In a post-truth society, the challenge of being a witness for Jesus Christ takes on new dimensions. No longer can words alone convince the way that they perhaps did in the past.
“Your truth” is not “my truth” logic means that although we Christ-followers know the one who declares “I am the way, the truth and the life", our witness to this Truth must go beyond just telling people about it.
Words without matching actions and attitudes are hollow and meaningless, and we run the danger of being exposed as frauds.
Weird & Uncomfortable?
As a child, I somehow ‘learned’ that ‘Christian witnessing’ was an artificial, forced conversation, with pre-scripted talking points, which made both me and the ‘beneficiary' uncomfortable. It was usually met with tolerance at best, and polite rejection at worst. My takeaway was that witnessing was weird, uncomfortable and ‘not for me’.
As I’ve grown in my relationship with God, spent time reading and rereading scripture and compared my childhood understanding with what it actually means to be a witness, I’ve unravelled my broken ideas and replaced them with some that I believe are more appropriate.
The main problem with my childhood experience was that it was not built on my own encounter with God—rather I was taking on a role scripted by someone else. The definition of a witness is someone who has a personal experience that they can describe. If I talk about someone else’s experience, its hearsay…and potentially gossip. If I speak about my own experiences, then I am a reliable source—a witness.
7 Characteristics of Fruitful Witnesses
In recent years, my thinking and learning had been augmented by real life observations. I’ve had the opportunity to work alongside some very ‘fruitful witnesses’—those who have seen many people choose to follow Jesus Christ, as the Holy Spirit empowered their efforts. Here’s some things I’ve learned from watching them:
1. Effective Witnesses Passionately Love Jesus Christ.
They have been changed by their relationship with him. They have experienced great love and are filled with great love so that they can live from a place of great love. They don’t just ‘know about’ Jesus Christ, but rather know him personally and are committed to a growing, deepening relationship with him.
2. Effective Witnesses know how Transformative their Life in Christ is, and they Wish it for Everyone.
Because they want everyone to experience what they have, they intentionally prioritize their time to be with people who don’t yet know Jesus Christ. They are walking advertisements because they can’t hide what is real and true and life-giving—conversations about Jesus, for them, are a natural expression of their identity.
3. Effective Witnesses are Humble and Gentle of Heart.
They don’t bludgeon people with ‘the truth’ but rather listen and respond within a growing relationship. They drink a lot of tea, building trust and friendship. They don’t come with a hidden agenda of ‘talking points’.
4. Effective Witnesses are Ready.
When the opportunity arises to take a step deeper on the faith journey with their friends, they are ready to go, because they have been watching expectantly, with hope that God is at work, stirring things up and bringing them to life.
5. Effective Witnesses are Servant Hearted and Compassionate.
They see needs and are moved to respond. They go out of their way for someone else. They use their own resources for the benefit of others. They give all that they have, to serve the needs of others.
6. Effective Witnesses are Courageous.
They understand that there is a spiritual war raging all around and that in the ordinariness of talking about what is real and true—talking about Jesus Christ—some will be hungry to hear, and others will react with hostility. Either response will be met with humility and gentleness of heart.
7. Effective Witnesses are not easily Discouraged.
They love like God does—with a patient persistence that slowly disarms and melts objections, hostilities, and apathy. These witnesses love because God loves, serve because that is what Jesus taught us to do, and wait as patiently as God waits for us.
Ordinary People Empowered by the Holy Spirit
Some of the most effective witnesses I’ve seen have surprised me.
They don’t look like what I imagine. They aren’t necessarily well-educated, or financially stable, or well-established in society.
Some of them are new immigrants; some are many generations Canadian. Many of them are not intimidated by social barriers of language and culture—God loves equally, and so do they.
They aren’t afraid to be learners and are genuinely interested in the person in front of them. Like Jesus, they aren’t afraid of people, and are able to see beyond the first impression to the story that will unfold with time and patience.
As I’ve watched my friends and learned, I’ve discovered in real people what I’ve read about in Scripture. Ordinary people empowered by the Holy Spirit become powerful. People passionate about Jesus talk about him. People growing to be more like Jesus, love like him.
I want to be like that.
Lorna Johnston is the Diaspora Ministries Leader at Outreach Canada. She leads two national teams--Loving Muslims Together (LMT) and Simply Mobilizing Canada (SMC). She works with teams of diverse and experienced leaders and ministries across Canada to alert and activate the church in Canada to the changing opportunities to engage God's mission right here in Canada.