Archive for December, 2007

Witnessing In Our Not So Brave New World

Sunday, December 23rd, 2007

Abstract: Many of the new ideas espoused by society are based on untested suppositions, and it easily falls prey to the next faddish thing—often promoted AND accepted for self-serving reasons, only to discover, sometimes years later, that the latest fad was ONLY A FAD.

Our “Not So Brave” New World

I will be going on a mission trip to Cambodia in February to speak at their camp meeting. In preparation, I have been getting all the vaccinations required to hopefully inoculate me against catching diseases while traveling.

I wish there were a vaccine we could take AND share with others, against the many, often crazy, sometimes truly bizarre, ideas that abound about life and the future. Sadly, many of the new ideas espoused by the world are based on untested suppositions, and society easily falls prey to these faddish ideas—often promoted AND accepted for self-serving reasons, only to later discover that the latest fad was ONLY A FAD.

These varying world views, at least so far as the west is concerned, originated with the pagan and Hellenistically-influenced, pre-modern, obsession with appeasing the various gods which were disinterested in human beings; eventually transitioned to the modern rationalistic era when science was king and everyone looked for a rosy future; then on to the postmodern era when disappointed expectations brought a return to experience-based, self-centered, understandings that seemed devoid of former moorings, including an emerging deconstructionist phase when all past norms are being deconstructed in favor of new, highly individualistic, self-serving, norms—though it is hard to use the word “norm” in postmodern thinking. Please note there is a somewhat similar, but not identical, progression when it comes to spirituality.

All of this is symptomatic of humankind’s ongoing profound loss of hope, and the attendant vulnerability to the next “answer” promulgated by particularly skilled, well networked, communicators who strongly suggest their way is finally THE WAY.

It’s hard to give credence to some of these ideas, and we might laugh if so many thinking people did not buy into them. But since the suppositions can’t be tested, come with promises that strongly cater to human desires, are strongly defended, and must await the test of time, the ideas are being accepted.

Of course their acceptance requires what seems to me a mind boggling leap of faith—though one wonders if there is perhaps a tacit realization that they are empty promises, but MORE SATISFYING and self-serving in the short-term empty promises, and thus to be accepted to obtain the short-term objective regardless of what may seem absurd to some of us.

In dialoging with adherents, it accordingly often comes down to our opinion against their opinion on what is real for the time being—tough to predict what only time will reveal—and what is worthy of our hope, and we aren’t making much progress.

Now, I’m not gratuitously railing against what some modern thought leaders are propounding, only suggesting that our witnessing will undoubtedly have to take these new ways of thinking into account.

Neither am I questioning the sincerity of the adherents who have bought into the ideas in their own quest for something better—after all, we have all had our “moments” when thoughtful deliberation might have spared us pain and embarrassment.

How do we dialog with people who buy into these ideas?

For starters, respectful questions, asked in the context of caring relationships, might prove helpful. For example “What is truth?” “How does one discover truth?” “How does one evaluate truth?” Being more personal, “How did you come to believe this?” “Why did you come to believe this?” “How can your ideas be tested?” “If your ideas were not true, would you want to know?” Or “Do you know anything about the prior history of these ideas and the people promoting them?” These kind of questions could pave the way for meaningful interactions?

We live in a “not so brave” new—or was that old—and rapidly deteriorating world, and the answers being given are finding acceptance in the absence of BETTER answers, the truth of which will be proven in human experience—your experience and mine.

So what are we to do?

Believe and live out our faith in respectful, consistent and confident ways.

Learn enough about what is being embraced in the culture around us to enter into their conversations—what may seem absurd to our unexposed way of thinking, with knowledge, may seem less absurd, and will enable respectful interactions.

Learn how to respond. And then pray for God’s divine appointments to share our reasons for being hopeful.

Unfortunately, there is no easy vaccination to be found, but we have the opportunity to be God’s vaccinating agents, treasures in earthen vessels, conveying truth in human flesh—through Christ’s indwelling—much like Jesus did when He came to earth. I hope we will accept the challenge of our day.

We will consider living out our faith in this “not so brave” new world in the next couple of essays.

Happy witnessing!
Dan
12/23/2007

Thank you for remembering that the essays are not to be used commercially, asking permission for more than personal use. Join in the discussion at Christian Witnessing Works on facebook and find all the essays in the Christian Witnessing Works section of path2prayer.com

Witnessing Under Adverse Circumstances

Friday, December 21st, 2007

This witnessing testimony was shared in a discussion post in the Christian Witnessing Works group on facebook, which you are invited to join! It demonstrates how God can turn the most adverse circumstances into witnessing opportunities. The post came in response to a reply that God cannot used depressed ambassadors. She responded and subsequently gave me permission to post here.

