There are many reasons why Christians choose to step out and make a case for what they believe, and their motivations will ultimately determine the shape and content of their message. Over the years, I’ve been motivated by different desires and goals, depending on my ministry setting. As a youth pastor, I was intensely interested in what I have termed “Preemptive” Case Making in an effort to prepare students for the university setting. I spent years working with young people, addressing their doubts and responding to the common secular objections they would face in college. As I’ve gotten a little older (and even though I still enjoy preparing young Christians for the university environment), I am more interested in “Evangelistic” Case Making; I want to use the evidence to share the Gospel with a lost world. I recognize that I’m not an academic; I’m not a philosopher or a scholar. I’m just a guy who works with evidence every day and discovered something wonderful that I want to share with others. My motivation now shapes my message as a Case Maker, and I bet this is true for you as well:
Our Motives Help Us Select Our Audience
When I wrote Cold-Case Christianity, I had an audience firmly in mind. I wanted this book to be read by folks who were largely unfamiliar with Christian Case Making. Believe it or not, the percentage of people in (or out of) the Church who know anything about Christian “apologetics” is incredibly small. In fact, the number of people who are even interested in an evidential faith is still incredibly small! As I speak around the country, I am consistently amazed at how many Christians are unfamiliar with the evidence and how many non-believers are surprised to encounter a Christian evidentialist. I was delighted when other Christian Case Makers found the book useful and wrote kind reviews, but I am even more pleased when folks who are completely unfamiliar with Case Making discover the book. These folks are the audience I am after. Let your interest and motivation help you choose the audience you are trying to reach. If you’re a “Preemptive” Case Maker, you ought to be serving in youth ministry somewhere. If you’re a “Defensive” Case Maker, you ought to be ministering to those groups who are straying from the truth or are being challenged by false teaching.
Our Motives Help Us Shape Our Argument
Once I had my audience in mind, I made sure I wrote in a way that would “reach” them. When I first started, I found myself writing at a level that was simply too “factual”, “academic” and “linear”. My wife, Susie, reviewed the first chapter and declared it to be frustratingly detailed and utterly boring (as my best friend, she had no problem letting me know). I took a break and completely rethought my approach. Susie is intensely interested in Christianity, but she is not a natural evidentialist. As a result, she is not inclined toward case making at all. She was a perfect representative of the audience I was trying to reach. So, I began writing anew, with Susie in mind. I shared more about my casework, provided more examples from my investigations and became more focused in my description of the evidence for Christianity. I focused on brevity and clarity and limited my vocabulary to terms that were easily accessible. In essence, I wrote as though I was trying to reach a jury rather than a panel of expert witnesses. My motivation began to shape my message.
Our Motives Help Us Screen Our Areas of Concern
While I am interested in many divergent issues as a Christian Case Maker, I’ve chosen to limit my scope as a reflection of my primary desire to share the Gospel. As Case Makers, each of us needs to remember who we are (and who we are not), and we need to remind ourselves of our objectives on a daily basis. I’m a detective who wants to share the Gospel. That’s who I am and that’s what I want to do. Could I spend more time speaking out about social issues? Absolutely. Could I spend more time talking about the false nature of cults and errant distortions of the Christian message? Of course. Could I try to defend my position on non-essential issues more often? Sure. But those aren’t my primary areas of concern. I have a sense of urgency that is motivating me these days, and for this reason I choose to “stay in my lane”. My motives are dictating my areas of concern and my points of engagement.
When you begin to examine what motivates you as a Christian Case Maker, you’ll start to become more focused about your message and more careful about selecting your opportunities. God has called each of us to use our passions and talents to make a difference. Your gifts are different than mine, and all of us are needed to form this team that God has assembled to reach the lost and change the world. Examine your motives, apply your gifts, craft your message. Let’s make wise choices as we step out to make a case for what we believe.
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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