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Witnessing and the
Fear of Making a Mistake

Abstract: “There can be no mistake so bad, in working for an individual soul for Christ, as the fatal mistake of not making any honest endeavor…. NOT doing is the WORST of doing.”

Not Doing

Sitting next to me on the table is a brick of banana bread. I use the word “brick” intentionally, for it has a similar appearance-low and squatty), similar consistency (tough and almost impossible to chew), and very heavy. I enjoy cooking and take pride in occasionally getting good results, but this time I failed miserably. You see I was in a hurry to make the loaf since a guest was coming and hadn’t taken the time to think things through or prepare ahead of time. So rushing, which I am very prone to do, I grabbed the ingredients, mixed them, beat them for two minutes per the directions—I was following a good cookbook, set the loaf aside to rise for 15 minutes, put it in the oven, and was rewarded with a brick. If it were not perishable it would make a good door stop, but it is heading to the trash can quickly.

Why did I obtain a brick for all my efforts? I think—and perhaps some more qualified culinary experts can correct me, I negated the ability of the yeast—which is good and still working—to rise by adding flour that had just come out of the freezer to the mix. Yeast which depends on warm temperatures doesn’t work under such conditions—at least not if the batter is never given a chance to warm up.

What is my point? I can question the recipe and the competence of the one writing the recipe, or I can take a hard look at my actions to see if I made a mistake, figure out what went wrong, learn, and then try again.

What are some lessons to be gained?

First there is something to be said for thinking things through ahead of time. Even in witnessing having a plan helps greatly. Once the interest is cultivated, what then?

Second there is something to be said for taking time. My bread batter was never given a chance to warm up, and some people are never given the chance to warm up before we go for the kill so to speak. It sometimes works and I’m all for having a strong sense of urgency, but don’t’ look for an immediate result if you work that way, and by all means leave something for them to read for when they cool down if they take exception to your witnessing. And don't feel the quick approach is necessarily the only or best way--could be for a particular situation but not for another.

Learn from your mistakes. I certainly need to if I ever want to make this banana bread. Every time we witness we are potentially learning things to do and things to avoid  the next time around. One of the reason we have this group is to share our experiences. I hope more will (That’s a hint by the way if you didn’t pick up on it).

Finally keep making banana bread. Just because I failed this time, doesn't mean I will always fail, for in the ongoing effort to succeed I might learn how to make really good banana bread. I’ve had that experience with other recipes and I am so glad I didn’t give up.

Cooking is minor compared to witnessing, however, and I am sad that the fear of making a mistake is keeping a lot of sincere people from witnessing. The thinking goes, if we can’t help the ones we are reaching out to, at the very least we don’t want to harm them? Right? Wrong! Though we don’t want to harm them, the greatest harm is not doing anything!

The fear of making mistakes shouldn’t stop us, for as Clay Trumbull, once editor of a religious weekly, noted: “There can be no mistake so bad, in working for an individual soul for Christ, as the fatal mistake of not making any honest endeavor…. NOT doing is the WORST of doing.” (Individual Work for Individuals)

The disciples certainly made mistakes in their witnessing quests, and we will too. The important point is to learn, grow and KEEP ON WITNESSING! And just as Jesus would take the disciples away to discuss what was going on, we have the privilege in this group to learn and grow from each other.

Many of you will soon be traveling to GYC. I want to challenge you to ask God to give you witnessing experiences along the way. Hm… that must mean doing some planning for witnessing along the way, and prayer ahead of time, and prayer along the way, and taking something to share with them? (You can find a great testimony on how God overcame depression for young adult at this address: http://path2prayer.com/article.php?id=212&search=depression.  There is a downloadable half fold pdf at the bottom for sharing.)

Remember, “I can—YOU CAN—do ALL things—even witnessing—through Christ who strengthens….” (Phil 4:13)

Happy witnessing.

Dan 12/15/2007

Find more of these essays on witnessing at Christian Witness Works on facebooks or at path2prayer.com. Thank you for ONLY making personal use of them, or asking me permission for greater use.