I don’t agree with you about God can that cannot use a depressed ambassador .. think we must be careful .. there is a huge difference between being depressed because of attitude and because of chemicals .. and also God can use anything or any one no matter what, He is all powerful!

“Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered. Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous: 1 Peter3: 7-8

Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures: ‘ The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief cornerstone.This was the LORD’s doing,And it is marvelous in our eyes’? Matthew 21:42

[ The Chosen Stone and His Chosen People ] Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, 1 Peter 2:4

There is also a verse that state that even the stones will cry out.. can not find it right now

The point is, it matters not in what state we are (because we all are sinners), God can use us ~ we need to be willing though.

I was depressed chemically (still am, but thank you to medication I believe God provided and I’m doing well) and even in the worse levels of the chemical depression, God worked miracles to reach people through me. Because God knew my heart and understood what was going on in my body. But if I not been sick, I would have never have been in the clinic where I was, would never have met a young lady, only 15 (I was then 23) who refused to talk to anybody and kept on trying to end her life.

We had the same surname, but were not related at all. For some reason I was drawn to her and everyday would just go and sit by her and tell her” I wish I had a sister .. she could be my sister if she wanted to be even if she never talked….” After a few weeks she nodded her head and so we became none-speaking sisters. I would sit by her and show her pictures I had drawn or poems I’d written. Two months later she spoke all of a sudden and said I am going to tell you something you will never believe but that is okay I am going to tell you…. In short, she shared with me how she watched her dad drown when she was about 5 (she told me I would understand that as I had shared with her that I witnessed a murder at the age of 4/5) … Her mom re-married and her step dad had raped her on a daily basis (she also thought I would understand because I shared with her that at age 8 I was gang-raped)

But then she said .. the next part you will not believe and cannot relate too…. She told me how she walked in a park, how a beautiful man knew her name and talked with her and invited her to join his club .. She did .. and then discovered that he was Satan and she worshiped him .. did horrible things in the process .. At age 14 she wanted out .. he said it was fine, but they needed to punish her first … She told me what it was .. and it is too horrible to share here… but she then was free to go .. she thought God would never ever accept her back and she was finished with life …

I just cried and hugged her and then I heard myself speak, but like it was not me .. if He can love me who is this nuts then so much more can and does He love you! … it led up to her giving me permission to talk to her doctor and share with him what she shared with me .. She refused to talk to the doctors directly, but always through me ..

Six months from the day I was admitted I walked out, without any form of medication .. The doctors words were .. Willa this is a miracle as I was classified Article 60 (in SA it means that only a judge of the court and appointed doctor can release you). And they did.

I faced many traumatic experiences even after this … In 2003 I was diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder syndrome and the funny stuff that goes along with it … when I was the most sick, I even stated that there was no God!!! … But after a long and difficult road surrounded by positive friends and a great medical team and the grace of God, I am well. Yip, need to drink one tiny little tablet a day .. but doing well. And in spite of this God uses me to reach out to people …

I agree with you and Dan that thanksgiving and attitude! It is very important, even for the chemical depressed person!

However, be careful not to create a message that God cannot use depressed ambassadors or sinners or what ever!

First, with a message like that we limit God – He is all powerful! He will even use stones if He needs too!

Secondly people who are sick and feeling bad already feel depressed and like they cannot be of any worth. By saying God cannot use them, you are confirming their unfounded belief and therefore dooming them to nothing!

I hope that I did not create a message that depression (chemical or emotional) can be use as an excuse for bad behavior or choices as it is not!

Just as God is willing to use us the way we are as long as we are willing, He has also provided wisdom to deal with all matters wisely :-)

We also need to be careful for emotional uplifts .. very dangerous ..

Would rather say we need to have a inner peace … no matter what the circumstances …. Knowing that God is in control we can thank Him for all things!

I am thankful for the trials and traumas of my life, as it is these things that made me weak, but by God’s grace, a strong tool in Him :-)

Happy Witnessing, Willa

You can find links to my essays on witnessing at the Christian Witnessing Works page on this path2prayer.com web site.

Our Witnessing Tools

Friday, December 21st, 2007

Abstract: The vast majority of the people who have not accepted Christ either don’t know about the Bible, are prejudiced against the Bible, or resist having the Bible quoted to them. Witnessing to them necessitates seeking common ground and using something other than the Bible at the outset, and it is no denial of our faith to turn to other resources.

