I Hate Witnessing, Part I
"And then he [Jesus] told them, 'Go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone, everywhere.'"1
It was a beautiful morning. The sky was a brilliant blue. Bathers were already soaking up the sunshine and challenging the surf. High above, I sat on my private balcony at the motel where I was staying overlooking the beach at Waikiki in Hawaii. I was having my devotions and felt an urge to tell God how I was feeling about my work which was being the director of an organization whose work was that of communicating the gospel.
"It's about this witnessing thing, God," I said. "I hate it and I'm quitting."
No, the lightning didn't strike and the balcony didn't collapse. Now I'm not one to hear God's voice audibly or to see visions etc., etc. But this morning I kind of sensed God saying, "Amen, Dick, I hate the way you witness too!"
The kind of witnessing I hated was sharing the gospel message out of a sense of duty, compulsion, and guilt (false guilt that is)... or by buttonholing an individual and, like a high-pressure salesman, "shoving" my pre-programmed message down their throat. I am embarrassed today just thinking about how I botched up some of my so-called witnessing experiences. Like the minister who said, "I feel guilty when I don't witness to my neighbors. And I feel guilty when I do because I make such a botch of it. My approach is so unnatural."
In her book, Out of the Salt Shaker and Into the World, I love what Rebecca Pippert had to say about witnessing out of a sense of guilt. "Whenever the guilt became too great to bear, I overpowered the nearest non-Christian with a nonstop running monolog and then dashed away thinking, Whew! Well, I did it. It's spring of '74 and hopefully the guilt won't overcome me again 'till winter of '75. (And my non-Christian friends hoped the same!) I witnessed like a Pavlovian dog. The bell would ring, I would get ready, activated, juices running and then BAM! I'd spit it out."
So, it's one thing to talk about the gospel to somebody else, but it can be a far cry from effectively communicating Christ's love and the gospel message. For those who have the gift of personal evangelism, confrontive evangelism can be very effective, but for the 99% of us who don't have the gift, witnessing for Christ can be a daunting task if we act and witness as if we had the gift!
Stay with me ... we'll pick up on this message tomorrow. Just let me say there is hope for the 99% of us who "hate" to witness. And lest you think I am bordering on being a heretic, let me say that while I may hate "witnessing," I love to communicate the gospel.
Suggested prayer: "Dear God, please help me to be always honest with myself and with you, confess the areas in my life where I feel like I am failing and botching things up, and seek your help to do your work in your way for your glory. Thank you for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully, in Jesus' name, amen."
1. Mark 16:15 (NLT).
NOTE: Today's message is adapted from the book, I Hate Witnessing (A Handbook for Effective Christian Communications) by Dick Innes. See http://tinyurl.com/33kfbk to obtain a copy.