are invited to live as lights shining brightly in darkness. This high-light approach to life does not happen without focus and work. Think about Jesus’s lantern illustration in Matthew 5:14-16. To get a lantern to the most strategic place in a room, we might have to string a rope from the ceiling or fashion a lampstand that can hold the lamp high. This strategic shining takes effort. There is a risk and a cost for anyone who determines to reflect the maximum amount of God’s light. But the glory of God and the urgent needs of the world deserve our best.


Communicating Clearly

Sharing your faith story is the most important and effective ministry you will ever have. All other ministry methods will be effective only to the extent that you have a clear, winsome, Christ-honoring testimony. For biblical examples, see the testimonies of Paul (Acts 21:37-22:21) and the blind man that Jesus healed (John 9:1-27). Many believers, however, never take time to carefully consider and describe the process through which they began to follow Jesus or the reasons that they began this journey. As important as this preparation is to be an effective witness in one’s own culture, it is even more important for those wanting to make a positive impact for Jesus with people who are from a background and culture far different than our own. 


We prepare for many things in life that we deem important or enjoyable. We prepare for a career with education. We prepare for marriage with counseling. We carefully prepare for the dinner we are cooking for friends. Are you prepared to honor Christ with a clear, humble testimony when you are given the opportunity?

This article (Part I) offers a theological framework and motivation for preparing a testimony that is more likely to be understood and appreciated in all settings. Part II of this article provides practical guidance on how to prepare that type of testimony.

Regardless of your personality or vocation, you can be ready to share. Your words can shine!