When seeking out the people of His day, Jesus skillfully and sensitively reached out to his hearers on the basis of their world view and their current relationship to God. His witnessing conversations often included asking for practical help, sharing life-changing truth in non-threatening ways, affirming them as we have mentioned before, and communicating in terms of the common every day things of life until they were prepared to hear more substantial spiritual truths.

To the women at the well, an implied social acceptance conveyed in a “give me a drink,” eventually became an invitation to seek God’s acceptance in the water that would well up to eternal life (John 4:14). The details of her life were messy and most people had written her off, but Jesus acceptance in spite of what He knew about her changed her life.

To the fishermen disciples, a further call to become fishers of men began, at least for Peter, with an implied “I need you” in the practical request to use his boat to preach from, to the conveyed, “I know what I’m doing” in commanding further fishing in the middle of the day when one didn’t customarily find fish, was followed by practical “seeing is believing” outcomes when the nets were filled with fish, and thus opening the way for a marveling Peter to worship at Jesus’ feet and the latter’s: “Do not be afraid. From now on you will catch men.” (Luke 5:10) By showing His ability in the common every day things of life, Peter was inspired to trust God to do spiritual miracles.

To Zacchaeus, who was little of stature in every way except in his ability to oppress the people and therefore did not seem to be a likely candidate for the kingdom, Jesus’ “make haste and come down, for today I must stay at your house,” brought a joyful response and complete change of life (Luke 19:4-6). Zacchaeus was one of those “white for harvest” people waiting to be plucked by a skillful harvester.

Those kind of people are all around us. Sadly in many cases our good intentions AND the tools we use to reach them, often get in the way of their hearing our message.

You and I might we have seized the opportunity to offer at least a bit of a sermon or spiritual admonition at the outset in these situations—they had serious issues to overcome, or to package the plea in a pleasing presentation, but in all cases, the first appeal was a sensitive plea in the common every day things of the particular individual’s situation that conveyed disarming acceptance in non-threatening ways.

Recently books and discussions have been suggested which at least in the minds of those posting might be witnessing opportunities or resources. I appreciate the postings though group members come from various spiritual persuasions and we need to be sensitive to them, and I request that suggestions of books be conveyed in terms of personal testimonials and not slick marketing promotions. But I do want to remind that witnessing efforts need to be custom fit to the people being addressed with much sensitivity to their world view and past experiences. What works for one person won’t work for another, etc..

Which brings me to today’s point, and I am quoting Charles Trumbull again, “The Bible is the soul-winner’s indispensable equipment. But it is not necessarily his tool. Ninety-nine persons in a hundred, of those who have not yet come to Christ, are not deeply interested in the Bible…. If we would use bait that would attract them at the outset, and seek interests that are common to them and ourselves, we must, as a rule, begin with something else than a Bible quotation.” (Taking Men Alive)

He is specifically speaking here of situations where there is neither interest in, nor acceptance of, the Bible. It is NOT a denial of our faith to avoid antagonizing our hearers unnecessarily at the outset with a presentation of truth from the Book he or she may know nothing about, or is deeply prejudiced against. The point is getting into conversation and relationship with them, and we will have to do it on their terms instead of ours, of course without compromising our values.

In seeking common ground we mustn’t forget that our purpose in witnessing is bringing people to Jesus, which is most accomplished, eventually, through their personal reading of His word. The challenge of course is getting them to that point. Will they accept the verse we share because we share it, particularly if they have no prior relationship with us? Doubtfully? Hence the need to work on their ground, with resources they respect, and in Jesus’ affirming way.

Lest I be misunderstood, I am not suggesting there won’t be conversations when the Bible is primary because of the person’s interest in and prior experiences with the Bible. In those cases by all means use the Bible from the outset.

And when it comes to suggesting books, some books work better than others and we need to pray for wisdom and discernment to suggest what will work for them.

Happy witnessing,
Dan 12/21/2007

You can find the rest of these essays on witnessing and join in the discussion at Christian Witnessing Works group on facebook or at path2prayer.com

Witnessing in Hopeless Situations

Wednesday, December 19th, 2007

Abstract: Sometimes our witnessing efforts apparently backfire on us. Does that mean we have failed? It depends on the attitude we take concerning those experiences. For all we know, their very failure may be sowing the seeds of future success. I continue to share ideas and stories in the hope of encouraging members (of the Christian Witnessing Works group on Facebook) to seek witnessing opportunities every day as part of their lifestyle, and equipping them for greater success.

