Silence Isn't Golden -- It's Yellow
The Gospel's enemies from atheists to Moslems are claiming Christianity is in decline. Sadly, so are a lot of Christians. Many pretribulationists believe we are in the Last Days. According to their view, we are in the Laodicean Age. Not only is Christianity in decline, we are supposed to be in decline! With attitudes like that rampant in the Church, no wonder our morale is so low. Yet these defeatist Christians find the prospect of eminent failure encouraging because that means they will get raptured out before the Great Tribulation happens to them. One result of this low morale is a lack of witnessing. Why even put forth the effort when we are supposed to fail anyway?
Another problem is the clergy-laity division in the Church. The task of evangelism is given almost exclusively to the paid professionals while the mass majority of Christians basically do nothing to reach the unsaved. Sadly, a lot of people on both sides seem to like this arrangement. The ministry is full of threatened little people. Anyone with ability or enthusiasm is squelched to help mediocre no-talent religious jobbers keep their positions of leadership. The laity refuse to witness ("We pay the preacher to do that.") Members of the congregation often turn on anyone, clergy or laity, who urges them to fulfill the Great Commission (Matt. 28:18-20). John Eldridge talks about this problem in Wild at Heart. Churches like nice people, not passionate people. My own experience bears this out.
While many churches want the benefits of large congregations -- more money, higher attendance, and bigger buildings -- they often refuse to make the changes necessary to reach more people for Jesus -- like witnessing to them. I'm surprised to find myself agreeing with Tony Campolo (Speaking My Mind, 84), but he is right about one thing. It's maddening to hear Christians affirm that the unsaved will burn in Hell for eternity, then they refuse to witness to them! I remember when I was teaching a discipleship class in a conservative Bible-believing church. When we came to the need for witnessing, one student yelled, "Witnessing? You expect us to go witnessing?" I tried to explain (see my article on witnessing ) that we would start slowly, placing tracts under car windshield wiper blades. Even this suggestion didn't satisfy him. Next thing I knew, he had gone to the pastor who called me into his office. While the pastor had an attack of "Now-see-here-young-man" all over me, he not only cancelled the witnessing initiative, but also my discipleship class as well. So much for reaching all those untold millions! Many pastors are so afraid of losing the people they have, they refuse to seek any more.
Church politics is another major obstacle in witnessing. Church leaders often get their positions as substitutes for memberships in the social clubs and country clubs they know they cannot get into. A lot of pride gets invested in their jobs. They see new people that they cannot control as a threat to their position and, hence, resist evangelism. They also fear passionate Christians who show up the "old hands" as being apathetic and ineffective.
Not only does local church politics block evangelism so does denomination politics. Many local churches follow programs designed by denominational leaders in another state or clear across the country. These leaders usually know nothing about local conditions or needs. So local leaders are forced to make a "one-size-fits-all" program fit in their area. Also, these pastors know that disagreeing with "the plan" will get them in trouble with the denominational leaders. By "getting-with-the-program" pastors know they have job security. If the denominational program fails the pastor know he is safe, because they can't blame him for following their plan.
Another dodge from witnessing involves spiritual gifts. Since the Bible says evangelism is a spiritual gift (Eph. 4:11), some Christians believe only those with the gift of evangelism should witness. How are we to know if we have the gift of evangelism? Simple. If you don't feel like witnessing, then you don't have the gift and, hence, you don't have to witness! (See I don't feel led in Cliches that Cripple) In fact, some people warn that it's dangerous for ungifted people to witness. This just gives an easy excuse to get out of obeying God's commands. All Christians -- not just the pastors, not just evangelists -- witnessed (Acts 8:4). Even Timothy, gifted as a pastor, was told to do the work of an evangelist (II Tim. 4:5).
I believe fear is the real reason why a lot of Christians don't witness. Doing something new is always scary and uncomfortable. But most of us will do new things and learn new skills if we have to or like to. If we have to learn new skills to keep our jobs, we buckle down and do it. To keep my job, I've had to learn to run a computer. If we have a hobby we like, we learn new skills gladly for our own enjoyment. I like graphic arts, so I've learned to draw. The only way to overcome our fears is to learn how to do what God wants us to do. He promised us the resources we need if we obey Him (I Cor. 12:4-7).
Related to fear is guilt. I believe a lot of Christians feel guilty because they know they should witness but don't. Admitting their failure to obey God causes a lot of guilty feelings. But confessions of past failure and commitment to future obedience is the only way to absolve ourselves of our guilt. My purpose on this website is to provide the resources all of us need to witness effectively for our Lord Jesus Christ. All of us Christians need to work together to fulfill the Great Commission.
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