Although I believe that apologetics ministries are very important in our world as a way of “preparing the soil” for evangelism, I think there is another area that is much more important.
While the specialty field of “apologetics” often involves using philosophy, science, existential experience etc. to defend the reasonableness of the Christian faith, an apologetic is simply an explanation or a defense of a belief. Any time someone tries to explain why they believe — or even clarify what the gospel is — they are acting as a Christian apologist.
So, what is more important than explaining the gospel to people?
“Witnessing,” at least in my own mind, has gotten too complicated and formulaic. I think we confuse witnessing with explaining gospel doctrine.
So what is the difference between telling people about the gospel and witnessing? A witness doesn’t just tell people what they believe or know or have been taught; a witness tells people what they have personally seen and heard.
When we think of “witnessing,” we need to think of it in the same way we think of a witness in the court room. We need to just tell people what we’ve seen Jesus do in our own lives and the lives of others. That is showing them the power of the gospel. A nice churchy word for this is testimony. A testimony is just the story a witness tells.
Have you ever thought about what the four written gospels in the Bible are? They are eye-witness accounts. (Although Luke’s is put together more like a reported, investigated story like you would find in a magazine.) That’s all they are. The writers of the New Testament probably didn’t know they were writing “The Bible,” they were just writing what they had seen and heard. In fact, when Peter and others were told to keep quiet or go back to jail, they said “We cannot help but speak of what we have seen and heard.”
Anyone can do that! You don’t need seminary training to tell people what you’ve personally seen and heard.
I’m writing this article because I have realized that I spend a lot of time telling people what the gospel is. I tell them about sin, Jesus, the cross etc. I try to help people sort through the hard questions and stumbling blocks that Satan is using to hold them back — all necessary and good. I might even challenge people to accept it for themselves. I’m telling, telling, telling, telling them all about Christianity, but I am not being a witness.
Witnessing is where “the rubber meets the road,” so to speak. All of our doctrine, apologetic arguments etc. might do a good job of laying smooth spiritual asphalt, but a prime road is no good unless someone drives their life-car on it.
And so I’ve been convicted to start sharing my testimony and not just explaining the gospel. Will you? I’m going to start right here and now. I encourage you, that if you can’t articulate what Jesus has done in your life, don’t just think hard about it: write it down! It will help you tell others in the future.
Here is a short version of my testimony:
I grew up in a Christian home. When I was six, I decided I want to “get saved,” so I went down to the front of the church and said a prayer, which I meant, and got baptized. I’m not sure if I understood salvation correctly then or not. I do know that when I was 12, I was very confused. I believed in Jesus for sure, but I kept thinking of salvation as happening at the moment that you say a prayer right and mean it. Even to this day, I’m not sure if it was conviction or confusion causing it, but when I was in seventh grade, I knew I was a sinner and I knew I wanted Jesus so I got down on knees in my bedroom and asked Him to save me. I even got re-baptized and everything.
I didn’t realize at the time, or even for several years, the implications of accepting Jesus. Growing up in a Christian home, I figured that really, not much would change after I “got saved” as I wasn’t into major rebellion or anything like that. I went through phases of increased passion for God and times of malaise. But God had plans for me that I didn’t know about.
When I was 25 I was working a job I didn’t particularly love, but I was by myself a lot. I spent a lot of time thinking about how I could get my dream job in the motocross industry by working for a magazine. But then I started listening to sermons, apologetics talks and lectures every day. My zeal for the Lord skyrocketed. I began to realize just how little I knew and how big God is.
In the summer of 2013 I went to the Ravi Zacharias Summer Institute. By the time it was over, I knew that God wanted me to be an apologist of some sort. I knew there was no way I could go through life without sharing the gospel and defending it as something more than superstitious nonsense. I still don’t know exactly how my ministry will look in the future, but I’ve learned to just leave that to God.
Since I truly stopped resisting God’s call on my life, my whole world has changed. I’m not just saved from sin, I have a purpose. I’ve seen God’s provision in my life and I have learned not to worry. Sometimes I still struggle with wanting more material things, but for the most part, I’ve been set free from the silly competitiveness of the world. It doesn’t matter if I “climb the ladder,” drive a nice car, have a big house — as if there is some cosmic scoreboard that we’re all trying to top. All that matters is I’m God’s and that I’m doing what He wants me to do.
Accepting Christ isn’t just a single moment in time where you get your ticket to heaven, it’s the beginning of real living!
See, there’s nothing fancy there. So what’s your testimony? If you’d like to share it with others, email firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll share it on the Life in Progress website.