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.
- 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!