This is one of those topics about which, when all is said and done, much more is said than done by most believers. I don’t know about you, but having been a Baptist my entire life I have been exposed to more evangilism/witnessing training/equiping thingies (its a techincal term) than I care to count with little to show for the effort.
With that disclaimer I thought I’d try a fresh look (for me at least) at the topic, see what I could find that was off the beaten path that may prove inspirational. As it turns out there is not much off the beaten path regarding witnessing and this discussion is going so sound like the discussions we had on:
- Reading Scripture — Do it as part of a two way conversation with God with whom we wish to be in relationship.
- Fasting— If you fast do it with an eye to receiving our reward from God and from the overflow of a heart committed to God, because we know Him relationally.
- Purity — Per Calvin Wittman “…the pure in heart have had their eyes opened, they can walk in the light as He is in the light and have fellowship with God and one another.”
So you can assume that this is going to be another discussion along those lines.
There are some questions we always have, but really the main one is this: do we all have to do this?
The answer is yes, if we are really Christians and then again no. By that I mean that Jesus has certainly commanded us to do so. I don’t think we get a pass from the great commission or something like Acts 1:8 where it says”You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and to the ends of the Earth.”
And its also part of that relationship thing. Remember we are supposed to be engaging in a relationship with the God who created the Universe through his Son Jesus the Christ the ends of which are sharing His life. What was part of his life? He came so that people who hated Him (that would be you and me) could share that life with Him. If we are sharing His life wouldn’t we want the same things?
And last there is the Spiderman issue. That’s right, except Jesus talked about it first before Marvel got hold of it. In Luke 12:48 Jesus delivers the famous line,”From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded….” In context it reads much more ominiously (Luke 12:47-48):
The servant who knows the master’s will and does not get ready or does not do what the master wants will be beaten with many blows. But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.
God has entrusted us with the good news that saved us and expects us to exercise stewardship over that good news.
But I also said that we we don’t have to witness. It does not matter what we want we WILL be witnesses. The only thing we get to decide is what kind. When we take on the name “Christian”, people are going to start forming opinions about what kind of guy Jesus is by looking at and listening to us. What other basis have they got? We say we’re best buds with Jesus and a great way to know about people is to look at their friends. How about us? How are we reflecting on Jesus.
And it is this inevitability of witnessing as Christians that brings me to one of the interesting and long running conversations between Christians about how to go about this witnessing, I call it Assisiists vs Intentionalists.
The saying “Preach the Gospel always. If necessary use words.” is often attributed to St. Francis of Assisi. It implies, or has been used to imply, that our actions will speak louder than our words and that our actions will draw people to Christ.
The Intentionalist camp on the other hand, appears to look at witnessing like a sales campaign. Every action, every relationship that is formed, is to guide you to the moment when you can present somebody with the Roman Road, and Always Be Closing. Run it like a multi level marketing scheme, a door to door campaign, viral marketing, or ad campaign.
I think both are wrong to a great extent. I think the Assisiists err because there is an essential verbal nature to witnessing. Our lives may make people want the life, peace and joy we have but at some point, as Peter would have it, we must “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.”
To the Intentionalist’s I would say that Jesus never sold anyone anything. The transaction he is offering is to share His life with us (including the eternal part). He loved us and gave Himself for us, he died in our place, He sacrificed His good for ours. There was no selling, only giving away what we could not ever hope to buy. Sales techniques are not the answer.
Instead I would say that witnessing should come from our love for Christ, from our desire to be like Him and to care about the things he cares about. We should not be facile or shallow, nor should we be unafraid to speak out. It should flow, as a natural part of our relationship with Christ and out of our love, like His for a lost world.
Are we in that place in our lives where we can do that?