Witnessing and Witnessed-to Stories

FW wrote this comment on yesterday’s witnessing post:

I literally got goosebumps reading this post.

I daily am forced in my vocation ( ok i am a sinner and do few things that are NOT self centered by choice) to deal with and witness to homosexuals, transgenders, drug addicts, very religious pentecostals who are in reality terrified of God, truly good and pious people who do not have Jesus and all those other people who look exactly like me in some way or other.

I feel utterly unprepared, unworthy and deficient for this task.

What you write is wonderful. Tell us more please. Can you share some personal experiences of what this looks like to you in practice?

Actually, I can, but while I sometimes tell about it in person, I hesitate to write it on as public a forum as a blog without that person’s permission. But, hey, this is an anonymous forum for most of you.

Sometimes “witnessing” is a cursory canned presentation void of both law and gospel, an annoying attempt to manipulate someone into registering a decision that they may well do just to get rid of you. Sometimes the whole process ties into a simplistic conversionist mindset unconnected to the Word and Sacraments of the Church. Still, the Bible speaks much of conversion, and, with so many people today utterly without a background in the church, God is very likely to reach them via one-on-one contact.

Do any of you have any accounts of someone bringing Christ to you or of you bringing Christ to someone? Anything to help Frank and the rest of us witness effectively to our faith?

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • organshoes

    When I did not believe, several friends and family members who did believe proselytized lovingly, and at every opportunity. They, unlike others, approached me as a beloved person, and not as a pariah. Even when I argued such things as Biblical inerrancy, female clergy (now wondering why an unbeliever should concern himself at all with such as that), Hell, creation, evolution, etc., and even while neither of us appeared to move the other one centimeter, there was always laughter, and never a hint of even righteous indignation.
    Faith took its course, of course, through the work of the Holy Spirit. But I’ve often reflected on what those people said, as well as how they said it, and marvel now that I too believe all those fantastic claims they made to my unreceptive ears. Though some of them are gone from this life, they live as examples.
    The ones who come most quickly to my mind were Southern Baptists, friend and family, who, once I was taken into Lutheranism, accepted our theological differences and delighted in the assurance that I was as ‘saved’ as they.
    They truly shine as lights within the past.

  • organshoes

    When I did not believe, several friends and family members who did believe proselytized lovingly, and at every opportunity. They, unlike others, approached me as a beloved person, and not as a pariah. Even when I argued such things as Biblical inerrancy, female clergy (now wondering why an unbeliever should concern himself at all with such as that), Hell, creation, evolution, etc., and even while neither of us appeared to move the other one centimeter, there was always laughter, and never a hint of even righteous indignation.
    Faith took its course, of course, through the work of the Holy Spirit. But I’ve often reflected on what those people said, as well as how they said it, and marvel now that I too believe all those fantastic claims they made to my unreceptive ears. Though some of them are gone from this life, they live as examples.
    The ones who come most quickly to my mind were Southern Baptists, friend and family, who, once I was taken into Lutheranism, accepted our theological differences and delighted in the assurance that I was as ‘saved’ as they.
    They truly shine as lights within the past.

  • fw

    Wow organshoes. I had no idea. I thought you were a cradle Lutheran. I would dearly love to hear more about this if you feel free to share gentle woman. What was your story before you came to love Jesus?

  • fw

    Wow organshoes. I had no idea. I thought you were a cradle Lutheran. I would dearly love to hear more about this if you feel free to share gentle woman. What was your story before you came to love Jesus?

