You do not need a pulpit to preach the gospel though the pulpit is the more conventional way. But God has given his church many ways to make known his love in a dark world. God may not have given you any of the gifts necessary for preaching but he has given you all the gifts you need to gossip the gospel to friends and neighbours. When we are willing to use these gifts it is amazing how many opportunities are given us to do so. This informal witness is not a substitute for pulpit preaching but a supplement to it. It is a means of bringing folk to church to hear a fuller account of gospel truths.
The most effective evangelism is unorganized where ordinary believers tell people about Jesus. If your church wants to organize a gospel campaign there is no need to import a big name evangelist to preach for you, just motivate your own people to get out among their friends and speak about Jesus. Several years ago I was preaching in California and the church organizing my itinerary told me that they had arranged a BBQ at the home of one of the Christians. This woman had been converted a year before through listening to a sermon of mine on tape and now she wanted all her neighbours to hear the good news so she invited them to her home to hear this British preacher. That night I spoke to about 70 unbelievers at her home. They came because obviously they respected this woman and wanted to hear what had so changed her life. The last recorded words of the risen Christ to his apostles before his ascension were, ‘you will be my witnesses…’ Every Christian is called to be a witness.
Witnessing begins with caring
It begins, firstly, with caring about the glory of God. God is not glorified and honoured in this world because the vast majority of people do not know and love him. His truth is trampled in the mud and his name taken in vain. The only way for this to change is for people to become Christians. Look at how different your attitude to God is now, compared to what it was before you were converted. If you care enough about God’s glory, you will tell people the good news of the gospel.
Witnessing begins, secondly, with caring about people caring about unbelievers in their bondage and spiritual blindness. Without Christ, men and women are going to hell. Do you care? Then witness to them of the only way of salvation.
Many Christians are timid about witnessing. To counteract this many different methods and schemes of personal evangelism have been devised. This is all done with the best of intentions, but it does not provide the answer to the problem. It makes witnessing too mechanical and artificial, so that instead of being a natural overflow, it becomes rather like scraping the bottom of the barrel.
Witnessing flows out of worship
If witnessing begins with caring, it is also true to say that witnessing flows out of worship. Too many older Christians tell new converts that the first thing they need to do is to learn how to witness. This is wrong. The prime need of the new convert is to learn to worship. Witnessing will always be difficult unless the heart of the believer is absorbed in God.
My heart is full of Christ, and longs
Its glorious matter to declare!
Of Him I make my loftier songs,
I cannot from His praise forbear;
My ready tongue makes haste to sing
The glories of my heavenly King.
Charles Wesley is perfectly correct. Fill your heart with worship of Christ, and witness will inevitably be the overflow of your experience of God. Read Acts 2:41-47. God may never call you to be a preacher or a missionary, but if you are a Christian he has already called you to be a witness for him in this world. In Acts 11, where we read that the gospel started spreading into the entire world, God did not only use great preachers. Ordinary timid believers were used:
‘Some of them, men from Cyprus and Cyrene, went to Antioch and began to speak to Greeks also, telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus. The Lord’s hand was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord’
Take heart from this, and follow the example of those nameless saints.
In word and deed
You must never forget that once you are known as a Christian, everything you do is a witness. It may be a good witness or a bad witness. Your behaviour is every bit as important as your words. People will quite rightly dismiss all you say if they do not see the gospel having an effect upon your life. Witnessing, therefore, is not an occasional happening, but a twenty-four hour business.
Your life will show where you stand with God, but it is your words, more than anything else, that will show unbelievers where they stand. The gospel must be spoken (Romans 10:14). The people in your home, school, factory or office need to hear of God’s love and offer of salvation. If you do not tell them, it may well be that no one else will.
You must never confine your witnessing merely to giving a testimony of your own experience of God. This can, of course, be included, but your purpose must be to present people with the gospel. They must be shown that they are sinners (Romans 3:23), under the wrath and judgement of God (Romans 1:18) and already condemned by God (John 3:18). You must tell them that God demands repentance (Acts 3:19; 17:30) so that they can then turn in faith to Christ for salvation (Ephesians 2:4-9; John 1:12).
In your witness, do not be arrogant or aggressive. On the other hand, do not be timid or apologetic. Speak naturally and warmly of the things of God. Do not be over-concerned about proving a point and winning an argument. Be patient and loving. Do not be surprised if you are ridiculed for your strange beliefs (Acts 26:24; 1 Corinthians 4: 10). Keep pointing people to Jesus. Let his name be the word most frequently upon your lips, that people may see you are Christ’s servants. Be concerned for individuals.
‘If you had one hundred empty bottles before you, and
threw a pail of water over them, some would get a little in
them, but most would fall outside. If you wish to fill the
bottles, the best way is to take each bottle separately and
put a vessel full of water to the bottle’s mouth. That is successful personal work.’
C. H Spurgeon