Growing up in the church, I have heard a lot of people talk about how Christians need to be out in the world “witnessing”. That’s one of those churchy words: witnessing. Usually, what that has meant is telling the world that they need Jesus. Churches and publishing companies have developed whole programs and written numerous books teaching people how to “witness to others.” Over time, I will admit, I found myself put off by most of these efforts. They either seemed too judgmental or too scripted or too hateful.
Recently though, I have found myself wanting to reclaim the idea of being a witness. In reading through the New Testament as a church these last few months, I have come to realize that my problems with “witnessing” were with what the church for decades turned it into. In Acts 2:32, Peter gives the truest meaning of what it means to be a witness: “This Jesus God raised up, and of that all of us are witnesses.” At Pentecost, Peter and the other disciples were sharing what they had seen Jesus do, what they had heard Jesus say.
What I have come to realize is that, for far too long, our “witnessing” efforts as Christians had less to do with what we have seen God do and more to do with what we have seen man do. We witnessed by calling people sinners, but we would hesitate to share how Christ had dealt with the sin in our own lives. We witnessed by laying out points and steps but without talking about the relationship that we ourselves shared with our Heavenly Father. In short, we made witnessing something we had to learn. I didn’t have to learn how to talk about what my wife or my kids mean to me, the difference they have made in my life. If someone wants to hear, I just tell them what is on my heart. Shouldn’t witnessing be that: sharing from our heart about Christ and His love based on what we have seen and heard?
Right now, at First Baptist Elon, we are offering a seminar called “What’s Your Story? Equipping the Saints to Build & Share Your Testimony”. As David and I have been talking and preparing, our heart has been to reclaim the Acts 2 basis for witnessing: share what you have seen and heard, share what Christ has done for you. My hope is that this will not be just another program to drill into people’s heads what to say. Instead, my hope is that we will set people free to reflect on how Scripture and experience has revealed the presence of the living Christ in their lives and the difference that relationship makes. I really believe that the better witnesses we are, the better we are able to proclaim the gospel message of salvation.