I have learned that seasoning our witnessing experiences with ongoing gratitude helps considerably. I have this notion on good authority, for we find this attitude frequently highlighted in Scripture—Daniel giving thanks at his window (Daniel 6:10); Paul and Silas singing in prison (Acts 16:25). In both cases a wonderful witness was rendered and people’s lives were changed for the kingdom.

When it comes to witnessing, we sometimes find our best efforts backfiring and crumbling around us, sometimes becoming profoundly embarrassed by what goes on, such that we might be tempted to give up and stop, and believe all is lost. But the Scriptures indicate otherwise, and so has my experience.

Note the following.

I was traveling from Los Angeles to Auckland New Zealand. Sitting next to me was a casually dressed middle-aged man. Sitting next to him was a young woman. After we had taken off, eaten, slept, and begun to gree the new day being within a few hours of Auckland, I began conversing with my seatmate.

Inquiring about his purpose for traveling I learned he was from Australia and was returning home after calling on clients in San Francisco. He asked me about the purpose of my voyage and I shared that I was embarking on a six week speaking tour of churches-it usually brings a reaction of some kind. His was anything but positive, for he informed me that he had neither a relationship with God, nor did he have any respect for Christians.

“Really,” I countered, thinking I was going to have a VERY interesting conversation.

“Absolutely,” he retorted, and began detailing a litany things that were presently wrong with churches, to say nothing of the egregious past activities the church had promoted—think inquisition, etc., and went on seemingly forever. To my “But that was in the past,” and “Those were people, not God,” protests, he retorted with, “Well, what is the church doing today? If there were anything to the church, the church would be doing something to correct today’s problems,” and listed Iraq as an example.

I have to give him credit for having many of his historical facts somewhat correct, at least as far as I could tell, and acknowledge his strength of conviction and his utter implacability against my efforts to dislodge him from his “don’t care, nor care to know” attitude!

This went on for a long time, and I was getting few words in edge wise, and he was obviously enjoying himself at my expense—he had a bit of an audience obviously eavesdropping. I began to regret my initiating the conversation. Was this what God had in mind when it came to witnessing? It seemed He was losing ground through my witnessing instead of gaining ground this time around.

But, having often counseled seminar attendees to cultivate an attitude of gratitude, having sought to practice what I preach in saying “yes” and “thank you” often—”Yes, you have allowed this and I accept it from you; thank you it is surely for my good somehow”—I started quietly reminding the Lord that I had started the conversation for Him and not me, and that if He wanted to do anything, He might start!

Encouraged apparently, I finally took the reins of the conversation and began asking my own set of questions.

“You have been telling me all the awful things the church has ever done. You have listed these in detail and been fairly accurate. You have refused to let me have a word in edgewise. Now tell me, what are you personally doing to make a difference? Surely you would not accuse me of something you are not doing. Tell me, what are YOU doing?” And I went on for a time.

It goes without saying that the conversation didn’t go much longer, for we quickly reached an impasse. He admitted he WASN’T doing anything, and quieted down.

Hm…not sure I accomplished anything, but at least I tried.

In parting, however, he said something curious that warmed my heart: “I’ve been stuck sitting between two Christians-the young woman was also a Christian-and I’ve had to endure the two of you. Neither of you have convinced me about Christianity, but I have to give you credit for something: I can’t go home and sit around doing nothing anymore! I have to go home and get involved, I have to personally do something that will make a difference in my community”

I hadn’t suggested that he change his life, nor suggested anything about spiritual deficiencies, I had only asked hard questions about how he was doing in terms of his own values, and somehow, he had come under conviction.

Did I succeed in my witnessing? I don’t know, nor probably will ever know this side of heaven. However, I believe He took another step towards the kingdom that day. And, I am accordingly glad I started that conversation. What if I would have complacently sat reading a book instead of making myself available for God to speak through.

Did my prayer of thanks for the situation make a difference? I believe so, for thanking God for what appeared to be a hopeless situation somehow freed God to work in a greater way, changed my attitude from discouraged weakness to one of courage and resolve, and brought about a series of questions that apparently awakened his conscience and jarred him out of his complacency.

IF we are on God’s mission, and we should CONTINUALLY be on God’s mission—remember, witnessing should be a LIFESTYLE, we can be confident that no matter what is going on, He WILL BE USING US AND HAVING HIS WAY!

I hope we hear some witnessing stories from some of the people traveling to GYC.

Happy witnessing, and don’t limit God out of your fear of potential outbursts, for in God’s hands they are ALL for good (Romans 8:28)!

