Friday, October 19, 2012

How to 'Witness'?

1: attestation of a fact or event : testimony
2: one that gives evidence; specifically : one who testifies in a cause or before a judicial tribunal
3: one asked to be present at a transaction so as to be able to testify to its having taken place
4: one who has personal knowledge of something
5a : something serving as evidence or proof : sign
   b : public affirmation by word or example of usually religious faith or conviction <the heroic witness to    
     divine life — Pilot> (Merriam Webster Dictionary)

As evident by this blog (most who know me well also experience this first hand)- I love talking about faith. It is way more rewarding than politics, allows you to learn so much about others and has an endless plethora of controversial and stimulating talking points. For me, conversations about faith are fun, insightful and educational. I see it as a welcome challenge to find common ground with other people’s beliefs and spirituality.

An add campaign from Nike- inspiring through the message
we all have seen and know greatness by watching great
athletes in sports. Does this somehow parallel the idea
of witness in faith?

However- conversations about faith can also be difficult. Some people really don’t want to talk about what they believe- and would rather keep it a private matter. Others would rather to stick to what they believe and not consider new ways of seeing things as it makes them uncomfortable. And then the worry comes up for me, how do I balance conversing with others about faith and pushing beliefs on others? Where is the line between sharing conviction and respect for them? I think where this becomes especially uncomfortable to me is when I hear about ‘witnessing’, and about how we are supposed to share and inspire Christianity in others. I think this scares me because it makes me feel that I am required to evaluate where others are coming from, and then show them ‘the right way’ rather than be open to their views and absorb new wealth from where they are coming from.
Here is a quote that makes me uncomfortable: "How to Give Away Your Faith" defines witnessing:
"Witnessing is that deep-seated conviction that the greatest favor I can do for others is to introduce them to Jesus Christ." – Paul Little.
Part of why this makes me uncomfortable is I see some of the truth in it. Of course if you believe something to your core- you are inspired to share it. And I do want to give to people in the ways that are the best benefit/favor to them! But what does it mean “introduce them to Jesus Christ?” per say? And how do I know that whatever that means is always the greatest favor to them? I personally can see how Jesus and his new testament message is beautiful, awe inspiring and revolutionary. I also see how it could bring so much relief and joy to others. But does this idea mean I need to convert people? To temper their unique inspiration and views of what is spiritually beautiful? I would appreciate some insight into this.
Here is a link with tons of verses on it about witnessing and how to share one’s faith. I think a lot of them require some navigation and unpacking- but overall they express some important ideas about sharing in faith from the bible:
It is good themes like listening, leading by example and sharing with others who are interested in listening that are all lessons within these versus that help me with this concept. Additionally this next quote really reassured me on the idea of sharing faith:
Yes, let God be the Judge. Your job today is to be a witness.
I love this idea- as it separates the evaluation aspect of someone else from sharing your experience and faith. Taking the judgment portion out of faith conversation allows you to give to others out of conversation in a way that makes a difference to them- along with sharing genuinely your own experience and convictions.
It would be helpful to hear how others deal with this idea in their lives. I would predict it is an especially difficult topic for Minnesotans, as we are so good at keeping to ourselves and being respectful/nonjudgmental of others it risks becoming a fault. I do want to continue to grow in my sharing with others in
A) a way that reflects God’s purpose, will and desire and B) in a loving way that is a genuine contribution to others.
I will close with a message from Paul on giving to others from 1Corinthians 9:
19 Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. 20 To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law.
21 To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. 23 I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.


  1. "Preach the Gospel. If necessary, use words." This quote is attributed to St. Francis of Assisi, and I have also heard it attributed to Mother Teresa. Words do have power, and words can carry deep truth. They are our tools to convey the nuances of human thought and of God's word. "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word (Logos) was God" (John 1:1).
    As Christians, we are not ashamed of the Gospel, which is the light and good news that leads to the path of life and truth. We bear witness to the faith that sustains us in our actions, words, and thoughts. But we are not responsible for conversion of another soul, all that we can do is bear witness and to plant the seeds that can hopefully bear fruit at some point. The Holy Spirit has to "prepare the soil" of the heart to be able to receive the good seed.
    It is fruitless to try to argue or convince somebody into having faith in Christ. I have tried it repeatedly over the years with many whom I care deeply for, to no avail. If anything, intransigence rears its ugly head at times like this. It is not like arguing about philosophy, though I suspect the Apostle Paul tried philosophical arguments with the Greeks in Corinth. I really do believe that faith is a gift that one can only receive when the heart and mind are open and truly desirous. Then the words can penetrate when the good soil is ready.
    And yes, we are to preach the Gospel always. Sometimes words are the best way, sometimes our actions, deeds and personal example lead the way.
    I think the site that you referred to in your blog was not the most helpful, at least to me. It seemed legalistic in tone with tons of proof texting and little explanatory unpacking. I know there are better sites out there to help explain evangelism more effectively!
    Thank you for continuing this dialogue, Kelsie.

  2. Our actions carry far more weight than our words. For someone who loves to talk and dialogue, this has been a process of learning and re-learning for me. But truly, we must get up and get busy living our faith out, as love is a verb, and we are called to love and not to judge. More than anything, after reading your thoughts one of my favorite songs of U2 came to mind, so I'll copy/paste the lyrics here
    because I think, if we could live grace-filled as much as possible, we would preach the gospel without needing words. There are a couple of people in my life who I have witnessed to truly do this most of the time, and through their actions alone they are the people who convince me that God is living and moving with us in this world.

    She takes the blame
    She covers the shame
    Removes the stain
    It could be her name

    It's a name for a girl
    It's also a thought that changed the world
    And when she walks on the street
    You can hear the strings
    Grace finds goodness in everything

    Grace, she's got the walk
    Not on a ramp or on chalk
    She's got the time to talk
    She travels outside of karma
    She travels outside of karma
    When she goes to work
    You can hear her strings
    Grace finds beauty in everything

    Grace, she carries a world on her hips
    No champagne flute for her lips
    No twirls or skips between her fingertips
    She carries a pearl in perfect condition

    What once was hurt
    What once was friction
    What left a mark
    No longer stings
    Because grace makes beauty
    Out of ugly things

    Grace makes beauty out of ugly things
    Grace finds beauty in everything
    Grace finds goodness in everything.

  3. The question for me is who or what constitutes Jesus Christ?
    Is living a life of loving self-sacrifice sharing the good news? Perhaps nothing needs be said.

    I just know that some of my most shameful and frustrating memories from high school involve me attempting to follow the advice of a church that suggested manipulating people into attending. Perhaps this experience makes me more wary of evangelizing now. I hate the very idea of it.

    In many ways I think that truth and love are Jesus and the name really doesn't matter. Perhaps people need to live the truth as they understand it. So many of us hide behind masks, which can take form in pessimism, optimism, happiness, sadness, humor, criticism, whatever.

    Owen and I had an argument regarding evangelism. I wanted to hang an cross carved from olive branches that a very close friend gave us for our wedding inside above our front door, and Owen disliked the idea saying that it was evangelizing. For me it is a reflection of the southwestern influence on my life, and thankfulness for the friend that gifted it and the marriage it celebrated. I really don't think that it's going to change anyone's life for me to hang it there. I'm glad I didn't give into Owen's arguments that we would be evangelizing by having it there because it makes me happy to see it there.

    I think my point is not to worry about it. Do what you know to be right, guided by love, and don't be afraid to make yourself vulnerable by showing what you love.