You are a witness of Christ Jesus. Have you ever thought about that before? Maybe you’ve thought (as I did for many years) that witnessing is the province of an elite group of Christians: missionaries, pastors, perhaps a few laypeople who have been spiritually gifted for the task. Maybe you’ve thought that as long as these people were sharing the Gospel, witnessing is something you need not personally engage in. But that’s not what the Scripture teach about bearing witness to the grace of God in Christ Jesus.
Speaking to the whole nation of Israel, God spoke through Isaiah: “I, I am the LORD, and besides me there is no savior. I declared and saved and proclaimed, when there was no strange god among you; and you are my witnesses, declares the LORD, and I am God.” Every Christian, whether pastor or layperson, is a witness. There is a special form of witnessing limited to the pastoral office (we call it “preaching”), but every Christian does bear witness about Jesus Christ in his or her life in a multitude of other ways.
What does it mean for you to be a witness? Maybe you have in your mind a picture of young Mormon men knocking on the doors of people they do not know and facing rejection after rejection as they seek to get an audience for their message. Rest assured, that’s not really what being a witness is all about. A witness is simply someone who has personal knowledge of something that’s in question.
As Christians, we all have personal knowledge of God’s mercy in forgiving sinners like us through Jesus Christ who died for us. In our baptism, we have experienced Jesus’ forgiveness personally, and we experience it anew when we are absolved and receive Jesus’ body and blood at the rail. Being a witness of Christ Jesus then is simply telling others about this great hope we have in us because Jesus forgives our sins. It’s really that simple.
Yet, we know that speaking the Gospel to our neighbors can be intimidating and challenging. Not everyone will receive the message with joy. Sometimes we let our intimidation silence us so that we’re afraid to speak about Jesus. For that reason, it’s helpful to study the task of witnessing and practice our skills from time to time. Next month, my newsletter article will focus on some of the hurdles that get in the way of our witnessing, and later we’ll talk about what it looks like to bear witness in your everyday life.
But there’s another great opportunity to learn more about witnessing that I’m excited to tell you about. In just a couple of months, we’ll be starting up our Sunday morning Bible study once again. Beginning in September, we’ll spend six weeks going through the new LCMS witnessing training course called Every One His Witness. It presents a solid Lutheran approach to being a witness of Jesus Christ in your everyday life. Unlike most evangelism programs, which pile up guilt on you for your witnessing failures, this class focuses on the Gospel. Jesus invites us to be his witnesses as a faithful response to the mercy he has shown to us in delivering us from sin and death. Every One His Witness will show you how you can bear witness to the mercy and grace of Jesus as you go about your everyday life. Keep an eye and ear open for more information. We hope you’ll be able to join us to be strengthened and encouraged as you bear witness to the mercy of Jesus to those around you.