  • organshoes

    Well, even we neo-Lutherans are cradle Lutherans, in a sense. Though I’d been baptized as a child in a Protestant church, I’d had little instruction or encouragement in religion, especially from my family, who lapsed atheistic as the years went on, even though they too had been baptized.
    What helped inform me further was my calling as a church musician, in choirs, at the piano, at the organ, off and on, all my life. Even as an unbeliever, I was almost always at work in one church after another as a musician, either paid or voluntarily. It was music that kept me in church–nothing like it moved my siblings, sadly–and ever seeking finer, higher, better music, as churches began to descend into pop stlyes and no content, even for an unbeliever (which should say a lot to the proponents of style over substance, but probably doesn’t).
    A newspaper ad put me back onto the organ bench, at a Lutheran church, and just being there with ears open (and even then, I did not open them myself) ended a life of flirtation with religion as an attractive concept to faith itself.
    There’s always more to learn about Lutheranism, whether it’s the history, the human figures, the theology and doctrines, and I’m a poor, undisciplined student of it. But, if you sit in a confessional church and hear a confessional pastor, you will have its essence, and you will not be spared the true gospel.
    So, in a sense, I am a cradle Lutheran, whose baptism
    did its work, just working as baptism does, through time itself and life itself.

  • organshoes

    Well, even we neo-Lutherans are cradle Lutherans, in a sense. Though I’d been baptized as a child in a Protestant church, I’d had little instruction or encouragement in religion, especially from my family, who lapsed atheistic as the years went on, even though they too had been baptized.
    What helped inform me further was my calling as a church musician, in choirs, at the piano, at the organ, off and on, all my life. Even as an unbeliever, I was almost always at work in one church after another as a musician, either paid or voluntarily. It was music that kept me in church–nothing like it moved my siblings, sadly–and ever seeking finer, higher, better music, as churches began to descend into pop stlyes and no content, even for an unbeliever (which should say a lot to the proponents of style over substance, but probably doesn’t).
    A newspaper ad put me back onto the organ bench, at a Lutheran church, and just being there with ears open (and even then, I did not open them myself) ended a life of flirtation with religion as an attractive concept to faith itself.
    There’s always more to learn about Lutheranism, whether it’s the history, the human figures, the theology and doctrines, and I’m a poor, undisciplined student of it. But, if you sit in a confessional church and hear a confessional pastor, you will have its essence, and you will not be spared the true gospel.
    So, in a sense, I am a cradle Lutheran, whose baptism
    did its work, just working as baptism does, through time itself and life itself.

  • http://www.geneveith.com Veith

    But also, Organshoes, in your case at least, the role of liturgy and powerful music–in a time of general decline in both those areas–played a role in your coming to faith. That’s a lesson too we should heed and need to build on.

  • http://www.geneveith.com Veith

    But also, Organshoes, in your case at least, the role of liturgy and powerful music–in a time of general decline in both those areas–played a role in your coming to faith. That’s a lesson too we should heed and need to build on.

  • Another Kerner

    Baptised Roman Catholic, raised in the church attending Roman Catholic grade schools, graduating from a Catholic Girls’ High School, went away to the University of Wisconsin, took Philosophy Classes, became a “sophisticated” agnostic, married my one and only love, bore four children, read Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged”, became politically active in Republican party politics (a delegate to the Wisconsin Republic Convention and a delegate to the Milwaukee County Republican Party Voluntary Committee), studied “world religions”, decided that the afore mentioned children needed to grasp the history of our country and get a sense of “Western Christian Civilization”………so began attending a Unitarian church.

    (I thought if Unitarianism was good enough for Thomas Jefferson, it would be good place for us to start.) :-)

    Yikes !! All political “liberals”, “one world” types in the assembly of Unitarians.

    Some one of my libertarian “conservative” political friends suggested that we might like to try a new local independent church body of Congregationalists, not associated with the NCC but peopled by free market Republicans.

    “What’s a Congregationinalist?”, I asked.
    The answer?
    “Like the Pilgrims”, she responded.

    “Perfect”, I thought. An all American Red, White, and Blue church whose predecessors were the Pilgrims.

    It is 1964. Conservative “Goldwater” Republicans had just taken a serious hit politically in the Presidential election.
    Then came Christmas Eve and the Congregational Pastor preached John 3:16. He told us what the “Gift” was……..

