by: Rev. Ed Schneider, M.P.Th.
There is one thing that I have learned in abundance these last 30 plus years in God’s ministerial service: folks who belong to a church and have no personal and on-going relationship with the God they “claim to know” are horrible witnesses to their professed faith. I could soften this indictment a little however the truth would still be the same.
Imagine someone being tragically injured in a car accident. The person is unable to extricate themselves from certain death. You arrive at the site of the trauma and decide to risk your very own life to retrieve this helpless individual. Even though your attempt to save them was successful, you sustained noticeable injuries for your heroic efforts. Even though you had not one ounce of vain “self glory” involved within your actions it would not be unexpected of the person saved as well as the close family members and friends to extend their open and sincere thankfulness for what you have done.
It is simple, isn’t it?
If you, the person “being saved” truly recognizes the actual danger associated with any salvation attempt by another…then it becomes perfectly logical…perfectly reasonable… to assume that at the very least the person being “saved” would be remarkably “thankful.”
Their “thankfulness” would reach well beyond their personal expression to you for your efforts. Most people would feel compelled to tell others about the event and you’re saving efforts. In fact, their personal sense of “salvation” from certain death, no matter how long the distance from the original event, would never be far from the forefront of their memories. They would be boldly willing, permanently ready, and joyously able to testify about the marvelous “grace” and “mercy” that had been shown to them by an individual that they had never physically met before the day of their salvation.
Even for the most timid of individuals this process of uplifting the event and the person who supplied your renewed and reinvigorated understanding of the value of life itself would quickly develop into a pleasurable task. It would become a pleasurable communication process because a legitimately life changing moment has profoundly helped to redefine and redirect their course of your very existence.
Some of you already can testify to a life changing moment in your own lives. Whether it would be miraculous happenings with your health, personal relationships, finances, natural disasters, or even acts-of-war, you can witness to what it made you feel like and how it has affected your thoughts and actions for the rest of your life. Most of those who have had this kind of shared experience have little difficulty proclaiming that their concept of “life” has been forever changed…forever transformed. That’s what a “life-changing” moment is all about.
Our witness of God or our testimony of the “reality of God,” to others works in a similar way. One can not be a passionate witness to something that they have not authentically experienced. One can read all the textbooks you can find about brain surgery; talk to all the experts you wish; hang around the operating room all you desire, but authentically and accurately describing the actual effects of the procedure requires practical experience.
Obviously I am aiming my indictment of inauthentic Christian witnessing and the inadequate excuses that accompany these mundane efforts directly at the feet of weak, apathetic, and spiritually imprisoned people who claim to “know God” in the “salvation of their souls.”
It is also important to note that passionate witnessing does not denote one method or expression over another. Beloved, followers of Christ who not only “believe in their hearts” but also “profess with their mouths” their physical, spiritual, and financial connection to God Almighty…THROUGH Jesus Christ…ought to be unafraid to say so. Christian faith is a partnership between internal and external, observation and action, even humility and boldness. Without these spiritual “partnerships” between God and the Divine’s reconnected humanity it is reasonable to suspect whether there has been a “reconnect” at all.
What are we called to testify about?
- I suppose the very first thing we ought to be witnessing to is our bedrock understanding that God actually exists. The preacher in me has proclaimed thousands of times that God actually exists and it is perfectly reasonable to faithfully believe in that truth.
- We might want to consider testifying to others concerning God’s gracious actions in the world, especially as it relates too “His grace” experienced through the interaction with other Christians.
- Shouldn’t we be reminding others daily that God’s foundational expression of His reality is love and the Divine’s demeanor, and our understanding of that demeanor, is focused through the receiving of that “love.” God’s love can be experienced in many differing ways.
- We should, as profoundly believing Christians, make it plain to the rest of the world that “God’s love”….even though it can be experienced in many ways….is however, best understood in the life and mission of Jesus.
Beloved, regardless of what or how we are testifying to the “things of God” one thing becomes ultimately clear; none of us can effectively proclaim anything we haven’t personally experienced.
The same can be said about the local church. If there is no praise in worship then clearly the congregation or even the preacher hasn’t anything praiseworthy to associate with the God that is being claimed. In fact, without authentic praise being given there has been no worship offered. If there is no outreach to the community around you then there has been no proclamation of your professed faith. If you don’t pray, or find it less than useful, there is “no way” you know the same God that I and millions of others know! If you give grudgingly “at best” to the financial support of your church’s mission then there is little evidence of your understanding of a gracious God that has abundantly given to you over and over again without qualification.
Beloved, verily, verily I say unto you, we can do much better than what we have been doing when it comes to our profession of faith. If, after you have offering of words, are feeling uncomfortable or even angry, then I would ask you to trust me when I tell you that God is directly and lovingly speaking to you.