Dan 12/19/2007

Thanks for not making commercial use of these essays and limiting them to personal use without my permission. Find more essays on witnessing at path2prayer.com at the Christian Witnessing Works link, and join us for discussions on witnessing at the Christian Witnessing Works group on facebook.

Witnessing and Misleading Appearances

Monday, December 17th, 2007

Witnessing and Misleading Appearances

Abstract: Many a person witnessed to doesn’t appear to have potential for God’s kingdom, yet in some cases, these individuals who seem so hardened and opposed to God, become great champions for God’s cause.

I am sure Jesus’ “Neither do I condemn thee, Go sin no more” came as quite a shock to the people observing Him that day (John 8:11). After all, the woman had been caught in the act of adultery, and the people who had brought her knew for a fact that she was guilty-probably they had too much first hand knowledge and were also guilty! The same was probably true for the disciples as they returned from the village and found Jesus talking with the Samaritan woman (John 4) who should have been off limits for a Jew and her coming to the well, alone, might have suggested to their minds that something was amiss. The religious intelligentsia of Jesus’ day were also often upset because He freely mingled with sinners who seemed to get a free pass so far as they were concerned. And let’s not forget that one of His closest companions was Matthew, a former tax collector, and everyone knew about the poor standing of tax collectors in the sight of God. Sinners seemed to revel in his company. To the established ways of thinking, Jesus was often off the mark so far as who He reached out to.

Here are some conclusions to be drawn from these experiences…

1. Jesus apparently looked at people differently than we do much of the time, and saw potential in the most unlikely prospects.

2. Jesus apparently forgot that sinners needed correcting before they felt assurance.

3. Jesus chronically forgot to throw stones when it came to correcting people.

When we think of witnessing, one of our challenges is not being misled by the deceiving negative appearances of people who are actually good prospects. For that reason we often avoid talking with them since they have no potential, and out of our fear they may get angry and react and perhaps create an embarrassing situation-who wants to have someone get angry on an airplane for example. But from the examples cited, we see that these very people who seemed such unlikely candidates became the very people He reached out to, and sometimes became His ardent followers.

When you peer back into history, some of the people God used the most had unsavory beginnings. John Newton who wrote Amazing Grace was so profane and ungodly-sometimes leading the sailors in raping the slaves in the hold, that he even shocked the sailors who were on his ship. He was able to write with knowledge and conviction about God saving wretches like him.

I think of John Bunyan who at one time sinned as rapidly as he possibly could. Fortunately he had a godly wife who was praying for him, and he eventually came to write many books that profoundly impacted Christianity such as Pilgrim’s Progress.

I could go on, but the point is, there is gold under the surface of ALL hearts, regardless of what appears on the outside, IF approached the right way-undoubtedly sympathetically and extending the gift of honest commendation in a non patronizing, affirming way. Failure to approach the right way, however, can only harden further, from which comes the term “gospel hardening.”

As I was reading this morning, I was reminded by Charles Trumbull in Taking Men Alive that fishermen never throw stones or thrash the water when pursuing fish, but study to allure. That might be a good thing to remember as we witness as well.

Happy witnessing!

Dan 12/17/2007

Find the rest of these short essays on witnessing at Christian Witness Works on facebook and at path2prayer.com in the Christian Witnessing Works section. Thank you for continuing to invite others to join our group.

Witnessing and Sympathetic Knowledge

Sunday, December 16th, 2007

Witnessing and Sympathetic Knowledge

Abstract: Even a tiny bit of knowledge about another person, sympathetically responded to, can bring about wonderful witnessing opportunities.

“If we would take a man alive, we must first know something, be it ever so little, about that man and his present interests.” These are the words from a chapter entitled “Winning From the Start” from Taking Men Alive. Trumbull goes on to show that Jesus in calling Peter and the disciples, was FIRST concerned about helping them with their fishing—their PRESENT interest—prior to His calling them to be fishers of men (Luke 5:1-11).

He makes a good point when he reminds us that people fishing concentrate on the fish and not on themselves, and carefully prepare bait to attract and entice the fish to respond.

Here Trumbull offers witnessing encouragement in suggesting we don’t need extensive knowledge of the other person, just SOME knowledge—as he puts it, “be it ever so little.”

