Our Witness

“Your life may be the only Bible some people ever read.” This is something I have heard time and time again in my Christian journey. I believe the truth of this adage was affirmed when the United Methodist Church decided a few years ago to adopt an additional vow in its membership pledge. New members and existing members, in receiving new members into the church, covenant with one another to support the church with their “prayers, presence, gifts, service, and witness.” This has been something that I have been careful to follow since it was changed by the General Conference. I have observed on occasion some pastors failing to include the newest addition, “witness”, and many lay people are simply unaware of the change to the vows. Recently, when I mentioned this to a lay leader when it had been overlooked in receiving a member, the lay leader said, “Aren’t service and witness the same thing?” If they were, would General Conference have felt it necessary to add witness? It seems that “service” is an outward act, what John Wesley might have called a “work of mercy”….it is something one DOES that indicates the fruit of the spirit in his life. To be a “witness” can be active….as in offering a testimony by word or deed….or it may be more passive….as in simply living one’s life according to the principles of the Christian faith. The witness of our lives can be powerful, even without any specific act of service being performed.

I was reading an article on “Reading the Bible like John Wesley”‘ by Andrew Dragos at the Seedbed website. Here is the final part of that article which details the final step – having studied the Word, we are to teach it. How that is done may vary from person to person, but that is one of the main goals of studying the Bible….to share it with others.

“What would be the use of learning and growing without sharing what we gain? Recall that proclamation is at the heart of the Christian faith. The missional thrust of the Bible compels us to share our faith with others. John Wesley believed this to be his imperative. You don’t need be a teacher or have an official platform to proclaim the gospel. Wesley himself was an innovator in this respect. When barred from parishes because of his teaching on scriptural Christianity, he took to the “profane” fields and highways. This is what gained him access to the everyday people that needed to hear the gospel most, and this ultimately led to the Methodist revival.

Teaching means being upfront about your identity as a Christian. It means being prepared to give an account of your holy life with simple words like “I live this way because the gospel has freed me from . . .” or “I live this way because I follow Jesus’ example in . . .” Waiting in line for coffee, tipping service people, spending time with the least of these; when done in a holy way, this will invite the unexpected opportunities for living and sharing the gospel message of the Bible.”

“And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?” Romans 10:14b (ESV)

I pray that I might live my life so that the Gospel will be preached, however it is communicated, through preaching, service, or by silent witness.

“Witness for Christ each day, and if necessary use words.” (Attributed to St. Augustine)