One of the greatest blessings of my life is that I was raised in a Christian home. However, my parents were not. When my dad was 18 he gave his life to the Lord at a Billy Graham crusade. My mother was a “bus kid.” Her parents did not want to go to church, but they let my mom and her sister get on a bus and be taken to church. She accepted Jesus as her Savior at a young age.
1. What has been your spiritual journey? Do you know that of your parents?
For years there has been a discussion of how to share the Gospel. Some have focused on church programs of going door to door (it is also referred to as Cold Turkey witnessing). The thought here is that no one knows when they will die. There should be a sense of urgency. Paul’s response in Acts 26:28-29 is often referenced, “And Agrippa said to Paul, ‘In a short time would you persuade me to be a Christian?’ And Paul said, ‘Whether short or long, I would to God that not only you but also all who hear me this day might become such as I am - except for these chains.’” A Billy Graham crusade can be this kind of situation.
The other route is Friendship Evangelism where you first develop a relationship that earns the right to go deeper. It is where you first meet physical and emotional needs in order to approach the spiritual need. James chapter 2 addresses this well. We need to care about the person and not just try to check “to witness” off of our “to-do list.” I am so thankful that a bus driver and Sunday School teachers expressed the love of God in words and actions for my mom.
2. What are the advantages of both approaches?
3. Where is the balance?
Clearly, the most important thing is that we share the Good News.
One of my favorite verses is 1 Thessalonians 2:8, “So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.” Paul says they shared two things – the Gospel and their lives. He preached the love of God in his walk and talk. Looking at the context has several points to consider when we discuss witnessing in sharing what we have experienced through Jesus Christ.
In 1 Thessalonians 2:1-4, Paul sets the stage for discussing a proper perspective, “For you yourselves know, brothers, that our coming to you was not in vain. But though we had already suffered and been shamefully treated at Philippi, as you know, we had boldness in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in the midst of much conflict. For our appeal does not spring from error or impurity or any attempt to deceive, but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts.”
4. What things caught your attention as you read this passage?
Paul openly talks about how they were persecuted, yet they pressed forward in obedience to God. Their focus was on obeying God, confidently following through with others, and contently working through their circumstances. Witnessing is about God and others.
5. Who are we trying to please when witnessing?
6. How can persecution or tough times enhance our witnessing?
Looking back at 1 Thessalonians 2:2 again, we read an important concept, “But though we had already suffered and been shamefully treated at Philippi, as you know, we had boldness in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in the midst of much conflict.”
7. What does “shamefully treated” mean to you?
8. What does boldness look like?
9. How (or to whom) can you be bolder in your witnessing?
No Babbling Zone
No Babbling Zone might sound weird, but we all know people who like to argue for the sake of arguing. That is not effective witnessing. Paul adds in 1 Thessalonians 2:5, “For we never came with words of flattery, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed - God is witness.”
10. Who likes to get someone distracted or sidetracked during a witnessing opportunity?
11. When it comes to our salvation and witnessing, is sharing what Jesus did enough, or do we need to make it look prettier or more acceptable?
In 1 Thessalonians 2:6, Paul says that they had no ulterior motives, “Nor did we seek glory from people, whether from you or from others, though we could have made demands as apostles of Christ.”
12. What does it mean to be real and how important is it?
In a section full of persecution, confidence, and boldness, Paul speaks of gentleness or kindness in 1 Thessalonians 2:7, “But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children.”
13. How does gentleness fit into witnessing?
Talk about the love of the Lord
Paul does not ignore the aspect of preaching the Gospel. In 1 Thessalonians 2:8, he says, “So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.”
14. Why did Paul say they shared the Gospel?
We should live with an “Audience of One” (God). We know He is always watching and should strive to please Him in everything. We witness in obedience, but love should also motivate us. It is love for God and love for others.
15. Who is someone who you dearly love that you do not know if they are saved? What will you do? When”
Walk in the love of the Lord
Finally, as we discussed earlier, Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 2:8, that they shared life together, “So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.”
16. What topics are you comfortable talking about? How can these lead to a conversation about the Lord?
17. Who have you been witnessing to but have not shown love through your actions? What will you do? When?
18. Who has seen you living out your salvation, but you have not spoken the Gospel to them? What will you do (text, phone call, email, or getting together)? When?
I recently read a cute story. A young girl was on her way home from church on Sunday and said to her mother, “Mom, did you tell me that God was so big that the world cannot contain Him and that you cannot see the end of Him?” She replied, “That is right, honey.” The little girl continued, “Well today I learned that God lives inside of me.” Her mom smiled and said, “That is right, too.” She said, “I am confused. If God is so big that He cannot even fit in the world, and He also lives inside of me, shouldn’t people see Him coming out of me?”
Let the love of God overflow from you and spill all over others!