Stories of life change are a powerful and indisputable way to speak the truth to people who are skeptical about faith.
If you had to choose between a chicken sandwich from Chick-fil-A or Popeyes, which one would you choose? If you’re a coffee person and you had to choose coffee from Dunkin’ or Starbucks, which one would you pick? What about Apple versus Microsoft products?
I’m sure we’ve all had those moments where we found ourselves arguing with a family member or friend over why we like a product, brand or store over theirs.
Have you ever made the connection between the products, brands, stores or businesses we defend with our calling as Christians to be Christ’s witnesses?
To show the parallel, let’s begin by thinking about the process.
First, at some point in your life you had a need or want that that thing met. In most cases you knew you had that need or want, but in some cases you may have stumbled upon it and it met a need or want you didn’t even know you had. In any case, whatever it is that you defend or testify about has satisfied some kind of longing or desire in your life.
Second, you had to hear about it. Maybe you are one of the very few people on planet earth who still watches commercials and you saw an advertisement that enticed you. Maybe a co-worker told you about this new place you need to try. Or maybe you were reading reviews on the internet. Regardless, you came across an evangelist or a witness who testified to you about this thing that you were looking for to meet a need or want in your life.
Third, after experiencing it you begin to evaluate and assess it. Typically, we’re evaluating things like quality, service, effectiveness, cost, etc. In addition, our evaluation is also built upon comparison. Comparison might occur through our own personal experience with something. Furthermore, evaluating and assessing might include looking at reviews and what other people have to say.
Fourth, if you’ve gone through the first three steps of the process, the last step would be preference and loyalty. Once you personally experience something and assess its viability and effectiveness at meeting your need or want—and you conclude it does—you then become loyal to whatever it is that personally satisfied what you were looking for.
This is the process of how you came to the conclusion about the product, item, brand, store or business you defend or testify about. Of course, people can disagree with you and argue with you how their opposing thing is better. Some may be open to hearing more about why you prefer this item to that item, or this store to that store. Some may be skeptical and have questions for you since they had an unfavorable experience with the same product, item or business.
While they may disagree or be skeptical about the thing you’re defending and testifying to, they cannot disagree or be skeptical about how this thing has impacted your life. In the end, your personal experience, your personal testimony becomes one of the greater selling points of the thing you’re defending.
Over the course of the last century or so there’s been a resurgence of Christian apologists and apologetics.
A lot of Christian apologetics rose as more of a defense against modernity, which flowed from the Enlightenment. Apologists would defend the Christian faith through human reason, intellect and knowledge. For instance, they would draft arguments for the existence of God, for creation and why the resurrection is real. And these defenses (apologetics), while useful and needed, still were arguments that people could oppose or be skeptical of.
Today, not only do modernists still exist, but we have a newer kid on the block, postmodernism. Even though postmodernism has been around for a while, many secularists are taking the tenets of postmodernism and applying them to life. As a result, they are deconstructing what a previous culture and people constructed and constructing their own cultural reality.
One of the ways they deconstruct and construct is by declaring there is no truth and then labeling things as a social constructs from the previous culture. For instance, applied postmodernists would claim that religion and sexuality is a social construct that needs to be deconstructed and reconstructed in however a group of people see fit. Modernists’ apologetics won’t work on such people. They will see religion, especially Christianity, as a social construct that enslaves and controls people.
What is the best way to reach the broader cultural context in which we live—one in which modernists and postmodernists are found? Through personal stories. The greatest apologetic for our cultural context is our own transformation/personal conversion story.
Interestingly, Paul seemed to believe sharing one’s transformation story was the greatest apologetic of his day. Throughout the book of Acts, Paul shares his testimony on three occasions (Acts 9, 22, 26). Two of those times he was in front of a group of unbelievers. In short, Paul shared with these two groups how his encounter with Jesus led to his personal transformation. Paul went from sinner to saint, religious Pharisee to gospel preacher, persecutor to persecuted, foe to family, fighter of flesh to filled with the Spirit, agitator to apostle, hostile to humble, law-driven to love-driven, and from mono-ethnic to multiethnic.
After his encounter with Jesus, Paul was a different man for the better.
One more interesting point. In Acts 26, the king Paul shares his testimony with exclaims, “In a short time would you persuade me to be a Christian?” King Agrippa couldn’t argue with Paul’s personal story. Sure, he could have thought he was crazy. But he couldn’t argue with his personal story. In fact, he saw it as an attempt to persuade him to believe in Jesus.
While I believe there is a place for apologetics in our culture—defending the truth and tenets of Christianity—every Christian can become an apologist by sharing their own personal conversion story. All you need to be able to share is what the blind man did when people were questioning him about Jesus and how he came to be able to see (John 9). The blind man shared, here’s all I know—I was blind, I encountered Jesus and now I see. In short, Jesus changed me. Jesus transformed me. Jesus healed me. That was something the people couldn’t argue with or discount.
Do you see the parallel between sharing your personal experience and defense of a product, brand, store or business and sharing your personal experience and defense of how Jesus changed your life? One of the timeless marketing strategies that has worked for businesses and products is WOM (word of mouth). The reason being is because people tend to trust the personal experience of friends, family and neighbors. Believers need to see their personal conversion story as the WOM witness and multiplication strategy for reaching a skeptical and cynical world that is far from Christ.