This isn’t going to be an end all “How To” guide. I obviously don’t have the experience or the acquired knowledge to author something like that. What I do want to address and hopefully identify is some common sense guidelines and common pitfalls that new Christians and even older Christians can use or avoid, to effectively witness to others, about the reality that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.
I’m not talking about Pastors or Ministers or Christians whose normal 9 to 5 workday (and extended hours) is involved with ministering to others, in any of the various Churches or organizations that minister to others. I’m talking about the common Bob or Mary who may be a student in school or university or work at a secular job throughout the week like a lot of people do within our society. I’d like to think that this article is directed towards what I call the “common or ordinary” Christian, who may be a youth, a single man or woman, a husband or wife or even a grandma or grandpa like me.
In this article I’m going to share some of the things that I have learned along the way. What I identify hereafter is not exclusive, I’m sure that I am going to miss a lot of things that are valid and applicable but if you read this article as an overview, I’m hoping that you will see some common sense threads or principles that may assist you in being an honest and heartfelt witness for our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
I’ll briefly touch on why we are to witness. Then I’ll define what I think an “ordinary or common” Christian witness is and what they are not. Next I’m going to identify some things that will assist you in being an effective witness and lastly I will identify some things that I would recommend you try to avoid.
WHY WE WITNESS
The answer is pretty simple. Because Jesus asks us to and because we will want to share the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ with others. There are all kinds of Bible verses that emphasize this command that Jesus gave us but suffice to say right now that sharing our witness about Jesus with those we care for and those we encounter through our daily walk through life is a relatively natural desire for a normal “born again” Christian. How we witness or the manner in which we may witness to others will be covered later in this article.
WHAT IS A ORDINARY OR COMMON CHRISTIAN WITNESS?
An ordinary or common Christian witness is someone who tells others about what they have come to understand and have personally experienced. A witness testifies to what they have seen or heard and verifies what is true. We’re not talking about a Biblical Theologian or Philosopher, or an Evangelist, Preacher or Minister validating any specific truth of Christianity. I’m talking about ordinary common lay people testifying to other people. It could be you witnessing to a fellow student, a family member, co-worker or other acquaintance. We’re talking about non-professional Christian lay people. You talking to your neighbour, me talking to you, like I am now.
COMMON SENSE GUIDELINES
The following list is not exhaustive and is in no particular order but I would put forward that they are definitely worth considering and at a minimum, a good starting point:
- Prayer is essential. Don’t put the cart before the horse. Jesus said without Him we could do nothing. He isn’t kidding. The Holy Spirit can do amazing things when we are open to His leading. Start your day with prayer and be open and obedient to God’s leading.
- Study God’s holy Word daily. You can’t explain to others what you don’t understand yourself. There is no shortcut on this one. Learning God’s ways and thoughts never stops while we are on this earth. Study to show thyself approved.
- As opportunities present themselves, never cease doing good for others. That applies to immediate and extended family members, co-workers, acquaintances, etc. A lot of times our actions speak louder than words. God’s word tells us to think of others above ourselves. Give when you can, lift or encourage when able, assist when you can. Learning how to balance our priorities is critical.
- Learn to differentiate between assisting and carrying. There is a big difference between carrying someone else’s load for a mile and the entire trip. The goal of assisting someone is to give them the opportunity to become self supporting or sufficient, which is an essential part of their own self respect.
- Learn to balance your attention. Witnessing inside your own home to your wife/husband and children (word and deed) is vitally important. Don’t neglect one responsibility at the expense of another.
- Learn to listen. Many times when talking with others they will share openly of themselves if you take the time to actually listen. Sometimes answering their questions is more important than getting the point across to them that you think is important. Learn to see things from within their perspective and use their perspective to lead them to the perspective you wish them to see. Don’t expect immediate compliance, accept their consideration.
- Be joined to other believers. The Church is the collective body of believers, it is meant to work in union with others. If at all possible, be part of the physical and spiritual collective body of Christ by attending a church near you. Short story is we all need one another.
- How you say what you say is vitally important. A lot of times the tone and manner in which you speak to someone dictates how they will respond to you. God’s word tells us that when someone asks us about the hope that we have (note that is someone asking you), we are to respond with gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3:15 NIV). Respecting the other person’s culture and life experience goes a long way in how they will actually hear what you have to say. How Jesus dealt with the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4:4-26 NIV is an excellent example of how to interact with someone. Take the time to study it carefully.
- Earn the right to speak to someone. When the opportunity exists, lay the groundwork for future conversations. What you do for someone before you speak to them about Jesus will go a long way in how they receive what you have to say. If you respect them and accept them as they are and act kindly towards them, they will be much more open to what you have to say.
- Learn when to back off. When a door is closed, don’t keep banging on it. Opposition can be in verbal and/or in body language forms, learn to recognize them and react accordingly. The Holy Spirit will usually let you know when the door has been closed, pay attention.
