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.

Charles Shelton

Computers for Christ - Chicago



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