Recently, in Old Paths for Today’s Women, a Facebook Group I am an Admin of, the topic of “witnessing” came up. Here is a paraphrase of the topic:
I struggle with witnessing in general…I share scripture and my testimony but is that enough? Shouldn’t there be a ‘call to action’?
This made me think back to the early days after the Lord converted me and how much I wanted to share what He had done with anyone and everyone around me. Back in the 80’s (I’m dating myself here) there were these “Promise Box” items that you could pull out a card each day and on one side it had a Scripture verse and the other a poem or short saying. This is what I pulled out one day
If each one would win one The world would soon be won A Gospel work begun If each one would win one
When I read the struggles of my sister from FB I thought to back to when I placed a bind on my conscience; I was to tell anyone and everyone I knew, met, and passed by, the Gospel. Soon I found that I was piling guilt upon myself if I missed someone. I heard all the stories of DL Moody and Billy Graham and how they share with everyone…or so I was told. I made sure to read my bible in public in the hopes someone would ask. Walking to the subway after work my path always was directed to the area where the Jehovah’s Witnesses were and you could be sure I would stop by and have a long conversation with them trying to convince them they were wrong. After years of living under the idea that “there blood would be on my hand” if I did not witness to them, I was exhausted.
To be sure, my zeal to proclaim the Gospel has not died; rather, it’s been better directed and not longer packs a ton of guilt on my heart either. Others will tell you that I like to talk, and that is true. However, over the years I’ve learned you have to listen first. When I went back to college my major switched from counseling to apologetics because of its missionary focus. Defending the faith is part of evangelism and it helps to equip one to answer the doubts of believers and questions of unbelievers. It was a perfect fit for me.
However, it is not always a fit for every believer. My quick answer to my sister on FB was that not everyone is called to be a Paul. Not everyone is to be a Nancy. In fact, no one else was ever called to be a “Paul” but each of God’s Children is called to be whom and what they are for Him. This was further developed yesterday at the ladies bible study at church and I hope to explain it simply here.
Different Gifts. One Body.
In our discussion on the Trinity we had a little sideline conversation regarding this verse:
“But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift.” Ephesians 4:7 This brought to mind 1 Cor. 12, For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many are one body, so it is with Christ…God has so composed the body, giving great honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body…
Each person in the Body of Christ has gifting which He has given so that the Church is united. We are a body. Some of us are the outward parts, hands, feet, arms, fingers and toes while others are those parts which we don’t see, stomach, liver, intestines, etc. Yet, each is part of the Body of Christ and each is vital and important. Not all are called to be “beautiful feet” to share the good news overseas or even as pastor or pastor’s wife. Not everyone is called to be the hands that nurse children. Each of us is distinct and beautiful in the gifts God has called us to.
That’s what we Lutherans call it. We are called to fill the role God has us in. Are you a mom with infants? Then you are called to nurture that baby, feed it, clothe it, clean them up, and change diapers. Are you a teacher? Then you are called to bring those students information and help them learn to think critically, memorize and digest what they’re learning. Are you working in an office? Then you are called to do the tasks set before you in no more and no less a way than the janitor who cleans up at night. Each of us is called to do our work as unto the Lord for it is Him we serve.
As we serve Him in our vocation we are to pray that we would do our tasks in a way that honors and glorifies Him. Sometimes that may mean an unbeliever comes our way and the conversation naturally strikes up and you can find simple ways to proclaim the Gospel. We should be sharp and keen on what we know to be the truth but don’t force the conversation. Most of the time, if the person has asked it is because the Holy Spirit is already making them hungry for the truth. Sometimes it is not. Sometimes they’re not really asking, they’re looking for confrontation. But, even then, you can share the Gospel and perhaps God will use that in their life to save them.
Back to my friend’s struggle: Sharing the Gospel and her testimony…is that enough!
One of the shortest Gospel messages in the Bible is about 4 lines long. ! Cor. 15:3-5.
For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received:
Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures and that he appear to Cephas, then to the twelve.
Let me break this down:
Jesus died for your sins
He was buried. His friends mourned his cruel death that Friday.
Sunday came…and everything changed.
Is That Enough?
That’s it. So, is that enough? Absolutely. God tells us in Romans 1 that the Gospel is the “power of God unto salvation” and in the “folly of what we preach to save those who believe…” (1 Cor. 1:21). Is that enough? Yes, and praise God it is. The believing part is a gift from God and it is the Holy Spirit’s work to convict and convert. That’s not my job. That’s not your job.
Is sharing your testimony enough? No! Let me explain. Your testimony is good as far as it goes but it is not what God tells us is His power for salvation; that’s the Gospel proclamation. Sharing our testimony only goes so far because it is based on experience which changes constantly. The Hindu can tell you they believe they will be with Atman. The Mormon can assure you theirs is the right path because of their “burning bosom”. So, experience doesn’t really cut it. It can be useful to share the changes God did in your life but you’ve got to bring them back to the Gospel, back to Jesus and His life and death on the Cross for their sins.
How much do you need to talk? Well, as you can see above, three or four sentences. If a question arises that you cannot answer, be honest and tell them you’ll get back to them. But, remember to bring them to the Cross, to Jesus.
Moving from you to Christ
Early in my apologetics studies I learned the limitations of sharing a “personal testimony”. Inner testimony is of limited value because there is no way to prove that what has gone on inside of you has been done by Christ. So the person cannot conclude from your testimony that it was Christ. He may admit that you’ve changed but may conclude that you changed yourself, maybe you had a personal epiphany but in their view it has nothing to do with Christ. Experience is limited because it is something clearly deduced by data the individual has had occur within them. Testimony and life can only relate to the individual and not to Christ.
The Buddhist in Tibet can express the same feelings and changes that a Christian has; the betterment of themselves, improving how they treat others, giving up things of this world, a more spiritually focused life. Therefore, the pietists’ argument from an experiential view is a necessary cause but not always sufficient cause to bring about conversion in the unbeliever. It is necessary in that our lives should show change simply because we have been born again, but is often not sufficient cause to prove the validity that the change was made by Christ and therefore the unbeliever would want to convert.
Since testimony and life can only relate to the individual, Christ is secondary in the conversion experience instead of primary. If our focus is on the changes of our lives, unbelievers will soon find that we are neither perfect nor pious enough and therefore they come to the conclusion that the change has not been as dramatic as was testified. John the Baptists statement is what we should use as our outline “He must increase and I must decrease.” We must focus on what Christ has done and make secondary those changes that have occurred in ourselves. Paul, on Mars Hill, did not point to his personal experience but through philosophical arguments. He did not go and speak of his experience on the road to Damascus but focused upon the facts about God and the intellectual arguments for the validity of Christianity.
You Already have a "Call to Action" and it's not what you think it is.
Do you need a call to action? I would say we already have one but it is not that you are the “watchman on the wall and if you don’t share with everyone you’ll have their blood on their hand.” Boy that just takes the gospel of grace and binds us to a law. Remember, Jesus died for them too and just as the Holy Spirit regenerated you first and then you believed, He does it the same way for every unbeliever; He gives the gift of saving faith either through the waters of baptism or the preached Word, either way it is through the Gospel. Please don’t come under the burden that it is up to you to share with everyone and anyone and if you don’t then you are guilty. That’s just the lie of the works-salvation mentality and will only pile on a false guilt to your heart and mind. Jesus didn’t call us to be guilty and take on guilt that doesn’t belong to us. Jesus has called us to true freedom.