Over the last few weeks our pastor has reminded the church of the vows that we made when we joined the church. I serve in a United Methodist Church and there is one question that all new members are asked by our pastor as they accept the responsibility of being members of our local church.
Will you be loyal to this congregation and uphold it with your Prayers, Presence, Gifts, Service and Witness?
Each of these vows has served as the basis of the series on Discipleship that Pastor David has been leading us through. This week we focused on the final vow, that of witness. Pastor David asked me to write the front page of the newsletter helping our church orient their thoughts for the week as we get ready for Sunday Services. You can read it below.
Over the last four weeks we have been looking at the vows that we made when we joined this local congregation, here at Cordele First. We vowed that we would support this church with our Prayers, Presence, Gifts, Service and WITNESS.
Most often when I think of the word witness I think of a court room. Some issue needs to be resolved and witnesses are called in to speak to what they have seen and heard. In some cases the witnesses have been participants in the events that took place. Ultimately, the reason for the witnesses’ presence is that they will help to fill in the gaps for those that were not present when the events took place.
This is exactly what Jesus said to the disciples before he ascended into heaven. Jesus instructed his disciples to go back to Jerusalem and to wait. They were going to be endowed with a heavenly strength. And, this strength was going to undergird their efforts to take what they had seen and heard to, not only those around them, but to the nations.
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:8, ESV)
In order to be Jesus’ witnesses in and to the world there are two complimentary realities connected to this discipleship posture. The first is that we are a witness with our actions. How we live in front of the world will communicate the convictions that we have. Peter says as much when he encourages his readers to
“be careful to live properly among your unbelieving neighbors. Then even if they accuse you of doing wrong, they will see your honorable behavior, and they will give honor to God when he judges the world.” (1 Peter 2:12, NLT)
How we live our lives serves as a powerful witness to the world that does not yet believe in Jesus. We should not deceive ourselves into the false notion that people will listen to our words and ignore our actions. The first impression is, many times, the most unforgettable!
The second reality is this, our actions are not enough. Our conduct before those in the world must also be expressed in our words. How we talk about Jesus and others also communicates our witness. The apostle John says as much in his first letter. John begins the letter by making a declaration of his confidence in his calling as a Christ-follower.
1That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life–2the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us–3that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. (1 John 1:1-3, ESV)
John’s emphasis is two-fold here. Not only has he had a personal experience with Jesus. Our witness begins there. But, it does not end there. There is also a clear and direct connection between our experience of salvation in Christ with our desire to share that experience with others. When we proclaim what we have seen God do in our lives we are bonded together with all Christians in this generation and in generations past. We join in the chorus of praise to our great God and King.
Our WITNESS was added to the vows of membership to ensure that we, as Christ-followers, would not become closed-lipped about what God was actively doing among us. Our visible witness should not come at the expense of our verbal witness. Both are needed. I would dare to say both are required.