There are times when I think I might have a touch of attention deficit in my makeup. I say this because when I become involved in things, I often reach a point when I am ready to be done and move on to something else–unfortunately, that point is generally before the thing I am doing is finished. If I am doing a woodworking project, the final finishing is always a problem–I have to force myself to do the final sanding and coating properly. The last few feet of snow shovelling tempts me to think that the car will smash that down.
Anyway, I mention that because I have been writing about witnessing since the first of the year and want to move on to something else. There is undoubtedly lots more that can be said about witnessing. The steady decline in church attendance in North America suggests that our witness as individuals and as congregations needs a great deal of attention. My limited efforts here are not going to solve the problem nor are they the last word on witnessing.
But I want to move on to other topics so I am going to leave the area of witnessing, at least for now. I will most likely return to it at some point, given the reality that there is lots more to be said and thought about and practised.
But before I move on, I can’t resist the preacher’s instinct to summarize–this is the “In conclusion” part of the sermon that so many listeners long to hear and so many preachers take too long to get to.
Witnessing is not a choice for believers–we are witnesses from the moment we make public our commitment to the Faith. We do, however, have a choice about whether we become good witnesses or bad witnesses. We can witness is such a way that God can work through us to bring people to Himself or we can witness in such a way that God has to work around us, finding ways to counteract our witness.
Generally, the pattern of our witnessing is set before we open our mouths–the way we live our faith speaks much louder than any words we can come up with. So a major part of our faith journey as individuals and as churches needs to be focused on things that help us become more Christ-like. Weak or non-existent spiritual development almost always to the kind of witnessing that God has to work around.
We need to be willing to live our faith in front of people, making our church business meetings as powerful a sign of God’s love as our music; our behaviour at the gas station as clear a message of the Good News as our testimony times.
And then, having shown the love of God clearly, we listen to the Holy Spirit and people to hear opportunities to be used by the Holy Spirit to speak the right words at the right time. Rather than memorize some pre-packaged approach, we trust the Holy Spirit to lead us–trusting to the point that if we can’t think of something to say, we accept that as the Holy Spirit’s leading for us in that specific situation.
We focus on people, not sin or lifestyle or culture. We focus on Good News, not condemnation, debate, controversy, or argument. We want to be used by God in his process of bringing people to himself, not “win souls”. We are patient with people because choosing to follow a new way takes time–so we don’t try to hurry the process. We leave the results to God because bringing people to himself is his job, not ours.
In the end, our witnessing probably needs to become a slower, more loving, more patient process that allows the non-believer and the Holy Spirit the time needed to bring about the changes. When we see ourselves as helpers to both the Holy Spirit and the non-believer, the process runs better for all involved. And maybe, if we can learn to follow the Spirit and show the fullness of God’s love, God can accomplish a great deal more than is being accomplished today.
May the peace of God be with you.