by Howard Glass
Editor’s precede: Last month Pulpit Helps published “Dishonest Evangelism” by Brother Glass. This article follows with a “glimpse from the pew” of what’s wrong with many evangelism training programs.
It is common in churches today to find Christians being trained to witness. I have been through such a program several times. It is easy to come away from these sessions with the notion that witnessing is the mark of a “genuine Christian.” Yet most believers will tell you they are not very good at it. I don’t know anyone who finds it easy.
There is no question that we are called to be witnesses. However, I realize with hindsight that some of my witnessing actually hindered the gospel, because I did it with an impure motive. So I’ve had to ponder what Jesus meant by “witnessing.”
If you have watched courtroom dramas on television, you know that hearsay is unwelcome in the search for truth. Yet, as a soul hunter, out to bring a trophy back to church, I used it liberally.
Funny thing about truth: it has a distinctive ring to it—something that, perhaps by God’s design, cannot be faked, despite the level of zeal. That ring was missing in my pitch, and I realize now that I reinforced the bulwark against “Bible thumpers” in the worldly minds I was seeking to save. I should have known better, for I remember having that same defensive bulwark in my own mind.
What I couldn’t see is that by going “on the prowl” for a soul, I was actually trying to prove myself as a Christian—as if gaining a soul for Christ was the only true measure of one’s devotion. I hoped other Christians would be impressed if I converted someone. I never sensed the selfishness in my quest and no one who encouraged me to witness ever mentioned the motive.
Most of us are insecure in some way and the enemy knows how to exploit this. Being young in Christ, trying to live for Jesus fed my pride. I was able to shed much of my habitual sin, so it was easy to start thinking I had gained some measure of spiritual power. Compound that with the desire to impress others and you can easily see how I made a boor of myself trying to witness. Been there, Christian?
The last thing a lost person wants to hear is that he is lacking something. This negative approach is bound to inspire resistance. To be an honest witness we need a positive approach, one that tells people what we have experienced for ourselves—what difference knowing Christ has made in our lives. This we can do with sincerity and credibility. Christian jargon, though comforting to us, alienates the nonbeliever. Why not simply tell, in everyday language, how much strength has been reborn in your own life; how trusting Jesus gives you power over despair and hardship?
Another mistake I made as a witness was allowing a debate to develop with the person I wanted to win. When worldly people asked difficult questions I resorted to church-speak and sounded like I had been programmed.
If I keep to what I have experienced personally—to what I know in fact to be true (not what I’ve been taught)—I don’t have that problem. This easier approach does not smack of method or regimen and is less likely to be threatening to the lost. You shouldn’t sound like a Sunday school teacher.
If some witnessing method or program fits your personality and you have had success with it, fine. But many folks find them discouraging, though they hate to say so. A simple, honest, matter-of-fact approach to witnessing works better for me. Maybe it will for you, too.
Howard Glass is a free-lance writer living in Sharon, Pennsylvania