Archive for the ‘Witness for the Lord’ Category

Witness Training – After thoughts

Thursday, February 22nd, 2007

A few after thoughts arising from discussion and musing since I posted the Proposal.

It might come across that this proposal for congregation-wide proactive equiping should supplant inreach (other internal congregational support programs). That is not the intent. The local church continues to requiring tending through the usual activities – worship, youth group, Sunday School, fellowship, and so on. All this is foundational fuel, from which the energy for evangelism outreach can spring.

Admitedly, there is a cost in both financial and time resources to implement this sort of training. But this would be relatively short term in the sense of universal delivery. After that, the resource cost would be minimal and include only review and the occasional rerun for new participants. This would normally, I presume, fall into the Missions Ministry category, but that is just the bean counting. I suspect that in many cases there would be sufficient proponents that the project could be funded separately from the congregational budget.

Next, in the initial thrust, some other church programs would have to give way for a short period, possibly in a sequential, rather than concurrent, fashion. As stated above, the normal feeding and support of the Body is crucial and can not be forgotten or expect to run on automatic. The evangelism activities should not be just added to the existent complement or programs or it would overload the schedule. Actually, I see this as the largest impediment to initial implementation.

No worthwhile initiative, of course, comes without some effort and sacrifice. What has been proposed is simply one possible model if the members of the Body are to walk in obedience and experience the joy of this particular aspect of the Faith.

Good food for congregational discussion.

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Witness Training – A proposal

Wednesday, February 14th, 2007

With the discussion of what, why, who and partly how, out of the way, let’s finally look at doing something about it! It has been a long and admittedly somewhat tedious journey in places, but it is trickly to propose somewhat radical change without a reasonably substantial preamble to support it…

I would like to propose a bold approach. I would dearly love to see the effect.

For the congregation (or para-church group):

1. Forget any talk of church growth or similar factors
2. Forget any talk or speculation about increased resources, programs, etc., etc.
3. Forget any emphasis on performance and results

4. Learn a method and use scripture to support it and our own conviction
5. Obtain a bulk supply of New Testaments to give away as needed
6. Train the majority of the congregation in all available venues
7. Practice for comfort even if it seem a bit ariticial
8. Support and encourage all subsequent attempts (irrespective of outcome) to share the Gospel
9. Be open to bringing those shared with to church, our ONLY focus will be on sharing

There you go, the grand experiment. What would happen? Would even the assembly and para-church groups that I am affiliated with be willing to throw caution and worry about growth to the wind, step out boldly in faith in our Lord’s Will, and try it? Maybe it is a challenge as much as a proposal.

Soli Deo Gloria

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Witness Training – What tools?

Wednesday, February 14th, 2007

To train in facilitation or enabling, without encouraging the appropriation of responsibility for the outcome, what are the best tools?

Possibly a good starting point would be to look at tool type(s) which might encourage responsibility for outcoming. Since that is not what we want, it may eliminate some inappropriate approaches.

Fundamentally, any approach into which ‘we’ have direct content input would tend to encourage us to assume responsibility in proportion to our input. Since we at least partially created it, we can claim some of the results. So, how one relates to the material used to articulate the Gospel will effect the degree to which one claims responsibility for the result.

As an aside, I am not including mode of presentation – whether you present the material in the English or other alphabet, or whether you use a note pad, Power Point or pamphlet. That is media, not the material itself. If there is a related issue in this area, it is separate and not addressed here.

To continue, if one were to create a presentation of the Gospel utlilizing a human paradigm of the steps to salvation or one based upon human psychology, then irrespective of how effective or successful it was, it would tend to ensnare the presenter in the responsibility trap. And, the degree of danger would be at least proportional to the amount of personal human input into the paradigm presented. Let me stress again that I am considering the danger to the presenter’s perspective here, not the quality of what is being used.

All this is really just preamble. So, what to do?

Let me state up front that I am unashamedly poaching part of this approach from William Fay (Share Jesus without Fear ISBN:0805418393 – highly recommended), and that I have a strong belief in equiping when possible through hands-on mentoring or training (hey, I teach for a living ). Having said that, I have come to believe that the most appropriate (for the person witnessed to) and safe (from the point of view of the witness) tool is pure, unvarnished Scripture.

Scripture itself presents Scripture as ‘the’ tool for present the Gospel and the road to Salvation. It presents Scripture as the co-agent of the Spirit in effectual calling. Nowhere does it list alternate methods or resources that are needed to make it effective in the original or subsequent eras. Nowhere does it state or imply the as time goes on a little help from man might be either needed or desirable in the work of ‘calling’ the Saint from the world. Since we had no part in the creation of Scripture, it’s functioning in this (or any other regard) is not of us and to claim responsibility would be ludicrous.

What does this mean? Well, to me it means that the best methodology to present the Gospel and at the same leave the work where is belongs (in the hands of the Spirit), is the use of plain Scripture. Not only that, but if calling is effectual, then the real work is happenning behind the scenes. Beyond possibly a style of presention that helps both parties relax a bit, we are not responsible for the material nor the result. Since the presenter is then merely a facilitator, he or she is much less (not completely mind you) likely to grasp at the result, and all the pride, etc., that might go with that path.

