I’ve been writing recently about jury selection. If you are interested in making a case for what you believe as a Christian, you probably already recognize the importance of preparation. You know how important it is to investigate the issues and evidences diligently and to train yourself to articulate the arguments and philosophical premises. You may even envision yourself as a character in a courtroom setting: a detective or prosecutor who cleverly and powerfully makes the case for Christ. To further this vision, you may try to sharpen your investigative skills or your ability as a presenter, hoping your excellence in these areas will make you a better case maker. But as a cold-case detective and part of a three generation law enforcement family, I’ve got a secret I’d like to share with you: the majority of criminal (and civil) cases are won or lost well before the opening statements or closing arguments. Most cases are decided at jury selection.
You can have a great case but lose miserably if you don’t have the right jury. As the case agent and investigating detective in many high profile criminal trials, I’ve learned to look for three things in every juror, and these are the same attributes I seek in those with whom I share the case for Christianity: I’m looking for people who are passionate about the issues, open to hearing the case and humble enough not to let their ego get in the way. Humility is an incredibly characteristic for jurors, because humility helps us hear the gospel:
My cold-case criminal trials are difficult and complex. They are usually built cumulatively and circumstantially. I need smart, interested and fair jurors if I hope to succeed. When picking a jury, I look for people who enjoy a challenge and love puzzles. If you’re an engineer or programmer, you’re a good candidate for one of my cases. But while I respect intelligence and critical thinking, I’m cautious about impaneling someone who has expertise in an area critical to our case. If we’re going to call an electrical professional as an expert witness, for example, we probably won’t put an electrician on our jury. Why? Because time and time again we’ve seen jurors become prideful when they encounter testimony within their discipline. Jurors who think they are experts in a particular field sometimes have difficulty accepting the testimony of other experts. It’s often a matter of pride. Good decision making requires a degree of humility, and jurors who think they know better can make a mess of your case. I want jurors who are smart but teachable; jurors who won’t allow their pride to stand in the way of the truth. I’m looking for humble jurors.
As a Christian case maker, I’ve come to recognize the relationship between knowledge and pride. As one increases, so can the other, and no one is exempt (including me). The internet has only complicated the matter for those of us who want to share the truth about Christianity. There’s enough information available online to make just about anyone an “expert” on any number of theological, scientific or philosophical subjects, even though this information is often un-vetted and unreliable. It can be difficult to share truth with people who arrogantly think they’ve already mastered a topic by surfing the web. These people aren’t hard to spot; most of us recognize arrogance from a distance. When looking for opportunities to share, I try to identify people who are smart but teachable; folks who won’t allow their pride to stand in the way of the truth. I’m looking for humble jurors.
Jurors aren’t the only ones in jeopardy from arrogant over-confidence. Case makers also place themselves at risk when they allow excessive pride to characterize their efforts. As the Bible accurately describes, “Pride goes before destruction, And a haughty spirit before stumbling” (Proverbs 16:18). When a detective takes the stand in a criminal case and comes off as arrogant or brash, his testimony is likely to be rejected by a jury. In a similar way, prosecutors and attorneys who appear haughty or self-important typically alienate the very jury they are trying to engage. If you’re trying to make the case for Christianity and encounter a prideful resister, take a minute to examine your own attitude. One sure way to amplify the pride of someone you’re trying to reach is to allow your own arrogance to overtake you. When pride meets pride, nothing good results. If you can be humble, self-effacing and gracious in your approach, you’re far more likely to draw those characteristics out of the person you are trying to reach. Peter understood this all too well when he called us to “sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence (1 Peter 3:15).”
The best jurors are passionate, open-minded, and humble, and it’s important to understand these characteristics if we hope to have an impact as Christian Case Makers. If you’ve spent time thinking through the evidence and you think you are prepared to make a case for what you believe as a Christian, take an equally conscientious approach to the selection of your potential jury. Remember, most cases are decided at jury selection. If you spend a little more time choosing your audience, you’ll be far more likely to reach your audience.
For more information about the nature of Biblical faith and a strategy for communicating the truth of Christianity, please read Forensic Faith: A Homicide Detective Makes the Case for a More Reasonable, Evidential Christian Faith. This book teaches readers four reasonable, evidential characteristics of Christianity and provides a strategy for sharing Christianity with others. The book is accompanied by an eight-session Forensic Faith DVD Set (and Participant’s Guide) to help individuals or small groups examine the evidence and make the case.
J. Warner Wallace is a Dateline featured Cold-Case Detective, Senior Fellow at the Colson Center for Christian Worldview, Adj. Professor of Christian Apologetics at Talbot School of Theology, Biola University, author of Cold-Case Christianity, God’s Crime Scene, and Forensic Faith, and creator of the Case Makers Academy for kids.
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