The Dilemma of Witnessing Versus How I Really Am


warmwordsforcoldnights asked a question:

One thing that’s on my mind some days is about witnessing and living your life. Is it a daily thing, that you witness to others or in the course of your life when your led is it that way. It may be a crazy question, but seeing that I’ve never seen it done or have been discipled. It feels like most times I’m just guessing and when I have shares my faith it was like I felt I didn’t say the right thing or I left something out.


Hey my friend: I think you landed on exactly what’s so tough about evangelism.

There’s a secret fear with Christians that we’re somehow fooling people into Jesus, as if we’re selling a campaign that we don’t quite believe ourselves.  It could be that we’re never quite certain about the right doctrine or the best presentation.  Or we’re not exactly living up to the ideal that we share, and there’s a troubling guilt that we might be wrong about this whole thing, so it’s this awkward sheepish hesitation masked with an almost too-loud confidence.  Like selling snake-oil that we want to really believe in, but remain unsure.  And some of us just feel straight up unworthy or too unknowledgeable to speak up.

I think a lot of this is because of the way we’re taught evangelism.  In the mainstream church (which I love, by the way, and I’m not bashing), we’re mostly taught to package the Gospel with one-liners, retorts, psychological allurement, and a final deal-closing prayer.  I mean let’s think about this.  I’m going to tell you the truth of the universe about God in a five minute sale at your front door.  I’m cool with door-to-door evangelism: but is this really the standard for sharing our faith?

This is a sort of “success model” in which we’re expected to “convert” people by numerical values and scripted responses.  In the end, it’s trying to turn the Gospel into one more program.  So of course, we get nervous that we’re not living it right AND saying it right, and it’s a double-fear that many Christians don’t talk about.  We just act as convinced as possible but we’re not willing to doubt our own product.


Often my personal goal as a pastor (and a friend) is not to tell you what to think, but how to think about what you’re thinking.  I don’t want to drop faith at your front door, but I want to talk you through the things you believe.  I want to tell you about the person who changed my life.  That does require words and inviting you to church and telling you about the Bible and presenting the Gospel — but it also means sharing life with you, wrestling with doubts, asking the hard questions about suffering and purpose, being there with you to reflect grace and patience and honesty.  Without this, then evangelism remains a cold pamphlet with doctrinal facts about God, but it has nothing to do with Him.  Then we’re about recruiting people as projects to perpetuate programs: and bam, you have the modern church.

I think evangelism, in the end, overlaps with discipleship: which is life-on-life togetherness with Christ.  There isn’t some dichotomy where we “attract” people with witnessing and then “keep” them with deeper theology.  Both are fully active and pulsing in our daily lives.  And no one is looking for perfection, either.  I want a real human being, not a religious puppet who is spouting stock answers.  I want to see the moment after someone messes up.

I want to encourage you, dear friend, that you don’t need to know everything about Christianity to be convicted.  You don’t need to wait to “get better” before sharing.  Sure, do your research.  Sure, keep growing.  Yes, know your theology.  But what I care about is that I love people with the same love I’ve been given.  If we’re going to talk about that, it won’t be a project or charity case or sale: but I can only say, “It’s only because I met someone who changed my life, and his name is grace.”  If they want to hear about that, then run tell that.  If not, that’s okay too.  Keep loving.

— J.S.



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10 thoughts on “The Dilemma of Witnessing Versus How I Really Am

  1. I agree with everything that you are saying, I guess this is more of a question than a comment but how do you personally speak religion to someone who Just considers you a hypocrite because they know you aren’t living the life of a “perfect Christian”?

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    1. It takes humility to admit that we are wrong. Christians are usually referred to hypocrites due to what is happening in mainstream culture and news. We’ve seen pastors preach Jesus yet molest children and do other vile things. We’ve even seen Catholic priests do the same thing hence this conclusion via observation. We are never perfect, and it takes bravery to admit you aren’t a perfect Christian to others, and you will only be perfect when you get to heaven. However, the message here is that God is our refiner and perfector of our faith and he is perfecting us and tweaking our faults bit by bit in our lives. We’re not perfect now. But we’ve admitted we’ve changed. We want to let others know of what Jesus has done for us. We don’t want to preach Jesus, we want others to know about Jesus and his goodness.

      But, providing the person then goes and spreads how much of a hypocritical jerk you are, then that person is probably the one being the hypocrite :/

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  2. For me, real evangelism happens when the Christian has no agenda. Love for love’s sake would be rather refreshing coming from the church. I’ve never seen it. Never. But then, people in general have agendas, be they Christians or no (me included). Maybe we need to get at the root if we want to fix the fruit? And while it could be said that Jesus had an agenda, I would agree if the agenda was obedience to the Father. However, I don’t believe His love for others was agenda-driven the way “outreach to the lost” is.

    When we truly love others for who they are, laying down the agenda to make them like “us” (which begs the question of why the church has felt the need to create an ‘us vs. them’ mentality in the first place), then we don’t have to worry about hypocrisy or results. If grace is true, and there is freedom in Christ, then we need to lay down the things that enslave us too – like the need to produce or perform. Those things don’t impress me from the world, why does the church think those things will impress anyone?

    “No greater love … than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” Love conquers all.

    Peace to you, J.S.,
    -C

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    1. Good to hear from you again!
      Agreed. I remember a seminary professor once telling me that everyone has an agenda, but it’s up to us whether it’s creepy or not (haha). When loving another person becomes practical or functional or layered with secondary motives, that’s pretty much an abusive mentality that the Bible continually decries. I think it’s maybe less of a church issue and more of a human issue; we’re all tempted to slide that way.

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      1. Amen to it being a human issue! But the Gospel has to change us in that way first and foremost before we can ever hope to ‘evangelize’ anyone. Just my 2 cents.

        Yes, I’ve been in and out lately – planning a wedding is time consuming and EXHAUSTING! lol It was a success, though, and we have 1 ‘married off’ with 2 to go. 😉

        Take care, J.S.,
        C

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