Friday, 11 October 2013

What kind of witness?

Recently I had a mail item in the church mail box which concerned me. It offered something to people for free and made quite a thing out of helping folks learn to read the bible. At first glance what's wrong with that? As a Christian I am all for people reading the bible and helping them make sense of it as best we can. After all as Timothy tells us its a good diet for us.

The publicity was for a course, run by a church group that many mainstream Christians would not accept as Christian. However I don't want to get into that at the moment. The point is that what they seemed to be doing is attracting folks to the free bible study course without saying who was behind it and so what the underlying things that they were going to be teaching about the bible actually were. A sort of stealth approach possibly because the truth might put some off from coming.

It got me thinking about what we do through Church and our faith lives, under the heading of "outreach". How much is either so "in your face" that folks are put off and so propagates the label that we Christians are intolerant, rule based people and such or is done by stealth so that there is no obvious connection to the church or our faith even though that's the underlying reason for doing it.

I know that some won't agree with me, but shouting out loud in the streets seems to put most off  and sometimes seems to draw attention to the message giver rather than the saviour we serve. Personally that's was my impression of a  you tube clip put up recently trying to show the police in the UK victimising a street preacher as he shouted out his message and refused to reduce his volume after complaints. What kind of witness is that? Perhaps we need to use more effective ways to touch people with the truth and in case you are wondering, I have done plenty of street work and door knocking myself. Chris Duffet gives some excellent ideas on the Light Project web site of ways to connect in public.

What kind of witness does it give if we are not being open and honest about who is doing whatever it is? Our saviour was up front and open about who he was, talking to and ministering to groups of people where-ever he came across them, in his earthly ministry. Yes he upset people, yes there was opposition to him, but he also attracted people who would give up lifestyles and lives to follow him and give out the message. His honesty earned him ridicule, torture and death. But his witness sparked a movement that has endured through the centuries, witnessing to the God who calls to us, his people, through an incredible witness, Jesus.

We, that is the church, are ambassadors for an incredible saviour, lets not be afraid to let people know who we are, but lets also not frighten folks away with our sometimes well meaning but badly thought out methods. Last year handing out free dough-nuts and chocolate in a high street with lots of shops, car dealers and
other businesses, telling folks why we were doing it, surprised many and got folks talking and sharing.

How we witness what we believe plays a key part in how those who see or hear it take it. Let's try and be good witnesses ...