Sometime back when I was traveling home from a family meeting in Ohio, I stopped at a hotel for the night. Mom was with me and as usual she wanted to visit with the people around. At 87 she has lost her timidity and happily looks for people to talk with—perhaps I’ve become a little boring for her. She suggested, “Lets go for a walk around the hotel grounds.” Now I knew that her motive was to get near people to talk with them, and seeing it was the holiday season, and a hot day in the middle of the summer, the grounds—particularly the swimming pool area—was crowded with people. So we went. I confess to taking her by circuitous ways to avoid some of them, but she still succeeded in visiting with quite a few. Mom can be very gracious and people are not offended, but she is more persistent than most in seeking conversations. Finally we sat down in a “safe” place where we wouldn’t be disrupting too many people. But wouldn’t you know, someone came along and of course this attracted Mom’s attention. Now I don’t know what to say to perfect strangers, especially when they are in bathing suits and seeming to be quite preoccupied. But this didn’t faze mom, for she quickly called out, “That’s a pretty bathing suit.” Her words were simple, anything but profound, not terribly thought out, but she complemented the lady, the lady responded, and came over to chat. Good for you Mom, I thought to myself. But I was rather amazed as this lady began confiding to Mom about her coming to the hotel from the hospital where she had been admitted for a suicide attempt, in her desire to avoid going home to all the problems that awaited her there. Hm, that wasn’t hard, and what a significant conversation.

It isn’t how much we know, it’s that we know SOMETHING—for Mom it was noticing a pretty bathing suit—that will make all the difference.

In closing let me suggest another phrase to remember, not only “honest commendation,” but “sympathetic knowledge,” for some knowledge, even a tiny bit of knowledge, can bring more information that we can sympathetically respond to, and thus bring about a deeply meaningful conversation with the one we are seeking to reach.

I believe Jesus was speaking of this sympathetic knowledge when he told the disciples to pray for laborers—sympathetic laborers—to go into the fields which were already white for harvest (John 4:35). The world IS truly white for harvest, for it is full of people waiting for someone to care about them. Given the right approach many of these people will also became great witnesses, just like the woman at the well that Jesus had just witnessed to.

I hope this helps in your witnessing.

Dan 12/16/2007

Find the rest of these essays at the Christian Witnessing Works group on facebook or at path2prayer.com. Please share them for personal use only.

Witnessing and the Fear of Making a Mistake

Saturday, December 15th, 2007

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.”

Making a Mistake

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 link. 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

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

Witnessing and Feeling Unqualified

Friday, December 14th, 2007

Witnessing and Feeling Unqualified

Abstract: Many hesitate to witness because they don’t feel qualified. How does one become qualified? Apparently the most important qualification is a personal encounter with Jesus (note the story of the woman at the well and her witness following that encounter).

Feeling Unqualified

The next fear that comes to mind is the feeling of being unqualified for the task, in terms of communication skills, Bible knowledge, or knowing the science of witnessing.

Welcome to the club; most of us feel unqualified, and if not unqualified, under qualified—some even disqualified!

As I think of the people God used in a great way, past and present, I don’t find that he limited himself to people that had particular schooling or circumstances that seemed conducive to successful witnessing. Rather he took real people, gave them a personal testimony, and worked wonders through them.

Some of them, for example the woman at the well (John 4) and the demoniacs of the Gadarene country (Mark 5), were anything but qualified—they seemed disqualified, but their coming into relationship with Jesus meant that God could use them, and He did!

Now, remember they were not able to share lengthy Bible studies, all they could share was what they had personally experienced: they had once been lost—speaking rhetorically—but now were found!

Then they did the best thing, as we find in the words of the woman: “Come and see…!” (John 4:29).

Their witness was all about Jesus, and leading people to Him, which allowed Him to draw them the rest of the way into relationship with Him.

Now it isn’t hard inviting people to see someone important is it? If you knew a famous, much loved person was going to be at your house, would you have difficulty inviting others to see him or her? Of course not. Well it should be the same in witnessing for Jesus.

Though we sometimes forget it, witnessing isn’t about YOUR witnessing performance, it isn’t about your enthusiasm, it isn’t about your ability to know where every text is in the Bible—these are good things, but they are not what give success.

Success is about your gently leading another person to know Jesus—It is about HIM.

Jesus said, “If I be lifted up, I will drawer all men unto myself!” (John 12:32) He didn’t give any qualifiers, just told us, lift me up, and I will do the drawing.

Here is what one young adult wrote me on the subject:

“I wanted to share that my Bible study today as well as a dinner I had with a non-church friend was simply amazing as I truly realized for the first time, that it was not MY smile, MY enthusiasm, or MY words that could make a difference in a person’s heart. Rather, it is Christ and Christ alone, (Who only lends me these) Who lives in and through me to these souls, Who guides and directs my every motion.”