The joy is then in celebration of whatever the result may be, since it is the Will of the Lord. If the result is another Saint, the rejoicing is in the work of the Lord, Spirit and Scripture alone. And rejoicing in the privilege of seeing it happen. If the result is resistance, even rejection, then the rejoicing is in the opportunity of acting in simple obedience to our Lord and Saviour. And rejoicing in the fact that we can leave it all in His hands, not ours.

In utilizing this technique, there are certainly many degrees. By this I mean that on one end we have a quite strident approach from Fay’s book, while there are many for whom that would we unsuitable since they have a less gregarious personality. As such, an exact scripted paradigm is not reasonable nor advoacted here. Since we have a spectrum of believer personalities, a set of guidelines or a road map to the Scriptural presentation, preamble, and subsequent support will allow the personality of each believer to shine through in sharing the Gospel.

How have I come to these opinions? I am certainly not an expert. Most of this has evolved through many conversations with other believers about the likelyhood of actually sharing the Gospel and feelings about that, through ideas culled from Fay’s and other books (though there are very few), through sharing the experience of other believers related to numerous instances of sharing the Gospel subsequent to personal evangelism workshops, and lastly, through personal experience, reactions and observation.

Does anecdotal and Scriptural evidence suggest that this is the only way, and that others might not be effective? Not a chance! But I do feel that a simple, clear, honest presentation of Scripture will be used by the Spirit for His ends, and in that we can rejoice in leaving the result to Him. In simple obedience I can’t ask for much more than that.

Next -> Witness Training – A proposal

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Witness Training – What kind of tools?

Tuesday, February 13th, 2007

The discussion so far has been largely to support the suggestion that with the use of simple Scripture as the tool, only very basic technique in sharing it, and all responsibility beyond that left to the Lord, we are in a position to apply a training paradigm fairly universally that aligns well with Biblical principles. The majority of believers that are called to witness might then have the ability to benefit from it.

Does the form and format of this training matter? In my view, it does. As previously discussed, the crux of the problem is overcoming emotional reactions. These reactions occur in almost all cases after the witnessing opportunity appears and before witnessing actually occurs, effectively stopping the process from getting started. The witness reacts internally and then never steps out. In the actual situation there may be all manner of justification and rationalization, but the reality is that the process simply gets blocked.

Since the desire to witness is sincere and the motivation often strong, how does this occur? Again in review, the blocking reaction often originates in feelings of responsibility (in this or any other process). Taking responsibility is ‘trained in’ throughout secular life as a positive and correct reaction. It could be argued that it serves well in some circumstances, but not here.

Here the Lord is the responsible party. The key then is to address these inappropriate feelings of responsibility for the end result. Though we are facilitators in the actions of and Will of the Spirit, our secular training pre-programs us to seize responsibility for not only the facilitation, but also the content, tools and results. As such, whatever training is undertaken would be well advised to provide tools resting firmly and clearly in the Lord, with the participant viewing themselves as being allowed to act a facilitator through the Lord’s Grace, and the result clearly belonging to the Lord alone.

Seems a lot to ask, but in reality it implies simply using the Scripture, and pointing the responsibility for the result where it belongs, to our Sovereign Lord. All of these articles are simply support for that. It may seem (and does to me) that I am belabouring the issues, However, it seems necessary to delve a little deeper in explanation before asking people to take up the challenge.

Next -> Witness Training – What tools?

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Witness Training – Who?

Tuesday, February 13th, 2007

How would one decide or know who to train? Though it might seem obvious, in some environments you might be called upon to justify the scope.

If the training is arduous, how many of the congregants would be capable of completing it in terms of reasonable commitments of time, background, previous theological training, language skills, or a host of other factors? Many would not be able to participate for one reason or another. Since the Lord proscribed that all participate in sharing the Gospel, then any assistance or enabling in support of that must surely be simple, concise and easily applied.

Next, the internal emotional blocks inhibiting action on the desire to witness would be excaserbated by making an individual responsible for learning complex techniques. The more complex, the more the individual would be likely to feel that they had acquired ‘technique’ and had later caused the result. A direct, simple approach would seem the best paradigm in all respects.

Recalling the guess that 5% of believers had the skills already in place, if even half of the remaining 95% acquired the tools, and even if some nonetheless could not step out, consider the number of additional opportunities that might be acted upon. What an exciting thought, in the service of the Lord. Again, not to gain anything, for that is His call, but for many more to have the joy of simply and obediently sharing the Gospel as commanded.

Would it be possible to offer fairly universal assistance, allowing many more believers to feel enabled, and bold? A limited initial experience indicates yes.

Let me amphasize that, irrespective of all the numbers, theories and such, the issue here  is enabling direct, very personal witnessing. I believe that whatever we can do to enhance this enabling for any believer honours our Lord.

So the answer to “who?” must be “all who will offer themselves”.

Next -> Witness Training – What kind?

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Witness, by the Numbers

Saturday, February 10th, 2007

What would happen if there was equiping, and something actually came of it? Just out of curiousity, let’s kick around some numbers, and compare them speculatively with the situation now and some other possible approaches to this issue.