    I remember thinking, “I didn’t know that…….no one has ever told me that……. Jesus is the Gift? Really?”

    When the stores opened again, my husband and I went to buy our first Bible (KJV). The same friend told us to start reading in the Gospel of John, move to Psalms and then on to Romans, in that order.
    If we started in Genesis, she told us, we would get bogged down in Leviticus.

    We came away from reading the Gospel of John……..believing.

    We then church “shopped” for years (everywhere in the “Bible Believing” community.)

    Finally, Praise God, finally we read through the Concordia Triglotta (Only in the English).
    :^)

    Home At Last in Wittenburg, since 1972.

    We sent those four children into the Lutheran schools, both Elementary and Secondary.

    So, as I look back, I see now, like Organshoes, that my Baptism worked…….. in life, through time in the Providence of God, through the Word and Sacrament by Grace Alone, Scripture Alone and Grace Alone through Christ Alone.

    Amen.

  • Another Kerner

    Baptised Roman Catholic, raised in the church attending Roman Catholic grade schools, graduating from a Catholic Girls’ High School, went away to the University of Wisconsin, took Philosophy Classes, became a “sophisticated” agnostic, married my one and only love, bore four children, read Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged”, became politically active in Republican party politics (a delegate to the Wisconsin Republic Convention and a delegate to the Milwaukee County Republican Party Voluntary Committee), studied “world religions”, decided that the afore mentioned children needed to grasp the history of our country and get a sense of “Western Christian Civilization”………so began attending a Unitarian church.

    (I thought if Unitarianism was good enough for Thomas Jefferson, it would be good place for us to start.) :-)

    Yikes !! All political “liberals”, “one world” types in the assembly of Unitarians.

    Some one of my libertarian “conservative” political friends suggested that we might like to try a new local independent church body of Congregationalists, not associated with the NCC but peopled by free market Republicans.

    “What’s a Congregationinalist?”, I asked.
    The answer?
    “Like the Pilgrims”, she responded.

    “Perfect”, I thought. An all American Red, White, and Blue church whose predecessors were the Pilgrims.

    It is 1964. Conservative “Goldwater” Republicans had just taken a serious hit politically in the Presidential election.
    Then came Christmas Eve and the Congregational Pastor preached John 3:16. He told us what the “Gift” was……..

    I remember thinking, “I didn’t know that…….no one has ever told me that……. Jesus is the Gift? Really?”

    When the stores opened again, my husband and I went to buy our first Bible (KJV). The same friend told us to start reading in the Gospel of John, move to Psalms and then on to Romans, in that order.
    If we started in Genesis, she told us, we would get bogged down in Leviticus.

    We came away from reading the Gospel of John……..believing.

    We then church “shopped” for years (everywhere in the “Bible Believing” community.)

    Finally, Praise God, finally we read through the Concordia Triglotta (Only in the English).
    :^)

    Home At Last in Wittenburg, since 1972.

    We sent those four children into the Lutheran schools, both Elementary and Secondary.

    So, as I look back, I see now, like Organshoes, that my Baptism worked…….. in life, through time in the Providence of God, through the Word and Sacrament by Grace Alone, Scripture Alone and Grace Alone through Christ Alone.

    Amen.

  • organshoes

    True, that, Dr. Veith. There’s no end to the truth that hymns and liturgy have not only put into my ears, but also into my mouth. Before I believed, I heard and I said. Then I believed.
    Actually, before I believed, I believed. But, thanks to good preaching, good hymns, timeless liturgy, I was led to just what I did believe.
    Thank God that truth is spoken when good hymns and liturgy are sung–and this even in spite of what some pastors might be preaching.

  • organshoes

    True, that, Dr. Veith. There’s no end to the truth that hymns and liturgy have not only put into my ears, but also into my mouth. Before I believed, I heard and I said. Then I believed.
    Actually, before I believed, I believed. But, thanks to good preaching, good hymns, timeless liturgy, I was led to just what I did believe.
    Thank God that truth is spoken when good hymns and liturgy are sung–and this even in spite of what some pastors might be preaching.

