Is It What We Say or What We Are?
When I first became a Christian, the people who led me to conversion gave
me the standard "pep" talk about what I needed to do now that I was a believer
in ChristI call it a standard "pep" talk because of the fact that most of
the various formulas of advice given to new believers have three things in
common: Bible study, prayer, and witnessIf one takes a healthy dose of each
of these every day, one is supposed to grow into a mature disciple of Jesus.
On the whole, the advice given to me was very profitableUp until then
the sum total of my knowledge of Bible content was Genesis 1:1 - "In the
beginning, God created the heavens and the earth." Prayer was also something
that I wouldn't have done much of if I had not had the constant encouragement
and prompting of some older ChristiansTherefore, diligent Bible study and
regular dialogue with God in prayer served much to strengthen my character and
renew my mind.
In the area of witness, or telling others about Jesus Christ, I was also
very diligentI was excited about my new life and I wanted others among my
friends and family to be able to share itI was also exhorted by my elders
that it was my responsibility to inform everyone that I could as to how the
might be "born again" and come to experience God's love in ChristSo, I was
on the street or in shopping malls at least two or three days a week, passing
out gospel tracts and "witnessing." I must have passed out somewhere ten
thousand tracts with my own hands that first year aloneI went with groups
to witness and I witnessed by myself constantly while at work, with my family,
or with unbelieving friends.
"Boy!", you may be thinking, "He must have been a real pain to be
around!" I must admit, I succeeded in alienating most of my family and
friends, thinking to myself that it was simply persecution for the Gospel's
It's been sixteen years now, and my understanding of discipleship and
Christian maturity has developed and changed in many waysIt's taken years,
but I have corrected some of the damage that I did to my family relationships
through my witnessingThis could not have happened if my understanding of
witness itself had not changed.
Through the years I have come to see that the times when I have had the
greatest impact on other lives for Christ have been those in which I have been
able to be comfortable with myself, unconscious of the need to fill the role
of Christian "witness." It has been those times when I have been accepting of
others as they are, and able to make them feel comfortable with meAs I have
simply been concerned with being a friend, with caring and relating intimately
on a personal level, others who were not "in the fold" have often responded
positively and opened up to receive the love that I had to offer themI have
been able to affect others in ways that I never could when I utilized a
"canned" approach to evangelism.
People are not objects, numbers, or trophies to be won or collected so
that we might have something to point to in proof of our Christian obedience
and discipleshipThey are not simply the means to our rewards in heaven.
Not objects but, like ourselves, subjects of God's love and concernAnd,
like ourselves, unique, complex individuals with many deep needs, hurts and
longings, and most of them are crying out inside for someone to care enough to
want to meet those needs, to heal those hurts, and to satisfy those longings.
But shallow approaches do not meet deep needsI believe that is why my
old "Roman Roadmap" type of approach often met with hostility and rejection.
People were not persecuting me for the Gospel's sake, they were simply - and I
believe rightly - rejecting an approach to them that did not take adequate
account of who and what they were as human beings.
Instead of having or following a particular "canned" approach to
evangelism now, I am more concerned with BEING the person that God has created
me to be. I believe that the most effective witness for Christian truth
springs from what we are and how that comes across to others, and not
necessarily any particular thing that we might do or say.
So, as I have concerned myself with becoming a whole person in the image
of Christ, I have found myself caring more deeply and sincerely for others as
individuals, and I have thus also found them responding more positively to the
message that I have to offer.
In Acts 1:8, Christ states that "you will be witnesses for me". I don't
believe that he meant that the disciples would simply act and speak on his
behalf, but that they were going to experience such a change in their own
character that what they became as a result would be for the whole world a
testimony of what God could and would do for every individual who would accept
his love in Jesus Christ. I think that we are most effective in our witness
for Christ when we are concentrating on being the people that he created us to
be, not necessarily on saying the "right thing at the right time." It's what
you ARE that counts, not what you say.
Computers for Christ - Chicago
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