How do Christians go about their world as a witness without falling into one of two approaches today that don’t get the job done? The first method is the bold, unapologetic, shove-it-in-your-face-with-love approach one sometimes observes in public places. The other approach is the conversational approach, the kind of conversation where we get lost in conversation and never get out. These are two approaches that David Fitch and Geoff Holsclaw are seeking to avoid in their book Prodigal Christianity, and where they propose a fourth signpost: Witness.
What does it mean to “witness”? What do you think of their three-fold breakdown of witness? Where do you see witness today?
They use the illustration of cross-gender relationships in their church to explore what it means to witness to the truth. Sometimes the conversation never progresses — it is just a conversation that needs to be had. “This is why we’ve become convinced over the past several years that more than a ‘gospel’ pronouncement or a ‘kingdom’ conversation, the church is called to be a ‘witness'” (57). [By the way, by using the quotation marks in these both gospel and kingdom get connected in ways that don’t help either term.] So we need, they say, more than pronouncement and more than conversation; we need to embody the truth in a compelling way.
The word witness is the most common word for messaging in the NT. Witness they argue includes three themes:
Witness is when God is using us. Trinitarian (John 15:26; 5:37; 14:7). It involves being with others and sharing life with them. Witness points away from us to Christ, and witness is about a shared life that embodies God’s work among us. God’s transforming powers witness to the work of God in this world.
The prodigal nature of witness is to discern what God is doing and to enter into that work of God together to embody that work.