  • Edward Bryant

    Excellent subject. I will try to comment briefly.
    After 30+ years as a pastor in mission/outreach situations I have been blessed to see many adults at the font. Practically all of them first met Christ though Christians in their daily vocations. There are a few key observations that I share with my members in encouraging them as witnesses.
    1. The GOSPEL is the power of God unto salvation. The Christian life may give opportunities for people to see the hope you have and then ask about it, but if we do not proclaim the forgiveness of Christ to them, we might as well babble.
    2. The opportunities are in our vocations – especially the vocations of friend, relative, etc. This is because of the importance of …
    3. Communication. Some communication theorists speak of “levels” of communication. Level One is shallow and might be “Hi, how are you?” which is rarely even a question. Level Five is deep, and we might have a handful of such conversations with our closest soul-mate or confessor over some number of years.
    Real law-and-gospel communication is not superficial; it deals with sin and despair and life and death and rescue. We only get to have conversations like that with those who trust us. ORGANSHOES, your story was such a good example of this principle, as the people you trusted used that opportunity to really communicate with you. IN THEIR VOCATIONS, as your family, they were able to communicate with you.
    4. One-sinner-to-another. Gal. 6 tells us we should deal with an erring brother in meekness, considering also our own frailty and vulnerabilty to temptation. One of the biggest impediments to the communication of the gospel is the impression that you need it and I don’t.
    5. The Divine Service. In my experience, most people don’t value the service with the rich gifts God gives there unless they know Him. If a prospect will accompany you, great, so long as they (in a levels-of-communication way) will trust you. It is no substitute for one-on-one. That is why I encourage…
    6. Bible exploration classes, or whatever you call them, where the dialogue can be established and maintained. I always tell people, “there is no obligation and no pressure, let’s just look at the Bible together.” After coming to faith and finishing their catechesis I’ve had people comment, “No pressure pastor? You turned the saving power of God on us like a fire hose.” Yep, but it is a kind of pressure that is only discerned by those who have been so graciously won by it.

  • Edward Bryant

    Excellent subject. I will try to comment briefly.
    After 30+ years as a pastor in mission/outreach situations I have been blessed to see many adults at the font. Practically all of them first met Christ though Christians in their daily vocations. There are a few key observations that I share with my members in encouraging them as witnesses.
    1. The GOSPEL is the power of God unto salvation. The Christian life may give opportunities for people to see the hope you have and then ask about it, but if we do not proclaim the forgiveness of Christ to them, we might as well babble.
    2. The opportunities are in our vocations – especially the vocations of friend, relative, etc. This is because of the importance of …
    3. Communication. Some communication theorists speak of “levels” of communication. Level One is shallow and might be “Hi, how are you?” which is rarely even a question. Level Five is deep, and we might have a handful of such conversations with our closest soul-mate or confessor over some number of years.
    Real law-and-gospel communication is not superficial; it deals with sin and despair and life and death and rescue. We only get to have conversations like that with those who trust us. ORGANSHOES, your story was such a good example of this principle, as the people you trusted used that opportunity to really communicate with you. IN THEIR VOCATIONS, as your family, they were able to communicate with you.
    4. One-sinner-to-another. Gal. 6 tells us we should deal with an erring brother in meekness, considering also our own frailty and vulnerabilty to temptation. One of the biggest impediments to the communication of the gospel is the impression that you need it and I don’t.
    5. The Divine Service. In my experience, most people don’t value the service with the rich gifts God gives there unless they know Him. If a prospect will accompany you, great, so long as they (in a levels-of-communication way) will trust you. It is no substitute for one-on-one. That is why I encourage…
    6. Bible exploration classes, or whatever you call them, where the dialogue can be established and maintained. I always tell people, “there is no obligation and no pressure, let’s just look at the Bible together.” After coming to faith and finishing their catechesis I’ve had people comment, “No pressure pastor? You turned the saving power of God on us like a fire hose.” Yep, but it is a kind of pressure that is only discerned by those who have been so graciously won by it.

