How to Witness
Outsider is not a derogatory word; it simply refers to those who are not yet in the kingdom. They do not yet know Christ. We can’t act like idiots toward those who don’t believe and then expect them to find the gospel appealing. Instead, we are to “make the most of every opportunity” we have to witness and to do so with grace. What Paul is saying is that we must witness with wisdom and charm every chance you get.
Jesus is a good example of being wise when talking to others. When the religious leaders tried to catch him making a political faux pas, he sidestepped their trap with a clever object lesson. (“Show me the coin used for paying taxes. Whose image is this? And whose inscription?” [Caeser’s] “So give back to Caeser what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”) We don’t have to do coin tricks to share the gospel, but we do have to be consistently kind, fair, and focused on the important things so that whether in words or in deeds, we are showing people the good news of the gospel. In being people who live our faith, we lay a groundwork for others to see that it works. Then when we have the opportunity to talk about our faith, we’ve got some credibility.
But don’t wait around for opportunities to talk about your faith. Go looking for them and take advantage of every one you find! I was in Starbucks the other day, and the barista asked, “Are you Pastor Lionel?” When I said yes, she said, “My friend goes to Calvary, and she’s been talking to me about church.” Her friend was taking advantage of an opportunity and she opened a door for me to do the same. That is how the gospel spreads.
Paul’s text also tells us to witness gracefully and tastefully and to answer the questions put to us. There should be an attractiveness to the way we talk about our faith. We want people to be drawn to the beauty of the gospel. We want to show how awesome God is. If God is kind, then we must be kind. If God is compassionate, then we must be compassionate. If God is gracious, then we must be gracious! This goes back to that groundwork I was talking about earlier, and it sets us up to take and thoughtfully answer questions about the faith.
In my experience, most unbelievers are completely misinformed about the gospel and the church, which is not a new problem (the first century church was accused of cannibalism for “eating the flesh and drinking the blood” of Christ). We need to respond to their concerns:
Why doesn’t God just let anyone into his kingdom?
Well, it’s his kingdom and he wants it to be an awesome place. He doesn’t want it to end up like this world.
I heard you kick people out of the church?
We don’t call it that and we sure don’t take it that lightly, but yes, it sometimes happens. But only after we’ve worked as hard as we can toward reconciliation. Oddly enough, we also get criticized for letting “just anyone” in.
I heard Christians don’t have any fun!
Really? Want to come to a party with me Friday night and we can talk about that?
Church historian Philip Schaaf has this brilliant summary of the spread of the gospel in the first four centuries of the church. It’s a bit lengthy, but I want you to see this, so I’m going to paraphrase some of his words.
There were no missionary societies, no missionary institutions or organized efforts to win the Roman world. Yet in less than 300 years, the Roman Empire embraced Christianity. Every congregation was a missionary society, and every Christian believer a “missionary,” inflamed by the love of Christ to convert his fellowman. Every Christian told his neighbor, the worker his fellow-worker, the slave his fellow-slave, the servant his master, the husband his wife – the story of his conversion.
- Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church: 100-325 AD
When we leave the place of worship we spread across cities and the countryside. We go into classrooms and boardrooms, to coffee shops and restaurants, to basketball courts and cross-country meets. Everywhere we are, we should be looking for opportunities to talk about our faith.