Help write my new book and provide me feedback on this article. Please comment at the end after reading this article! – Kent
In John 10:22 and following, Jesus is in another threatening discussion with some Jews who could not grasp His divinity. Jesus had told them that they don’t believe because “you’re not my sheep.” In other words, they don’t follow him and they don’t recognize him as the Good Shepherd (verse 14). In verse 31, they pick up stones. Jesus basically says to them, “if you don’t accept the words—that I am God (verse 33)… then believe that I do what the Father does.” In other words, Jesus says, “look at the evidence of the actions that are right before your eyes” (Verse 38).
Somehow the church has overcomplicated what is most often called “evangelism,” and, in the process, scared off most Christians from personal outreach. There are those who are gifted to be “evangelists.” They have the gift of evangelism. It is a supernatural attribute given to them by the Holy Spirit. But just like those who are prophets, apostles, pastors and teachers, obviously that’s not everyone. In fact, evangelists are a relatively small percentage of the people in any community of believers. There seem to be just enough to form some kind of a committee or team. That focus alone which institutionalizes the game-changing opportunity that is supposed to be the operational opportunity for everyone. That all inclusive privilege is the calling to be witnesses. we are eye-witnesses. Anyone who has been a Christian for more than three years has some “God stories.”
When I was the pastor at one of the churches I served, it occurred to me that every church has some kind of an evangelism committee, or some outreach program, but few churches develop a culture of “eyewitnessing.” So I decided to experiment with an approach to change the culture of my congregation. Our church council met once a month. One month, at the beginning of the meeting, I said, without any explanation, “Before we start, would anybody like to share what God’s doing in your life recently?” The people around the table looked at me like I had just come from another planet! And, I might add, no one shared anything.
I did the same thing in a Bible class I taught on a weekly basis: “Before we start the teaching today, I’d just like to ask, is there anybody who would like to share what God has been doing in your life lately?” Again—no response. A couple of weeks later, we had a congregation meeting and before the meeting we had a luncheon. Before we started the luncheon, I simply asked, “Would anybody like to share what God has been doing in your life lately?” Again, not a single response.
Six weeks later, after continually asking this culture-changing question, we experienced breakthrough. It was in Bible class. A woman in her 30’s timidly raised her hand to share something. Quite frankly, her eyewitness “testimony” (as it is sometimes called—though I don’t recommend using that word, was, frankly, pretty weak. But it was a crack in the cultural dam. Within four months, when I asked the question, “what has God done in your life lately?” I had to shut down the discussion after fifteen minutes so we could have Bible class, get on with the meeting, or eat the food before it got cold.
What’s the point? The point is not for a bunch of Christians to sit around and share what God is doing in their lives. Although, the value of that new culture around church is tremendous. You should realize that every time someone shares about God working in their lives, whatever their story—whether it is told with great articulation or they fumble through it—basically declares the same confession: “from my life, from my perspective, God is alive and well, and working in our world right now!” This is an awesome boost of encouragement for Christians. But what happens at church is just the tip of the Christian movement iceberg. And that is the point, from a mission perspective.
When this culture is infused among the people of a church, sooner or later, they’re going to be talking with a colleague at work, who knows them well, and dares to share a personal challenge. That person might share, confidentially, over lunch, that he and his wife are having financial struggles that are stressing their marriage. The Christian may have, in their “eyewitness memory bank” a time when he and his wife had a similar scenario. It may have been an occasion to increase their prayer life, read their Bible, return to church or whatever spiritual growth step. And if he share that, at that moment, in that relationship, as an eyewitness—eyewitnessing—he is a cutting edge missionary whether he has the gift of evangelist. Consider a whole church of a hundred people or five hundred, or five thousand, who have processed into a culture of eyewitnessing. Consider the number of people who have not yet met Jesus who reside in the social networks of all those people. Consider the challenges that those people have on any given day. Consider the power of the movement, the way Jesus intended it. This is evidential. It is an event that takes place in our lives where we believe that God has intervened. That’s what it means to be an eyewitness.
Add to this dynamic, teaching people in your church the ability to identify what Jesus calls “a person of peace.” You remember that Jesus instructed his disciples to go into the town and share the Kingdom. When they meet a person of peace, they are to enter the house and stay with that person. When the person showed no receptivity and was not at a point of peace (which God creates!) then they are to, as a divine directive, shake the dust off their feet and move on. This doesn’t give up hope on a anyone, because hope is eternal in the Kingdom. But it recognizes that it is not the season to plant the seed. Develop a culture of identifying receptivity alongside a culture of eyewitnessing, sharing evidential realities, and the growth of the Christian movement becomes explosive with exponential potential. It is all about developing a mission culture in the church. This is not birthed as a program but through experiential modeling, and simply asking a question: “What has God done in your life lately?”
Help write my new book and provide me feedback on this article. Please comment below! – Kent