Updated: May 5
I have a confession- I am a nerd. I love to look at data and numbers and trends.
I was doing some usual mundane things today such as grocery shopping, laundry, and tidying up the house when I came across my December 2019 copy of an Adventist magazine called The Southern Tidings. I was about to throw it out when I noticed the leading article was entitled, "Winning Souls for the Kingdom". I had skimmed through the issue's articles previously but somehow missed that one. I decided to sit down with it.
I took a moment to read it, feeling encouraged and inspired by several evangelism stories from across the Southern Union which were listed by various state conferences. As the article wrapped things up, there were some numbers mentioned...
In the year 2019, the Southern Union SDA membership was at 303,603 people. In 2019 6,893 people were baptized and/or became members of the Southern Union churches. Naturally, this is something to be celebrated as the Bible rejoices over even just one person who discovers Jesus. I praise God for all those people who can now live with even more joy and peace than ever before.
Then I realized that is only about 2% growth. I was alarmed. To make matters worse, the article author called this "robust" witnessing effort.
Are you kidding me? What is robust about that?
I thought about it, and I realized that reasonable excuses aside, Christians just aren't witnessing as they could be. Let me rephrase that... I am not witnessing as I could be. Sure, the majority of my friends are already followers of Jesus. Sure, I get online and post a bunch of "inspiring", "spiritual" posts. Sure, I tell people I am a Christian. But do I comfortably tell other people that they should be too? Ick. No. My heart is beating faster just typing it out.
I am growing up in a generation where everything and everyone is easily offended. Actually, someone is offended that I just said the previous sentence! I am offended you think I should eat like you. I am offended you think I should dress like you. I am offended you don't like my weight. I am offended you don't like my language. I am offended you don't like my music. I am offended you felt like you could share your opinion with me.
If you happen to "offend" someone, you get this really terrible, nasty, disgusting adjective attached to you: judgemental. I'm not joking, I genuinely feel repulsed by the word.
Do you want to know a secret? One of my worst fears for the majority of my life was to be called "judgy". Want to know another secret? It is still my worst fear...and guess what. I've been called it. I will continue to be called it and so will you. We must let go of our pride. The reality is, if you decide to take a stand for anything at all in this world, someone will feel offended and judged by your stance.
Now don't get me wrong, I am not advocating for the stereotypical "Christian" lifestyle that so many people fear and avoid. They are avoiding it for a good reason! This idea that "witnessing" means going up to someone and giving them a bunch of pamphlets, screaming at them to repent or go to hell, or advertising a list of things they should and should not do is entirely false. It is completely and utterly wrong and although the Holy Spirit can truly use anything we do to reach someone, the chances of that approach succeeding more than failing are quite slim.
Witnessing is sharing Jesus, and Jesus reached people with love. I am not trying to downplay the times he spoke boldly or harshly with the Jews, but we must realize he did that because he could see their hearts. We cannot see people's hearts. We must assume the best in others. The open-hearted people received a different approach. Jesus reached those people because he healed them. Jesus reached those people because he showed them how to live a better life. He didn't demand they live a better life, he showed them how to live a better life. Jesus was so effective at what he did that people came up and asked him, "What must I do to be saved?" Are we so low on faith that we do not believe we could reach a place in our lives where people might approach us with the same question?
God is calling us to stop waiting for people to come to our churches, our meetings, our Bible study groups, or our BLOG & SOCIAL MEDIA SITES (He's preaching to me too) before we try to share Jesus with them!
2020 is the year to go up to the person you see at the restaurant who is crying. 2020 is the year to pay for the woman's groceries who just tried to hand the cashier food stamps. 2020 is the year to ask your neighbor if you can do yardwork for them. 2020 is the year to volunteer at a woman's shelter. 2020 is the year to sacrifice your time and your comfort zones for the sake of showing people that Jesus loves them.
There is nothing offensive or judgemental about love:
1 John 4:18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
John 13:34-35 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.
1 John 4:7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.
It is through these acts of love that people will want to know you, and there is one more step you must take at that point. You must tell them why you did what you did. You must tell them that you cannot take credit for the kindness, but rather you wanted them to see Jesus. It is important to tell them this because it is the honest truth. No person on their own wants to give up their time, their money, or their resources for someone they don't know or a cause they've never heard of. We must give Jesus all the credit for the good people see in us.
It is because you love someone and build a relationship with them that they want to listen to you. It is at that point in your communicating that you can give them the Bible. The Bible hold's all the answers, the rules, and the guidelines that any of us could ever need or want.
Yesterday a Pastor friend and mentor of mine told me that Jesus is transformative. He is absolutely right.
Jesus is transformative, people, policies, and rules are not.
I challenge you to be Jesus this year. Suddenly your witness experience will go from weird to wonderful.