When early in the book of Acts Jesus tells his disciples that they are to be witnesses, the entire Gospel of Luke and the mission of Jesus come crashing down on that one word: witness. To witness to Jesus is the mission of the church. Remember this theme: If Jesus has a prophetic mission, and we are followers of Jesus, then we (the church) have a prophetic mission.
A prophet’s responsibility is to speak on behalf of God. We are witnesses (cf. Acts 1:22; 2:32; 3:15; 5:32; 7:58; 10:39, 41; 13:31; 22:15; 26:16).
Do we see our calling summed up in this word “witness”? How can “witness” re-shape the word “missional”? How can it fill it with content?
As Luke Timothy Johnson says it in his book, Prophetic Jesus, Prophetic Church, commitment is required for the witness; it is a personal and faithful response of speaking. The witness also suffers when the witness is not accepted — and Johnson develops this theme at length.
So how does the church do this today?
“the church is filled with the spirit, speaks God’s word, embodies that word in prayer, itinerancy, sharing possessions, and servant leadership, and enacts that word through a ministry of healing and embrace.” This is the church’s witness (181).
By speaking the truth to power.
By suffering when the clash of powers occurs.
Johnson focuses on the necessity of boldly proclaiming resurrection. He critiques historical Jesus scholarship for reconstructing Jesus; the Gospels are the witness that the church embraces. Resurrection is not just a historical event; it is a claim that Jesus is Lord and ruler over all.
The church “witnesses” in its embodied life, an embodied that life that speaks against the powers and challenges the church itself.