A witness is someone who has, who claims to have, or is thought, by someone with authority to compel testimony, to have knowledge relevant to an event or other matter of interest. In law a witness is someone who, either voluntarily or under compulsion, provides testimonial evidence, either oral or written, of what he or she knows or claims to know about the matter before some official authorized to take such testimony. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Witness)
Last week on the way home from work, I witnessed a pretty bad accident on the way home from work. I was right behind a car that pulled into an intersection prematurely leading to a three car accident. It was surreal. The accident seemed to happen in slow motion as an oncoming car slammed into the car as it crossed into the intersection. The car at fault was then pushed into another car across the street that was waiting to cross the road. I felt like I was in a movie as I saw two of the cars go airborne.
I called 911 explaining the situation. After recommending that an ambulance be sent to the scene of the accident, I explained that there were most likely injuries. The 911 dispatcher connected me with a state trooper who asked for details and requested that I stay there until a trooper arrived on site. Apparently, I was the only witness to the accident, and they wanted my testimony.
When the trooper arrived, he inspected the cars, the roads, and those involved with the accident. He took notes. He checked in with the paramedics who were already on the scene. He took a few more notes. And then he came over to me to get my take. It was a quick discussion. I was able to confirm the details that I observed. And then he sent me on my way. I had completed my job as the witness.
When you hear the word “witness”, what comes to mind?
Maybe, you think of the 80s movie (Witness) starring Harrison Ford and Kelly McGillis in which a young Amish boy witnesses a murder.
Maybe, you think of The People’s Court, Judge Judy, Night Court, or another courtroom drama or sitcom in which someone is called to testify.
The term witness is met with mixed thoughts and emotions when it is tied to the church. Christians are often afraid to share their faith concerned with how they will be perceived. Some Christians are afraid that they will be compared with street preachers or Jehovah’s Witnesses. Many fail to “witness” because they are afraid of rejection. Some simply feel inadequate, “What can I say that would make someone follow Christ?”.
I’m not sure what you think about witnessing, but it seems pretty clear that we are called to testify – to witness – to others about the truth of Christ, His love, and His sacrifice on the cross. The Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20) directs Christ followers to go into all the world teaching others about Christ – to witness.
What and who gives us this authority to share our testimony? The Great Commission provided by Christ himself provides this authority, and our own experience with God gives us a compelling testimony worth sharing. So how can we do this? Many of us wouldn’t proclaim to be gifted speakers or preachers. But that shouldn’t stop us. Witnessing to others can include words, but it also can be through our actions.
I love this quote by Saint Francis of Assisi:
Preach the gospel at all times — If necessary, use words.
So a challenge for you and me is to be intentional in our words and in our actions today. May our words and deeds bear witness to the truth of Christ that longs to permeate the lives of everyone.
How can you be a witness today to those around you who need to know the love and truth of Christ?
Today, I’m privileged to present guest blogger, Kevin Stone. Kevin is the executive pastor at the church I attend. He comes to our church from corporate America where he held key leadership positions at a few larger companies. If you follow the Myers-Briggs temperament tests, Kevin and I share the same ESTJ personality type. Kevin blogs regularly about leadership and about the happenings at our church. You can follow him on his blog and on Twitter. I’d encourage you to stop by executivepastoronline.com and become a subscriber and a regular reader of his blog!
(I love to share STRETCH stories on The Stretched Blog. If you’re interested in guest posting, drop me a comment!)
Our Behavior is Our Witness
I definitely remember one of the things that stretched me most as a new believer. It wasn’t changing stuff that I had done previously, like eating too much, drinking too much, using bad language, looking a little too long at a beautiful lady walking by, etc. It wasn’t beginning to spend time in my Bible or doing some type of daily devotional, in prayer and meditation. It certainly wasn’t regularly attending church and serving; I love going to church and I definitely love to serve!
So, what was it, you say? It was learning how to “be Jesus” in day-to-day situations, especially at work. How do I actually “love” people who I previously couldn’t stand? How do I behave in a way that honors God even though God centered behavior very often flies in the face of the workplace norm?
Before becoming an Executive Pastor I spent more than 20 years in corporate America. (You can read the About page of my blog if you’re interested in the details.) I remember one particular leadership position with a company with a working environment “norm” that included lots of behavior that would challenge any well intending Christ follower. It was perfectly OK and very normal to turn one’s head, watching an attractive woman walking by. Use of lots of choice language in conversations with others was normal. It was even normal in fairly high level meetings. It was more than acceptable for a group of executives to follow a business dinner with a trip to one of the city’s “Gentlemen’s Clubs.” It wasn’t even out of the ordinary to see a married coworker spending a little too much time with another woman, if you get my meaning, while on a business trip.
As a Christ follower, I had to find a way not to become a “weird Christian” while not violating any of my principles in terms of my behavior. I didn’t want to be weird or “preachy” to my coworkers, but I did want to be noticeably different opening doors for sharing my faith with others. So, I drew the line as it related to my own behavior. I didn’t criticize the behavior of others. I just made sure that my behavior was fitting for a person who believes in Jesus. When the heads were turning to check out a nice looking young woman, my head wasn’t one of them. It was difficult, but I kept thinking, “What would that lady think if she knew I was watching her walk away?” Or, “What would my wife say if she saw me looking?” When I spoke, I somehow found a way to express myself without using some of the choice expletives that my coworkers normally used. I kept a healthy distance from women while still doing my job. I only went to lunch with female coworkers if others were along with us. I avoided business trips with just me and a female coworker. And, I definitely always went home after business dinners while others were headed for the strip club.
Did this create a little “separation” between my boss, most of my coworkers, and me? Definitely yes! It never got in the way of promotions, bonuses, or other positive recognition, though. In fact, my boss had a lot of respect for me. I remember the first time we talked about my passion for Jesus and the church. He was, I think, impressed. In fact, now (years later) he regularly attends church with his wife! Pretty cool!
The bottom line is this: Jesus told us to evangelize the world. He didn’t tell us to separate ourselves from the rest of the world. In fact, he told us to go into the world. In order to do that, we must stay “normal.” What do normal people do? They listen to normal music. They have fun doing stuff that others enjoy doing. Of course they are also doing stuff that God would like to see them stop doing. And, they need us to introduce them to Jesus so he can change them. If we’re “freaky Christians” we’ll never get close enough to another to actually have an impact on them. They’ll think we’re weird and just stay away from us.
We need to learn that we can’t change the behavior of others. We can only control what we do, and we need to allow Jesus to change us which helps our “different” behavior to open doors and create opportunities to share our faith with others.
So what do you think? How has your behavior been a witness to others?