I was raised in a family where I was taught to interpret conflict or confrontation as something wrong with me (I’ve never quite gotten over that pathology) so putting myself in the position where cherished beliefs collide was not my idea of a good time.
When my brother witnessed to me, sharing a four-easy-steps gospel tract and I became a Christian, I would go into his room and read all the books he had on what Christians were supposed to do. There were many things that appealed to me – reading and learning the Bible, prayer, loving others, confessing sin, and letting the Holy Spirit guide my life, for instance. However, it was this insistence that I need to engage in the practice of going up to people I don’t know and tell them what the’re not interested in hearing that caused me to take a deep breath, suck it up, and be willing to take up my cross.
I tried. I really did. When I joined the One True Church, I had lots of opportunities. We would go out every Friday night to talk to people on the local ocean pier. We would go into parks and knock on doors in neighborhoods, Bible in hand, ready to share promises and lead inquirers to Jesus.
But the most opportune of all was our college ministry. The campus, after all, was a whole mission field of impressionable minds at life’s crossroads. We would pray earnestly for revival to bring our University campus to Christ. We had a Bible study, a prayer meeting, discipleship groups, and (you guessed it) times of witnessing. I would spend hours at the book table armed with tracts hoping to be a part of Jesus’ Great Commission with very little fruit to show for it.
The problem is, I’m kind of the Charlie Brown of witnessing, the one no one really takes seriously. My witnessing would be similar to his It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown trick-or-treat experience:
Brother: I ran into these high school kids hanging out and I talked with them and three of them received Christ! Praise the Lord!
Sister: There was this obnoxious woman at the gym and I prayed for the love of Christ and after sharing with her, she became a Christian and is now going to church with me! Praise the Lord!
Me: I got a rock.
Brother: I’ve been sharing with my boss and he got really interested in the Bible and is coming to the Bible Study. Praise the Lord!
Sister: I shared with the girl at McDonald’s and she got so convicted that at her break she came out and talked with me and wants to know more about Jesus. Praise the Lord!
Me: I got a rock.
I don’t know why some people encounter the work of the Holy Spirit opening the eyes and convicting the heart while I only get looks of incomprehension of incredulity. I don’t think I was speaking Yiddish but perhaps I was just not as self-aware as I thought I was.
To some, witnessing isn’t quite as big of a deal. They believe that God choose those who are going to be Christians an eternity ago and its just a matter of getting out the draft notices. I suppose the postal service would suffice for this.
Others, on the other hand, feel that if someone dies without knowledge of Christ to face an eternity of harrowing judgment, it really comes down to being my fault for not doing a better job of witnessing, persuading, and otherwise getting the word out. I really like to believe that the God who crafted the intricacies of the atom as well as the expanse of interstellar space is not resting the central supply chain of His salvation message on my dubious skills of proclamation.
Jesus said some sow and others reap. I’m still trying to figure out how to get the garden shed door open.