Friday, October 05, 2012

Too Many Programs, Perhaps?

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":

wit┬Ěness  (wtns)
n.
1.
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.    


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5 Comments:

At 1:48 PM, October 05, 2012, Anonymous Michael Davis said...

That's good stuff Bob!!! I always enjoy hearing or reading in this case your perspective on things.

 
At 5:33 PM, October 05, 2012, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Some Christians see witnessing as a burden. That, somehow, they are responsible for a person's soul. When they can get past this idea and see it as an honor or opportunity, things WILL change in their attitudes and their willingness. God saves souls, not man.

 
At 5:51 PM, October 05, 2012, Blogger Bob Cleveland said...

BINGO!

When we witness to someone, even if the ultimate Good Thing happens and the repent and trust Jesus ("get saved", in other words), it's not our fault. It's all God's fault. He does the saving, via the Holy Spirit.

We just get in on the goodies. No downside.

 
At 7:59 AM, October 06, 2012, Blogger Lisa said...

Interesting blog post. I agree to some extent with your points, but disagree on a few too. The Bible is clear that we are to share the Gospel with all we meet. We are the Church, every believer in the Lord Jesus Christ. I think our testimonies can be very powerful tools when used properly (ie...contain the Gospel and is mostly about Christ). Unfortunatley, most testimonies have a lot about us...and little about Christ's atoning work on the Cross. As for programs...I am not sure which ones you are referencing. I personally think there are valuable resources out there that teach us to share the Gospel biblically (way of the master is one). It is important to compare it all to Scripture and seek the council of our pastor (hopefully from a good expository Bible teaching church) to be sure we are not over simplifying it. So many churches today tell you to share the Gospel...but don't give you tools on how to do it...or even what it is. We are not the Gospel. And it is not about us. It is all about glorifying God through His Son, Jesus Christ....it is all for His glory and good pleasure. God bless brother. It is a good post to get people thinking.

 
At 8:45 AM, October 06, 2012, Blogger Bob Cleveland said...

Lisa, thanks for reading and commenting. You hit on my other frequent soap-box-rant, our (in my case, the SBC's) failure to make disciples. We see, to think of folks' walking the aisle and Sunday School enrollment as total victory on the church's part.

Can you point to scripture which instructs us to share the gospel with everyone we meet? Not that it's a bad idea, but I'm interested in where the Bible's clear we're to do that.

 

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