Witnessing is much more effective when it’s worry free. I’ve worried my entire life about what others think, and I still feel a twinge of hurt when others don’t respond as I want. In the past, I’ve worried about witnessing because I’ve seen it as winning people over. It’s what I’d always been taught. Winning folks over to Christianity or leading them to the Lord usually involves much effort and results more in wearing down or wearing out than winning over.
I’ve struggled with who, when, where, and what when it comes to witnessing, but the only thing that matters is why. Witness is not a process or a game, even though many keep a running tab of their conquests. Stories glorify the teller and sound more like a mini inquisitions or a personal crusades than a loving connections. The end result is a string of badges on a sash hung proudly around the neck.
Witness is about letting God open a door to conversation and relationship, and it doesn’t have anything to do with adding anyone to a roll, a list, or my personal merit badge sash. With the help of God, dear friends, and two faithful pastors, I’ve come to understand witness in a new light. Christ doesn’t pressure or instill fear as a witness to God’s love. He loves God in front of me, and loves me as I’ve never been loved before. The only tools required for witnessing are knowing and loving God with a depth that makes everyone want everyone to know and love Him too, understanding that it is always God’s work and never mine, and letting go of the need to please others. The why in witness is love, and I do understand that. I witness because I love God and others. Telling others that God’s love is for them is very personal and cannot be done on the fly.
I was at the grocery store this morning having a pleasant conversation with a wonderful young man I taught in middle school. A rude man standing near enough to hear our conversation felt the need to interrupt and do his witness bit for the day. I was telling Cody, who is working very hard with his family to open a new restaurant in town, that nothing is harder than working for yourself. This obnoxious man said, in a very hateful tone, “Working for God is a lot harder! You should try it some time.” We looked at each other in shock and shook our heads as the man continued to spout out venom in God’s name as he walked away. I suppose he told his friends that he was out in the wicked world witnessing today. Cody loves God dearly as do I, but this man didn’t stop long enough to find that out about either of us. It’s like folks who leave tracts or flyers instead of tips when they are in a restaurant. Let me tell you something, that is not a good witness to God. A pleasant attitude, a caring conversation, or a very nice tip are much more effective when it comes to witnessing. Good intentions surely do lead down a terrible path.
If not careful, churches can become exclusive clubs, organizations, or even very close knit families when the work is theirs and not God’s. Christ included all and left the doors open for folks to enter or leave as they wished. He knew they needed to stay near to Him, but He also knew that it must be their choice. Without the right connections, His body would become His fan club or His country club. The living, breathing, loving body of Christ is not an organization. Knowing that changes the way I witness. I only have to love God and let Him open the doors of positive and healthy connection. That’s not difficult at all.
Witnessing the way I was witnessed to today is hard work, and I feel very sorry for the man who felt compelled to tell Cody and me that we should try working for God for a change. So thankful I know that isn’t the way God feels, but it’s sad to think that there are those who have his attitude who consider themselves to be God’s witnesses. I’m thankful Cody and I know and love God and shudder to think what someone would think of God if they heard about Him from someone like the man who crossed my path today. It breaks my heart, and I know it must break God’s. God gave a clear example of a fly by witness without any love. I’ll remember that fellow the next time God opens a door for me.