“…you shall be my witnesses….” Acts 1:8
Family members of ours attend worship at Life Church, which is a teleconferencing kind of church. In other words, the person who started the Life Church movement preaches in Edmond, Oklahoma, but he is seen and heard in 199 other locations across, Oklahoma and Texas, and perhaps other states. As I understand it, each of the 200 locations has a pastor who shepherd the flock in that location, but the preaching is done from Edmond, the home church. This past Sunday the 200 congregations of Life Church baptized 3,000 people, and average of 15 per location That is a phenomenal record of achievement of the most important thing a church should do, bring people to Christ. I commend the Life Church movement for what they are doing. At the same time, I recognize that too many churches in my own denomination have gone more than a year without baptizing a single convert.
Going a year without a convert is not an issue if the people of that congregation are faithfully witnessing. After all, Hudson Taylor went five years without a convert after going to Burma as one of the first missionaries of the modern missions movement. Converts are the business of the Holy Spirit, not the church members. The business of the congregation is to obey the command of our Lord, as seen above, to be witnesses of His grace. My own experience has taught me that if we were all being the witnesses we should be, there is no way a church could not be baptizing new converts on a regular basis.
Back in the 50’s churches were always having what they called “soul-winning” training. A Baptist preacher named Gene Edwards wrote a number of books on the subject, books that were taught in many churches in week-long studies in how to lead people to Jesus. One of those books, Soul Winning Made Easy, taught a methodology one could memorize and use to “lead” people to Jesus. Truthfully, it was an exercise in mental gymnastics designed to trap people into answer “yes” to a series of questions, the last of which was “Will you accept Jesus as your Savior?” . Because of the way he had answered all the preceding questions there was no way for him to gracefully say “No” to that question. When he answered “Yes” we would consider him saved, and rejoice.
That is not what Jesus was talking about when He told us to be His witnesses. He wasn’t talking about memorization of a foolproof method for bringing people to Jesus. All Jesus wanted His disciples to do was to deliver an honest testimony of what the Lord’s grace has done in our lives. If you are a person who organizes their thoughts, think of it as being this kind of testimony: First tell what your life was like before Jesus came into it. Then, tell how Jesus came into your life. Finally, tell what your life has been like since Jesus came into it.
In discipleship language a witness is someone who gives first-hand testimony of an event he/she experienced. This is the art we have lost. We are just not witnessing as we should or as we once did. If we were, the baptismal waters would be stirred regularly. At least, that is what I believe. With whom have you shared your experience with Christ this week?