We have a lot of witnessing programs in the SBC, and a lot more in other church groups, too. Sometimes I wonder whether the number of "programs" we have isn't a hindrance to people simply bearing witness to the saving power of Jesus.
Consider the definition I found online, for the word "witness":
a. One who can give a firsthand account of something seen, heard, or experienced: a witness to the accident.
b. One who furnishes evidence.
Think about it for a moment .. someone is called to a courtroom to give testimony They're asked questions about what they saw and heard. They testify (hey .. ever heard that
word used in a religious context before?) about what they personally saw and heard, not about other people's experiences.
They're not expected to know what they don't know.
When the police are investigating a case, they talk to witnesses. People who saw something. If those folks didn't see enough, they find out who did, and then go talk to them. They don't get mad at people for not knowing what they didn't see.
The authorities, do, however, get upset with folks who did see or hear something, but are unwilling to divulge that information. Hmmmmm.... ponder THAT for a minute.
I personally believe that, as Christians, we're under direct orders to always be ready to give an explanation for the hope that is within us. Namely, Jesus and the hope that comes through faith in .. through trusting in .. Him. My personal belief is that we are not all called to "go into all the world and make disciples..."; I believe that command was given to the church. But we're surely instructed to play the part in the Body of Christ which is assigned to us, and revealed by the Spiritual gifting God has bestowed on us via the Holy Ghost.
The essence of "giving the reason for the hope that is within us" is neatly displayed in the definition of "witness": give a firsthand account of what we have seen, heard, experienced. And it strikes me as odd that so many people are reluctant to do that really simple thing.
UNLESS it be true that folks have been somehow misled .. unintentionally .. as to what "witness" means. And here's where all the programs come in. I'm wondering if our explaining all the things we ought to do when we "witness" or "give testimony" don't mislead folks as to how much you have to know to do that. Perhaps people get the feeling there's always something else to know before they can "comfortably" tell someone what happened to them.
Once while filling in for our SS teacher, I asked some folks questions about their house, their wedding, their job, etc. For each one, I tossed in one last question I knew they wouldn't know. Like how many nails were used building the house, who built the organ at the church where they were married, what was the total monthly FICA contribution by their employer, etc. I always added, when they said they didn't know, that it was OK they didn't. When I was done, I pointed out that they were happy to tell me what they knew about their job, their house, their wedding, even though they didn't know everything there was to know. Even though I might have questions they couldn't answer, and that it was OK that they couldn't.
Could it be that the plethora of "evangelistic/outreach programs" in our churches has inadvertently led our folks to believe that there's so much stuff they need to know about Jesus, that they're afraid to bring it up? That someone's apt to ask a question they can't answer, and we ought to know all the answers?
I hope the answer is no. I fear it's yes, though. And I think it's a thought that needs to be explored and explained to folks. They're only responsible for what they do know. Besides, from personal experience, I know that, when they start talking about what they do know, they'll want to know more. And that's the perfect setting for learning more.
Labels: Outreach, Witnessing