  • Edward Bryant

    One edit to my previous post, under 5. The Divine Service. I made it sound like they had to value the service to benefit from it. The point I was trying to make is that they usually won’t come; if they do, then of course that word, like the sowers seed, is sown in their hearts – to whatever end.

  • Edward Bryant

    One edit to my previous post, under 5. The Divine Service. I made it sound like they had to value the service to benefit from it. The point I was trying to make is that they usually won’t come; if they do, then of course that word, like the sowers seed, is sown in their hearts – to whatever end.

  • http://gpiper.org/katiesbeer Theresa K.

    In my many years as a more pietistic Christian (I quit because I wasn’t very good at it! ha ha!), I often felt like a failure because I didn’t have a long list of souls I’d saved (as if!). I went to many evangelism workshops and read several books on how to be a better Christian.

    In my few short years as a confessional Lutheran, I have had many chances to simply point people to my church. I have a little deal with my pastor – I point people to him and he preaches the word. Pretty good deal, huh? That I know of, seven people have joined our church and/or become baptized, not including my own children. That doesn’t include the many family members who have visited for various special occasions. I never have to wonder whether my guests will hear the Word accurately preached in my church, thanks be to God. I also love knowing that no action I am aware of can save any soul. I only need to give account for the joy that is in my heart and be well-prepared to accurate state my faith. My job is to get to know people, show them love and then point them to the cross (as accurately preached by my pastor).

    Back in 2004, I wrote extensively on my faith journey. It really helped me to sort it all out.

    Links:

    Faith Journey, part I
    Faith Journey, part II
    Faith Journey, part III

  • http://gpiper.org/katiesbeer Theresa K.

    In my many years as a more pietistic Christian (I quit because I wasn’t very good at it! ha ha!), I often felt like a failure because I didn’t have a long list of souls I’d saved (as if!). I went to many evangelism workshops and read several books on how to be a better Christian.

    In my few short years as a confessional Lutheran, I have had many chances to simply point people to my church. I have a little deal with my pastor – I point people to him and he preaches the word. Pretty good deal, huh? That I know of, seven people have joined our church and/or become baptized, not including my own children. That doesn’t include the many family members who have visited for various special occasions. I never have to wonder whether my guests will hear the Word accurately preached in my church, thanks be to God. I also love knowing that no action I am aware of can save any soul. I only need to give account for the joy that is in my heart and be well-prepared to accurate state my faith. My job is to get to know people, show them love and then point them to the cross (as accurately preached by my pastor).

    Back in 2004, I wrote extensively on my faith journey. It really helped me to sort it all out.

    Links:

    Faith Journey, part I
    Faith Journey, part II
    Faith Journey, part III

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com Bike Bubba

    If you live for Christ, it’s hard to avoid doing this in at least some small part. You’ll get chances to opine on churches, politics, music, and such in such a way as to point them to the Creator.

    When the Spirit is moving as well, it’s amazing; I remember one friend talking about Christianity in a way that showed he really didn’t understand it, and upon being presented with the real Gospel, he took it as eagerly as a rottweiler takes a T-bone out of your hand.

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com Bike Bubba

    If you live for Christ, it’s hard to avoid doing this in at least some small part. You’ll get chances to opine on churches, politics, music, and such in such a way as to point them to the Creator.

    When the Spirit is moving as well, it’s amazing; I remember one friend talking about Christianity in a way that showed he really didn’t understand it, and upon being presented with the real Gospel, he took it as eagerly as a rottweiler takes a T-bone out of your hand.