I have friends who became awesome witnesses for Jesus even though they hadn’t spent a day in any of our schools, and hardly knew where to find anything in their Bibles. No one had told them they weren’t qualified, and they just shared the best they could—in their case they used videos to make up for the knowledge deficit initially. And God blessed their efforts, and continues to bless their efforts (though now they know so much more!)

So don’t let the fear of being unqualified, under qualified, or disqualified, hold you back.

Remember what Paul said, “I can do ALL things through Christ who strengthens me!” (Phil 4:13) Just make yourself available, look for ways to affirm and value the people around you, allow God to bring the conversation to Himself, and invite them to see Jesus for themselves.

And, remember it will be easier if you have some literature to share with them with contact info. If they see Him, they will also want to know the truth about Him.

I like this kind of witnessing.

Have a happy and blessed witnessing day!

Dan
12/14/2007

I am gratified if you want to share these thoughts with others. Remember only personal use and please give a link to path2prayer.com so they can find more resources. Please let me know how you are using them.

Witnessing and the Fear of Knowing What To Say

Friday, December 14th, 2007

Witnessing and Knowing What to Say.

Abstract: We often fear witnessing opportunities because we are not sure what to say. This is a result of our ongoing fond feeling that witnessing always includes a Bible study and the sharing of spiritual truth regardless of how prepared and open the person might be to it. Instead of being blessed, individuals who already feel condemned in themselves, read in our words further condemnation, and therefore become offended and more closed to the gospel than being more open to it.

Another major fear in witnessing, is worrying about what to say. Should I share a Bible verse? Should I give my personal testimony? Should a mini Bible study be given on some distinctive truth if the opportunity arises? All of these could be appropriate, and have undoubtedly been done with good and blessed success. But there is an easier BETTER way—to start the conversation at least—which has been used with good success, and will work in ALL situations.

Simply put, instead of worrying about what to say, or worrying about what Bible verse to share, prayerfully look for ways to AFFIRM the other person. Let me put it another way: Look for ways to genuinely let the other person know you recognize them as a person of value.

I wish I could say this was my idea—it isn’t, it comes from the book Taking Men Alive by Charles Trumbull—who establishes what he refers to as the “honest commendation” principle in relating a story regarding a time when his father Clay was traveling on a train across the state of Connecticut. Sitting next to him was a man who occasionally drank whiskey from a bottle that he pulled out of his suitcase. The man also offered a drink to Trumbull’s father, which the latter kindly refused. This went on for some time and the father always said “no.” Finally, after another refusal, the man turned to his father and said: “Don’t you ever drink?”

Needless to say, this was THE “opportunity” Trumbull’s father had been waiting for, and one would expect he would have taken advanatage of the moment to respond to this man’s felt needs and given a mini study on temperance and the evils of alcohol. Most of us certainly would have anyway.

Which of course raises the question of what is the best way to respond to people’s felt needs (“felt needs” refers to areas in people’s lives where they need help, be it overcoming smoking, failed marriages, etc.). Churches put on “felt needs” seminars all the time, and undoubtedly provide real assistance to the people attending. Church members do the same things frequently on an individual basis. And sometimes really good things result. But what is the best way to respond? If they have come to a seminar on overcoming smoking, for example, it can be assumed that they are wanting to stop smoking.

But should we approach the man on the street or bus in the same way? Often the person on the street becomes highly offended, particularly if he or she doesn’t come from a Christian background, and would accuse us of condemning them if they were to openly share their feelings with us.

Jesus had a similar situation when he was working with the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4). He was resting by the well at midday—providentially arriving there to meet the woman—and asked her for help. Without going into detail, in the end He asked her to get her husband, to which she confessed that she had no husband. Of course, and Jesus who knew everything told her that she not only had no husband, she had been married five times, and was presently living with a man outside of marriage. Now if that wasn’t condemning, especially in the context of her society, I don’t know what is.

Do you think someone would be happy to have their past failures described in such detail in our day and be happy to know us? I doubt it. But the Samaritan woman would later go and tell the people at the village, “Come see the man who knows all about me.” What a strange testimony, but it brought the whole village out.

When I was younger and reading this story, I used to think, “If I only knew about everyone, just think of the witnessing I could do.” But God in mercy didn’t give me that ability, because not knowing the secret that Trumbull discloses, I would have used the knowledge to condemn people and they would have become highly offended and more resistant to the gospel.

