Be a Witness, Not a Judge
April 3, 2015
- Leadership, Outreach
I think you’ll enjoy a quick excerpt from my friend Mark Wilson’s new book, Purple Fish: A Heart for Sharing Jesus:
Some church folks, as Marshall Shelley observed, are “well intentioned dragons. Their earnest desire for setting things (and people) right comes off wrong. “Nothing has done greater damage to our Christian testimony,” said Watchman Nee, “than our trying to be right and demanding right of others.”
A Barna group survey conducted a few years ago found that 90 percent of non-Christian young people between the ages of sixteen and twenty-nine view Christians as judgmental. Perhaps one reason for this is because we have assumed the wrong role in the courthouse. We play the part of judge, jury, or prosecuting attorney, rather than witness.
It’s tempting to assume the role of judge, especially when so many evils abound. But if you find yourself pounding the gavel, you’d better step off the bench. Jesus warned us not to judge or we will be judged (Matt. 7:1). God alone is the judge—not us. That’s quite a relief. Who in their right mind wants to carry such a burden of responsibility anyway? “There is no point trying to size people up,” said Ann Voskamp, “because souls defy measuring.”
Some church people see themselves as self-selected juries, but it’s not our job to convict people. That role belongs to the Holy Spirit. There is a huge difference between conviction by the Holy Spirit and condemnation by a narrow group of priggish people with shriveled hearts.PROSECUTING ATTORNEY
Others take the prosecutor position: “You are guilty, and I’m going to prove it.” Prosecutors are the ones who protest with placards and engage in heated arguments about religion. That approach is terribly ineffective. I have never seen a soul argued into God’s kingdom. When you become the spiritual prosecutor, you are not assuming God’s role at that point—but rather, the Devil’s. He is “the accuser” (Rev. 12:10).
Your role as a Christ follower is to simply be a witness. You don’t have to pound gavels, point fingers, or cast blame. All you need to do is share your story. The beautiful thing about sharing your faith story is that nobody can deny it. No one can argue with your own personal experience. When you share personally, it touches hearts deeply. What is most personal is most universal.
We are not called to push anybody into our way of thinking. Rather, we bear witness to what God has done for us, and then leave the outcome in his hands.
“Evangelism is less about trying to manage an outcome as it is sharing events and offering an advent alternative for what everyone clearly sees,” said Leonard Sweet. “Rather than wrestling the sinner’s prayer out of a person who will say anything to get out of the headlock, it is a nudge toward the undeniable truth that is alive in all of us.”
Like the redeemed beggar, all you need to say is, “One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!” (John 9:25).
A few pointers on sharing your faith story:
1. Pray that God will open doors for you to share.
2. When the door opens, have courage to speak.
3. Stay humble and never portray an attitude of superiority.
4. Keep it simple and brief. Don’t share more than they want to know.
5. Tell them what you experienced, rather than what they should do.
6. Focus on the message (Jesus) rather than the mess.
7. Don’t engage in argument. If they protest what you’re saying, back off and let the Holy Spirit work.
Filled with humor and heartwarming stories, author Mark O. Wilson presents in Purple Fish
an approach for sharing Jesus that is engaging, nonthreatening, and genuine. Rather than a canned program or script, Wisconsin pastor reveals his “fishin’ with a mission” that leaves everyone saying, “I want to do that!”