According to a personal evangelism course called “Talking Jesus,” a high number of people come to faith as a result of “conversations with a Christian.” I think it was about 35%; the only higher number (over 40%) being those who grew up in a Christian family. This is good to know, as we all need as much encouragement as possible to share the gospel! The lowest figure of the five mentioned (the others were, and I think I am quoting correctly, “attending a standard church service”, and “experiencing the love of Jesus) was 17%, which is the number of Christians who have come to faith (as I did, in fact) through an “unexplained spiritual experience.” But I can’t help thinking that this 17% is a sad reflection of the state of the church today, and how far removed it is from the pattern set by Paul, for example, who came to the Corinthians “not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.” (1 Cor 2: 4-5)
Actually, Jesus never told us to “share our faith.” He told us to “make disciples,” and He said “”you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8). The Greek word for witness is “martyr.” We all know one meaning of that, which is something that I don’t think any of us want to be; but the other meaning is “spectator.” This passage seems to be telling us that when the power of the Holy Spirit comes upon us we will watch Jesus (be spectators) doing His work – the works of the Father, in fact. This is what happened throughout the Book of Acts, and this is what happened with Paul at Corinth. We have consigned the meaning of the word to being witnesses of what Jesus did, rather what He is doing now; and from that we have created an activity called ”witnessing,” which, as far as I can see, is actually divorced from the model that we are given in the New Testament.
“The word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” (Heb 4:12) When Jesus (today, through the Holy Spirit) speaks, one of two things happen: people run, or they turn (I’m quoting my wife, Anne, here). They don’t just stand there and say, “Yes, that’s interesting. Of course you are entitled to your opinion.” In politics and business especially, the power of influence is sometimes called “leverage.” Judging by the figures we are given in the Book of Acts, the leverage of Holy Spirit empowered signs and wonders confirming the preaching of the Word is very high. By contrast, the leverage of other forms of evangelism has to be much lower. What would the figures look like if we were to carry on in the biblical pattern, hungering and thirsting in prayer for the Holy Spirit to come and do the works of Jesus for us to witness, instead of just trying to “witness” ourselves?
It is God’s heart and our calling that we reach out to as many as we can with the good news of salvation. The world needs to see how much we love one another, because that is how it will know that we are disciples of Christ. But Jesus didn’t say that this is enough to make new disciples; He only said that it confirms the truth of who we are in Him. Although there may be some people who are drawn to the light that they see in us, I think the New Testament pattern for making new disciples is to be witnesses of His work among those who don’t know Him. We need to ask Jesus who He is calling and we need to pray for them and ask for opportunities for them to meet Him. But when we are with them, we mustn’t be like tradesmen without a toolkit: we need the gifts of the Holy Spirit if we are to witness Jesus in operation. Without them, our leverage is poor or non-existent, but with them, how many more people exponentially would be coming to faith as that 17% became 37%, 47%, 57% or more? Because this is what happens when revival comes.
A friend at Wildwood Church was saying recently how she was with someone and the Holy Spirit said “talk about THAT” (Whatever THAT was, or who it was, of course she didn’t say.) Her first thought was “No, I can’t mention THAT!” But she obeyed. Tears, repentance, and blessing followed. She simply used a gift from the toolbox – in this case, a word of knowledge. Her talking was leveraged by the power of the Holy Spirit. As Paul exhorted Timothy, we need to be ready to preach the word “in season and out of season.” (2 Tim 4:2), so we certainly do need to be talking Jesus; but most of all we need to see Jesus do the talking.