You should never bear witness to what you have not personally witnessed.
- The Rule of Ciarán, Irish, 7th or 8th century
But Peter and John answered and said to them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.”
- Acts 4.19, 20
Perhaps this is the explanation.
Over the years that I’ve been a Christian I have been troubled by the steady decline in personal witness-bearing on the part of believers.
Back in the late ‘60s, when I came to faith, and for well over a decade after that, it seems Susie and I were always around people who talked freely and often about their faith in Jesus. Local churches taught evangelism, and church members went out to visit neighbors, church visitors, and complete strangers for the purpose of making Christ’s Good News known.
But since the arrival en masse of the “seeker friendly” church, the outreach of church members has dried up.
We’ve learned to let the church and its worship bands, theater lights and seats, drama teams, anecdotal preaching, and special-interest ministries do the outreach for us. Few are the churches these days, whether large or small, who have not adopted some aspects of the seeker-friendly model, in an effort to make going to church more contemporary and entertaining.
But the widespread adoption of the seeker-friendly church model has also brought declines in doctrinal instruction, spiritual disciplines, and whole-life obedience to the Law of God. As a result, today’s Christians don’t seem to have the depth of faith or commitment to talking freely, intelligently, seriously, and frequently about Jesus.
And so maybe that’s the explanation: We don’t bear witness because we don’t have all that much to bear witness to.
Put another way, our silence with respect to the Gospel may be nothing other than our most eloquent testimony of how little we have actually seen and heard and know of the Lord.
It’s not for me to say. I’m just musing, searching for an explanation of our evangelistic reticence. Each of us will have to consider this for himself.
Still, I think of those first believers – persecuted, deprived of homes and possessions, chased out of Jerusalem and fleeing to the uttermost parts of the earth. Everywhere they went, Luke tells us, they were “gossiping the Gospel” of Jesus Christ (Acts 8.4). Persecuted or not, they had seen Jesus; they knew the Good News of the Kingdom. And they could not be silent about it.
Perhaps when we have begun to witness more of the Presence, promise, and power of Christ and His Kingdom, we’ll be more ready and consistent to share our faith with others.
1. If someone today should ask you for a reason for the hope that is within you, what would you say?
2. Pray each day for an opportunity to talk to someone – believer or unbeliever – about Jesus and what you’re learning from Him.
Psalm 9.1, 2, 17-20 (Diademata: Crown Him with Many Crowns)
I will give thanks, O Lord, with all my heart to You!
I’ll tell the wonders of Your Word, so many and so true!
With joy to You I cry; Your glory I will raise;
Your matchless Name, O Lord on High, will I forever praise!
All who forget the Lord shall perish evermore.
Condemned by His blest holy Word, their punishment is sure.
The poor and troubled rest in God’s all-loving care;
while fear of Him, Whose Name is blest, grips nations everywhere.
Help me, Lord, to be a faithful witness to You. Let me talk with someone today as I…
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All Psalms for singing from The Ailbe Psalter. Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
 Ó Maidín, p. 45.