"You Shall Be Witnesses!" -- Part Two
Acts 1: 8
Our mission as witnesses hinges on the personal element.
Who and what we are as persons is fundamental.
We must recognize our characteristics that may inhibit our witnessing.
We have looked at such characteristics as: personal hindrances, pride, superiority feelings,
shyness, inability to express ourselves, and laziness.
Now we will continue.
Too often zealous Christians approach individuals as trophies to be won rather than as persons to be befriended.
Any cultured person observes certain standards of behavior when invited into another's home.
The same standard should be true when, momentarily, others open their hearts and lives to us.
Persons make up the community.
The Christian cannot function effectively as a Christian witness to the persons that form a society
without being or becoming personally involved in that society.
And it must be emphasize that we cannot witness generally to society as a whole,
but rather to persons who are a part of the whole.
Relationship to people is a "must" wherever witnessing is to be carried on.
These relationships exist in a number of areas: home, neighborhood, school, job, club,
organizations, the playground, etc.
Each area provides a circle of acquaintances from which friendships may develop.
It is within these segments of society that are familiar to us, where the witnessing
is normally integrated within the relationship.
When anything intervenes to block our natural relationships to other persons
within any social group of which we are a part, witnessing is also blocked.
When this happens we are tempted to turn to less natural contacts,
and then we might try to contrive various approaches to do the job all of us agree needs to be done.
Disengagement in terms of contact has led to uninvolvement in terms of life.
To put it bluntly, no contact means no relationship.
No situation could be more pathetic than this.
The Christian -- the Church -- cannot expect to witness effectively
if its witness remains within its four walls.
Ezekiel was asked to sit for seven days where the people sat.
"Then I came to them of the captivity of Telabib, that dwell by the river Chebar,
and I sat where they sat, and remained there astonished among them seven days."
(Ezekiel 3:15)We must know something about where people sit.We must know something about life where it is raw, rough and demanding.We must involve ourselves to the point of understanding their need.We must touch the world, and not be too busy to be touched ourselves. Unless our isolation is broken down, whether geographical, linguistically, socially or intellectually,
the Church cannot carry out its main responsibility.
It has literally lost contact with the very people whom it has been commissioned to reach.
People are not being saved.
People are not becoming Christians.
And we console ourselves by remembering the prediction of closed ears and stony hearts in the last days.
Or we become discouraged and, with a mental shrug, conclude secretly that the Gospel is no longer powerful.
This is not the case!
We have simply not maintained contact with those whom God is seeking to bring into His family.
One Christian lady was heard to boast of the fact that she did not have one non-Christian friend.
This is a complete misunderstanding of discipleship.
Very few Christian people have non-Christian friends -- acquaintances, yes; but not friends.
And those who do are sometimes looked down upon and are viewed with suspicion.
And frequently, those who do are not active in the Church.
There is another kind of isolation.
This kind is illustrated by the protective fences we have built around ourselves.
And our fences have succeeded greatly in protecting Christians from redemptive contacts.
Christ calls us to leave our tiny circles of comfort, and get close to the hostilities of the people of the world,
and to their suffering and their corruption.
This does not mean a breaking down of the clear line between a life of sin and a life of discipleship.
But it does mean that the isolation of the Christian -- the barriers of contact -- must be broken down
so that God's grace can flow through us to meet the needs of others.
The concern for separation between the Christian and the world is understandable and scriptural.
But there is a difference between "love of the world" and "loving our neighbor."
Involvement implies continuity.
Of course there are times when a witness can be, and should be, and often is given in a transient context.
But the witness which really speaks with impact is usually that witness continued during a series of contacts,
which have grown in a more or less natural way.
For some strange reason, Christian workers have been encouraged in patterns of witnessing to people
with whom they do not naturally associate.
This often forces a transient witness.
It would seem that the people we work with or spend time with, that we regulate associate with --
the ones which means so much to us -- would be the ones for whom we should have the greatest concern,
and also the greatest opportunity for witness.
This appears to be a more natural method than to make a mechanical selection of people
based on economic status, geography, education, or any other category.
This points us to a fundamental principle in witnessing.
We witness best where we live within a context of friendliness and friendship.
But friends are not acquired automatically.
We must work at developing friendships.
And until we have friends among non-Christians we are not in a good position to witness.
When friends know we care, witnessing becomes much more than a sermon
or nagging, or a series of text quoting, or a pious moralism.
It becomes a mutual sharing -- a dialogue, and communication takes place.
To retreat into an insulated stockade -- four walls -- may seem desirable.
But to turn from this isolation and advance into involvement may cost a great deal.
To retreat forces limitation of interests.
- It creates misunderstandings.
- It insists on denial and sacrifice.
- It often calls for suffering.
- It requires time -- in many cases -- great amounts of time.
- It literally demands our life.
This is what involvement in the needs of men cost Christ, and it will cost us no less.
As evangelism and witnessing are carried on today there is much to be desired.
For instance, we make hurried trips on a Sunday afternoon into other communities to buttonhole people
or to handout our pieces of literature while the objects of our frantic and scattered efforts
read or listen to our strange gibberish with, at best, a tolerant disposition.
Or, we move in an army of people counters so that we can fill our files and report statistics.
And in some strange lack of faith in God to believe that He could not have a witness in other areas.
So we move in with our people counters as if to say that if we don't check these people out --
God will run out of options.
Who can deny that we, as Christian workers, sometimes act like a fisherman
dangling a hook on Main Street and calling to fish in the river a mile away?
"Come, my dears, won't you bite my little hook?"
End of Part Two
Go to Part Three
Sermon by Dr. Harold L. White
Email Dr. White at firstname.lastname@example.org