The Way We Witness
Michael Lane, Executive Director, Delve Christian Ministries
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Many years ago while I was attending a Baptist church about 50 miles from where I now reside, the leadership devised what many felt was an overly-simplistic and overly-expensive plan to bring unbelivers into a relationship with the Lord. The idea was to mail a copy of John's Gospel and Paul's letter to the Romans to each and every home in the city of one-hundred-thousand residents. The cost was astronomical. At the time, the dissenters could only shake their heads at the idea of all these precious volumes collecting dust, unread, at the bottom of someone's drawer - or worse - the bottom of their recycling bin. Surely, they reasoned, there must be be a more cost-effective way to reach people with the message of the Gospel.
Many Christians have the same negative reaction toward televangelists or to people they pass on the street corner handing out tracts. Once out of earshot, they wonder aloud if anybody seriously believes that this is an effective way to reach unbelievers. Even Billy Graham, a man who has led untold thousands to the Lord, is seen by many of today's modern Christans as a relic from a past era. Today, witnessing consists of private and dignified conversations with friends and family, or else it is the job of missionaries in far-away countries. Many would say that bold, public declarations make people uncomfortable and probably turn off more people than they save.
I'd be curious to know what these same doubters would think of a man who traveled from town to town, preaching at the top of his lungs in the center of the city's populated business district; a man whom authorities regularly carted off for causing a disturbance, only to have him return the very next day. How many modern-day Christians would view this as an effective and appropriate way to witness to unbelievers?
This is precisely how the apostle Paul spent most of the last half of his life.
Is our culture so different from Paul's that it's no longer appropriate to carry the message of the Gospel in the same manner as he did? I'm not so sure. I was brought to the Lord, not by someone preaching in the town square, but by something just as bold. I was led to Christ by a stranger who knocked on my front door one Saturday morning. I didn't realize it until the very moment that he stood on my front porch, but I had been looking for a way back to God. I found myself wanting to accept his invitation to the next Sunday service. His visit that morning became the catalyst for a journey which eventually let to my salvation, my baptism, and ultimately, this ministry.
I can only imagine how much courage and faith it took that man to knock on door after door each and every weekend. How many insults and slammed doors did he have to face? How much ridicule did he endure? If he had listened to the doubters who declare that it's a waste of time to witness this way, what would have become of all of us who have come to know the Lord as a result of his hard work and incredible faith?
That man, I would soon discover, was the associate pastor of that same baptist church which would undertake to mail copies of John and Romans to the entire city. I had already seen firsthand what God can accomplish when we humbly and faithfully accept the hard work that is before us and allow Him the bless the results. I had been a recipient. For that reason, I was a strong proponent of the idea.
We never knew for certain how many people allowed the Word to change their life, nor how many simply tossed it aside with barely a glance. And that is exactly the point - we never know. We need to surrender our methods of witnessing to Jesus just as we surrender every other aspect of our lives. That young pastor did not know that he would find a receptive heart behind my front door, but he nevertheless surrendered his will to the Lord and followed the Spirit to my home.
Each of us has unique needs, a unique background and a unique personality. Thus, the method of witnessing which will be the most effective is unique to each individual. You may find televangelism pointless because it would never have been effective in leading you to the Lord, but many thousands have been touched by television ministry, even if you are not among them. As an unbeliever, you may never have responded to that young pastor inviting you to attend service. But I did.
We might find it naive and old-fashioned to preach on street corners and hand out tracts, but if that is how the Spirit is calling one of our brothers or sisters to witness, then we absolutely must support their efforts and admire their faith. If we find ourselves thinking that their methods are impractical or pointless, then we need to examine ourselves and consider the pride which would cause us to hold in contempt anyone who is following the Lord's commandment in a Spirit-led way. Someone will come along at any moment and be forever changed by that ministry, no matter how unlikely it seems to us that it might ever be effective. The moment when an act of witness captures the attention of an unbeliever is a mysterious and sacred act between God and his creation. It defies all of our projections and predictions about what ought to be effective.
It defies all logic that I should have responded to that knock on the door. It likewise seems unlikely that anyone would respond to the Gospel arriving in the mail or over the airwaves. Yet, think back to the moment when you accepted the Lord. How likely was it that all the correct circumstances would come to pass that you should be in a position to know and accept the Lord? If not for a set of very unlikely circumstances, we would all be lost. Surely, a lost soul accepting the Gospel as it is preached from a street corner, a radio or a television is no more unlikely than a salvation which is free to all, no matter how we finally hear the news.
How is the Spirit asking you and your congregation to witness? Is it perhaps a little unconventional? Would it seem to require extraordinary faith and courage? Understand that when God places a desire in our heart to serve Him, it never comes without the necessary strength and courage. Follow the calling of the Spirit boldly with the knowledge that someone very special and unique is waiting for you to proclaim the Gospel in your own special and unique way.
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