The Samaritan women had come to the well during the hot part of the day because EVERYONE knew about her, and EVERYONE was talking about her—they would be talking about her in our day too—and she wanted to avoid the stares and the muted conversations going on when she came around. There was nothing new about people knowing about her background.

But Jesus affirmed her—recognized her as a person of value—in seeking her help in obtaining water from the well. His words, and I think demeanor too, showed that He valued her in spite of what He knew, and she went and testified to the people in the village about the man who knew all about her.

The man sitting next to Trumbull queried him: “Don’t you ever drink?” “No, my friend. I do not,” replied Trumbull. “I guess you think I’m a pretty rough fellow,” said the man.

This was the opportune moment, and Trumbull who must have been praying for divine wisdom, wisely responded, “I think you are a very generous-hearted fellow.” He paused and then continued: “But I tell you frankly, I don’t think your whiskey-drinking is the best thing about you.”

The seatmate thoughtfully responded, “Well, I don’t believe it is.” “Why do you keep it up, then,” asked Trumbull?

From that wise response came an extended conversation in which the young man spoke of his background, his family, the prayers of his mother, his falling in with bad company, etc., and eventually, his desire for something better.

Condemnation at the opportune moment would have ended the conversation. Most of us would have condemned the young man, not because we wanted to, but because FAILING TO AFFIRM IN A POSITIVE WAY, the person being witnessed to would have read in our words condemnation since they ALREADY FELT CONDEMNED WITHIN THEMSELVES and therefore assumed we also condemned them.

The important thing for now is recognizing that finding ways to affirm people is the BEST way to start when witnessing. Of course you don’t want your conversation to end there, and it may take time to get to spiritual matters, but if they are convinced you see them as a person of value and that you care about THEM, they will open their hearts to a conversation about other things—spiritual things, the Lord willing—eventually.

I believe this principle of “honest commendation” or affirmation, is the MOST IMPORTANT thing I have learned about witnessing. I will write more on this next time. You can find other posts in this series at path2prayer.com

Happy witnessing

Dan

Should this be the first time you are reading these short essays on witnessing, you will find more of them either in the Christian Witnessing Works group on facebook or at path2prayer.com. Consider joining the group on facebook and please invite others to join the group. Thank you for only using them for personal purposes and asking me for other uses. 12/12/2007

Witnessing: Fear of Looking Ridiculous

Wednesday, December 12th, 2007

Abstract: Many feel witnessing causes them to look ridiculous. This is a legitimate fear, IF witnessing is about looking ridiculous. It ISN’T! Witnessing should be done by nice, normal, caring people, in the context of normal life.

Jimmy’s “Dead to public opinion” red jersey, and beating tambourines going down the street, which was so mortifying to WP Nicholas, is the way that more than one person has viewed witnessing, and therefore stayed clear of witnessing.

As we explore some of the “fear of man” reasons encountered in witnessing, the fear of looking ridiculous is certainly one of them.

I am not sure this fear is legitimate since most of the time I hope our witnessing is more than wearing a jersey that communicates strange behavior, or beating tambourines going down the street. Serious people are not going to be too attracted by this kind of witnessing. Granted at times, this method has apparently been sometimes used, and blessed by God, and I certainly don’t fault those that do, but I don’t think it should be the main way we witness-and I say this respectfully-if at all.

Most of the time our witnessing should be with our neighbors, our classmates, our work colleagues, and should be natural and conducted in the context of positive relationships. And we should come across as normal thinking NICE people as much as possible. They may think we are strange for being Christians, they may think we are strange for being members of a particular denomination, but we shouldn’t give them reasons to justify their concerns and suspicions.

If you consider the way Jesus worked, you never find him sending His disciples down the street wearing strange clothes, playing strange music, and causing the people of His day to think less of the kingdom of His Father. Neither should we! We get the distinct sense that people loved being with Jesus, particularly those who seemed far from God (Note for example the woman at the well John 4).

I think it should be the same for us. Hopefully our lives and demeanor will go before us, opening the door for legitimate, life-changing, witnessing.

So, don’t let the fear of looking ridiculous hold you back from witnessing. Rarely will you look ridiculous if you are witnessing the way Jesus wants you to witness.

Now, please don’t misunderstand, I respect those that work with the Salvation Army and the way they were working in 1900, but their method wasn’t the only way or and preferred way, then or now!. Seek Jesus’ way, and I think you will find a receptive audience, AND YOU WON’T COME ACROSS AS RIDICULOUS!

What do you think?

Read more essays on this subject at path2prayer in the Christian Witnessing Works section.PS: Invite others to read this blog, and remember “no commercial use” and please ask permission for other uses.