Let us begin by remembering that this is NOT of us. It is the work of the Lord, and we are just obedient servants, privileged to have the opportunity to stand with Him. Further, our discussion is not to reduce in any way our view of the complete Sovereignty of our Lord in all matters, including these. Though we may talk about situations or paradigms, we must keep uppermost in our minds that this is about enabling direct, very personal witness of one person to another in the name of Christ.

At the moment, in the many of this city’s congregations (I would be very surprised if it varied significantly in most congregations or places, at least in North America), the percentage of folks actively witnessing, even occasionally, is very low, maybe tiny. Let’s hazzard a guess at 5% but I would wager it is actually lower. Even if those folks are the ones with natural talent in witnessing-type presentation skills and through the Lord’s Grace they have great success, they would represent a very small number of witnessing events per year when averaged over the congregations as a whole.

Possibly a congregation (or para-church group) might as a result include one actual witnessing event per year for every 15 or 20 congregants. Does that sound too low? I would say it it likely too high. In any case, is that what the Biblical command to go forth means? I don’t think so. Is the situation that extreme? My observations would certainly indicate it is.

Does this set of guessed statistics mean that the Lord, through the Spirit, only provided witnessing opportunities for a tiny number of people from the entire congregation to a few people in whom the effectual calling of the Lord was present? Again, that would be completely at odds with Biblical statements such as “Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.” Matthew 9:37-38. Even common sense would indicate that it is not a case of too few opportunities.

So it would appear that the situation is one of abundant available opportunity, combined with blocked ambition to act of some sort, within the Body of Believers.

If the ratio of people able to act on witnessing opportunities was increased by even a few, the number of people hearing the Gospel would be larger. That would surely be something to rejoice about! Not that there would necessarily be more conversions, for that is the exclusive purview of the Lord, but His name and the Gospel would be more frequently and clearly raised up in obedience. And that is a reason to rejoice!

Next -> Witness Training – Who?

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Exhortation without Equiping is Moot

Thursday, February 8th, 2007

We listen to the message from the church and para-church, exhorting us to obey the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20). We hear it from the pulpit, in Sunday School, in the lobby, in the small group, in youth group, in Christian association meetings, and many other venues. To paraphrase – “Just do it”, we are told.

Because you are a Christian (whether for 1 day or 4 decades), are you equiped intellectually or emotionally to step right out in witness? Judging by the number of believers who do so, countless conversations about it, and other annecdotal evidence, I would have to conclude that the answer is no. Based upon these sources, I would actually go farther and say, in most cases: not equiped, not practically supported, not effectively aided, not followed up, just exhorted. Doesn’t that sound impractical?

In fairness, this is neither deliberate nor negligent. Those (including us all at times) doing the exhorting are very sincere, and often not well equiped themselves. Even it they are equiped and skilled, their equiping is often based upon an approach grounded in and evolved from their own faith. As such, it may not be easily transferable, and in many cases they are not skilled in communicating nor transferring it. In fact, if they are good at it, they may not see what the problem is at all.

Does this mean that average Christian does not wish to obey the command of our Lord to go forth boldly? Again, not at all. Most wish sincerely to do so. It might be suggested that we do not go forth simply because we make excuses. That is likely partially true, but the essence of it is that many, if not most, simply do not have the tools that would give them the confidence and internal support to make the attempt. Without the confidence that at least rudimentary equiping brings, it will simply not happen in most cases.

Does equiping involve developing advance theological or scriptural knowledge? To exaggerate a bit, do you need an MDIV to witness? While those skills are certainly valuable and might occasionally be useful, they are not necessary. All that is necessary is a very basic knowledge. If that were not the case, the Lord would be setting up a system that excluded all but a few, with the rest doomed to failure. It would seem clear that He does not have that in mind. Remember that it is the Spirit that does the actual work, not the presenter. A requirement for special knowledge would move the onus back to the presenter.

So, what is needed? Basic, simple, transferable technique, and consistent training.

With the confidence that normally develops from basic training and practice, there is a much higher probability that most, if not all, Christians can be equiped emotionally to feel that they could step out with the Gospel. Notice that we said emotionally, not practically, intellectually, knowledgeably, nor any other ‘ably’. Not that those components are not needed, but discussion with numerous believers would indicate that it is the emotional reaction that mostly holds us back. Even rudimentary equiping begins to bridge that gap, bringing at least the possibility of action where none was emotionally possible before.

Is this process necessary for all believers? Likely not. But experience and honest evaluation would indicate that it is necessary to one degree or another for most. Is witnessing possible with out this approach? Certainly, for the Lord fundamentally equips all believers through the Spirit. However, if the number of the Saints stepping out with ease and confidence today is any indication, helping eachother in this way would assist us all.

What a joyous thought, to help each believer gain the basic confidence and security to act in this most basic obedience to our Lord!

“And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers,
for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ;” (Ephesians 4:11-12).

Let us use the gifts that He has given us, through His Grace, to equip eachother for joyous obedience.

Next -> Witness, by the Numbers

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