  • kerner

    I am the eldest son of “Another Kerner”. My perspective:

    Baptized as an infant in Roman Catholic church (parents were “sophisticated agnostics”, but Irish grandmother had spent boocoo bucks on baptismal dress for 1st grandchild–failure to baptize me not an option–God works in mysterious ways, no?)

    No religion practiced in my family for about the next 11 years, but parents get involved with the earliest version of the “Christian right”. We, as a family, begin to check out various churches.

    Unitarians force me to build a ukulele from a cigar box in Sunday school, they leave no other impression.

    Congregationalists baptize my siblings (ages 10 and 5). I go to “Covenant class” (Congregationalist equivalent of confirmation class) as an 8th grader. I learn that honoring your parents is commanded in the 5th Commandment and that in the Lord’s Prayer, God forgives us our debts, not our trespasses. Parents decide that the Congregationalists’ reliance upon the Bible as the Word of God is insufficient.

    We visit various churches that DO say that the Bible is the Word of God. Oddly, they all seem to be saying that God’s Word says something different. We begin to attend a WELS Lutheran Church. By this time I am 16 and I attend adult confirmation class. I read Lutheran doctrine with a critical eye. I commit myself and am confirmed. I attend Lutheran school for first time as high school senior. I remain unimpressed.

    My parents have a disagreement with our pastor. Conflict at arises church. I attend a Catholic University, meet and marry perhaps the only Lutheran woman attending the same Catholic University (more mysterious ways), and I join her LCMS church. We go to California so I can attend Law School and worship at an LCMS church there.

    We return to Wisconsin from California (better place to raise family). We have 5 children, all of whom (plus 1 grandchild so far) are baptized in baptismal dress provided by Irish grandmother. They mostly attend Lutheran Schools. I am still with LCMS. Doctrine remains Biblical and Confessional despite occasional problems that I chalk up to the fallen condition of human nature. Recently, I discover the Lutheran blogosphere and learn a lot more in depth about Lutheran doctrine than I had for a long time.

  • kerner

    I am the eldest son of “Another Kerner”. My perspective:

    Baptized as an infant in Roman Catholic church (parents were “sophisticated agnostics”, but Irish grandmother had spent boocoo bucks on baptismal dress for 1st grandchild–failure to baptize me not an option–God works in mysterious ways, no?)

    No religion practiced in my family for about the next 11 years, but parents get involved with the earliest version of the “Christian right”. We, as a family, begin to check out various churches.

    Unitarians force me to build a ukulele from a cigar box in Sunday school, they leave no other impression.

    Congregationalists baptize my siblings (ages 10 and 5). I go to “Covenant class” (Congregationalist equivalent of confirmation class) as an 8th grader. I learn that honoring your parents is commanded in the 5th Commandment and that in the Lord’s Prayer, God forgives us our debts, not our trespasses. Parents decide that the Congregationalists’ reliance upon the Bible as the Word of God is insufficient.

    We visit various churches that DO say that the Bible is the Word of God. Oddly, they all seem to be saying that God’s Word says something different. We begin to attend a WELS Lutheran Church. By this time I am 16 and I attend adult confirmation class. I read Lutheran doctrine with a critical eye. I commit myself and am confirmed. I attend Lutheran school for first time as high school senior. I remain unimpressed.

    My parents have a disagreement with our pastor. Conflict at arises church. I attend a Catholic University, meet and marry perhaps the only Lutheran woman attending the same Catholic University (more mysterious ways), and I join her LCMS church. We go to California so I can attend Law School and worship at an LCMS church there.

    We return to Wisconsin from California (better place to raise family). We have 5 children, all of whom (plus 1 grandchild so far) are baptized in baptismal dress provided by Irish grandmother. They mostly attend Lutheran Schools. I am still with LCMS. Doctrine remains Biblical and Confessional despite occasional problems that I chalk up to the fallen condition of human nature. Recently, I discover the Lutheran blogosphere and learn a lot more in depth about Lutheran doctrine than I had for a long time.


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