What is Witnessing?

This is a question that is on my mind a lot. The concept of witnessing I’ve had in my mind seems ineffective at best, and more likely counterproductive. Somewhere came the idea that it is just finding someone who will give you enough time to talk and downloading all your scriptural knowledge on them. Obviously,to me, not something that is conducive to gaining an appreciative audience.  But those who use this method are far more visible and, it seems, numerous than those who use more fruitful techniques. Thus they have defined what witnessing is in the eyes of many.

But it is not just them. This is the method used by the apostles at Pentecost. Stand on a soap box and preach it! Of course that was a different audience. A mass of people who were primed for a religious message due to the holy day, and who knew much of God’s word, whether they truly understood it or not. Our audience, however, is Biblically illiterate, and their minds are often far away from spiritual matters.

On the opposite side of things, witnessing is getting to know people, and being there for them when they begin to recognize their spiritual need. For this generation, this seems to be more effective. Though many become deaf when you talk about the Bible, if they know you read the Bible they’ll come to you when they’re in need. So you just have to be there for them, and wait for the right time.

But how do you know you’re witnessing? When are you actually just hanging out? And if just hanging out is necessary to establish the needed relationship, how do you be in the world without being of the world? If you’re going to be the ones your friends come to when they recognize their spiritual poverty, you can’t be doing the same things with them as everyone else. Even slight lapses can lead to spiritual weakness and the wrong response when a ripe moment arises. It was okay for Daniel and his crew to hang out with Nebuchadnezzar, but when they went out to eat they had to purpose in their hearts even not to order from the same menu. Otherwise Daniel wouldn’t have stood out as someone different, and been the clear choice to come to when dreaming of trees hewn down.


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January 2009
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