- Never be afraid to or slow in apologizing. If you think you may have offended someone, immediately offer an apology for unintentionally offending them. Explain the intent of your heart in a manner and perspective that they will understand.
- Readily admit when you don’t have an answer. Offer to research it and get back to them or indicate that your knowledge in that area is rudimentary. Misinformation if a negative reinforcement and undercuts your credibility.
- Christian Youth groups or Christian adult study groups. These types of groups are excellent methods of gaining a more deeper knowledge of God’s Word and being exposed to effective communication between people. Make use of them.
- Learn to acknowledge your own level of understanding. I don’t know anyone who knows it all. I’ve met a few that think they know it all but knowing and thinking aren’t one and the same thing. There is absolutely nothing wrong in admitting your lack of understanding in a given area of Biblical knowledge or doctrine.
- Learning how to discern. Discernment is a requirement of the Christian walk and it is closely associated with knowing God’s Word. This skillset is sadly lacking in many Christians today because of ignorance of the totality of God’s Word. Learning how to discern takes time, lots of time, dedicated prayerful time. There are many subjects where discernment is required. Superficial knowledge breeds error.
- Learn to speak from your heart. Sometimes our testimony of what God has done in our lives, in spite of our shortfalls and lack of understanding, is a powerful witness to the reality of God. When lead by God’s Holy Spirit, be willing to lay your heart bare to someone else who is searching. Fancy words aren’t required, just let it flow from your heart.
- Varied outreaches. There are many types of outreach that common or ordinary Christians can utilize and all of them are worthwhile endeavours. Some of us may blog, some may participate in Church or home based Bible studies, others may support mission work abroad or participate in local neighbour area get-togethers and most of us will witness to those whom God’s puts in front of our paths, as God’s Holy Spirit leads us. The thing is, we’re all trying, to follow our Lord’s directive to be witnesses to Him throughout the world.
SOME THINGS TO TRY TO AVOID
- Saying unkind or angry words. Never say on public Internet media apps such as Facebook or Twitter etc, what you would not say to someone to their face. Getting in heated arguments with anyone, seldom, if ever is productive. You are supposed to be an ambassador for Christ, act accordingly.
- Avoid disseminating misinformation. Learn to become at a minimum, basically informed about the subject that you are discussing. Nothing undercuts your credibility more than giving out misinformation. Learn to authenticate your indicated sources of information. Learn to not overstate your case.
- Getting into a discussion where you are in over your head. Learn to stay out of Internet discussions that you are not qualified or conversant enough with, on the subject matter being discussed. Warning such as 2 Timothy 2:16 NIV, 2 Timothy 2:23 NIV and Matthew 7:6 NIV come to mind.
- Becoming a Bible Thumper. Nothing turns people off more than encountering someone who constantly throws Bible verses at them that closely resembles a water faucet that can’t apparently be turned off. Unfortunately, most new Christians go through a phase of doing this, until it finally registers that doing this is totally non-productive and in fact is counter productive to the desired goal. Learn to address different audiences in different delivery methods like the Apostle Paul advocates in 1 Corinthians 9:19-23 NIV. What you would or can say to one audience does not necessarily mean it can be applied to all audiences.
- Avoid contentious Biblical issues. There are many contentious Biblical issues that can easily produce heated exchanges, both from outside the church and from within the church. If you want to understand a contentious Biblical issue it will be necessary to first take the time to study all of the different issues on the particular subject. This can be very time consuming but if one wants to become conversant with the particular subject, there is from my experience, no shortcuts. Know where your strengths are and know where your weaknesses are and react accordingly.
- Avoid criticism where there is an option to do so. If you do enter into a discussion that is contentious, don’t be surprised when you encounter criticism. If you jump into the swimming pool you are going to get wet. Most times when you make a contentious statement you will know that it is going to be opposed by someone. Try to restate your statement in a manner that will diminish the anticipated opposition, if this is possible.
- Avoid thinking that your opinion of understanding on all things is the correct one and all others are wrong. We all have opinions and there are a number of subjects within the Bible that can appear to some, to be neither black or white but gray. I’m not talking about the main doctrines of Christianity. I’m talking about subjects like Predestination and Free Will, Old Earth Creationism and Young Earth Creationism, or Evolution and the origin of life, to name but a few. Try real hard not to show or harbour disdain for fellow believers who hold opinions that differ from our own. There’s nothing wrong in discussing opposing perspectives and considering the evidence for views that differ from our own. As long as we are not watering down the main tenets of Christianity, let’s cut one another some slack. I’m relatively sure that most of us will be in for a few surprises when we get to go home to be with our Lord.
So there you go, I’m sure as I mentioned previously, that I’ve missed many other valid recommendations or avoidances but I’m hoping this will be helpful and spare some others, some of the things that I had to learn the hard way.
Worthy is the Lamb! Blessings!