I remember the moment well. It was a spring afternoon and I was upstairs reading. I was reading a book on evangelism. I was excited to be thinking and learning about evangelism, and I was hoping this book would motivate me even more to get out and witness to my neighbors. I began to pray for myself and for my neighbors. I was on the way.
Meanwhile, my wife, Christy, was downstairs while I was reading. Suddenly, I heard her open the window and begin a conversation with our neighbor Shawn.
It was the usual conversation. Christy asked how the family was doing. She asked about coming over to visit later. A little further into the conversation, Christy asked Shawn, “Shawn, do you and the family want to go with us to church on Easter? We would love to have you.”
He smiled. “Sure, we would like that.”
In one instance, I have never felt so proud and so crushed. Here I was, reading about evangelism. I was motivating myself. I was preparing myself. I was going to go out and do it. Christy just opens up the window and speaks the words of life. Why couldn’t I do that?
Well, why can’t I do it? What is holding me back from opening up the window?
As I have had time to recover from my pride, I have learned some things about discipleship. In the years since that time, I have shifted my understanding of what makes witnessing work.
I realize now that witnessing is not necessarily about learning and mastering the arguments, but engaging and loving the person. Very rarely am I engaged in debates. More often I find that the questions that are asked of me are covering up the real questions people have on their minds. Usually their questions are not really about the existence of God or if the Bible is true. The real questions are “Can God love me?” or “Can He forgive me?” or “Do I really need God?” What others need in that moment is not an adversary but a trusted friend.
Witnessing is not so much about speaking but listening. How many times have I wanted to get my point across? But how many times have I lost the person in the process? People do not want to be told something—they want to be listened to. I have learned that the best way to love them and show them they have worth is by listening to them. By listening I am saying God thinks you are important and so do I.
Witnessing is not about one discussion but many conversations over time. Studies have shown that less than 15 percent of people come to faith in one moment. The rest of the people come to faith over a period of time. Also, more than ¾ of the people say it was a family member or friend who brought them to faith. People need a trusted friend who is willing to walk this journey to Jesus with them over time. I want to be that friend.
I want, no I need, to move from the books to the person. I have a great example at home to follow. I am going to follow her lead and open up the window.
How about you? Are you ready to open the window?
(Photo by Soham Banerjee)