The Work of Witness
…the work of witness, the daily conversational use of words in the service of the gospel...
All of us realize that our physical bodies must function properly in order for us to have good health. A function can be defined as “a necessary, characteristic action of an organism, without which the organism will die.” Breathing, as an example, is one of those functions for our bodies. If we do not breathe, we do not live. Similarly, the church has crucial functions to perform in order for the church to live. Four functions of the church are:
· Ministry (care for the needs of one another and of those in our community)
· Nurture/education (discipleship)
· Proclamation/witness (evangelism, witness, missions, outreach)
The church carries out its mission through worship, proclamation and witness, nurture and education, and ministry. This lesson deals with the essential action of the church to proclaim and witness. This action includes the church’s efforts to preach, to witness, to evangelize, to do missions, and to reach out to persons who need to hear the gospel of Christ. So let’s look at the church’s responsibilities that are in this essential function, focusing especially on our outreach efforts.
Proclamation/witness is part of our calling as followers of Jesus, and it flows naturally from our relationship with God in Christ. There is a wonderful story recorded in John 4:1-42. It illustrates the work of witness.
4 Now Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that he was gaining and baptizing more disciples than John— 2 although in fact it was not Jesus who baptized, but his disciples. 3 So he left Judea and went back once more to Galilee.
4 Now he had to go through Samaria. 5 So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. 6 Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon.
7 When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” 8 (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)
9 The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.[a])
10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”
11 “Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?”
13 Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”
16 He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.”
17 “I have no husband,” she replied.
Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. 18 The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.”
19 “Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. 20 Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”
21 “Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”
25 The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”
26 Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you—I am he.”
27 Just then his disciples returned and were surprised to find him talking with a woman. But no one asked, “What do you want?” or “Why are you talking with her?”
28 Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, 29 “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?” 30 They came out of the town and made their way toward him.
31 Meanwhile his disciples urged him, “Rabbi, eat something.”
32 But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about.”
33 Then his disciples said to each other, “Could someone have brought him food?”
34 “My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. 35 Don’t you have a saying, ‘It’s still four months until harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. 36 Even now the one who reaps draws a wage and harvests a crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together. 37 Thus the saying ‘One sows and another reaps’ is true. 38 I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labor.”
39 Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I ever did.” 40 So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days. 41 And because of his words many more became believers.
42 They said to the woman, “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.”
The Samaritan woman in this narrative had a life changing encounter with Jesus. She became a witness to Christ. Her experience is exemplary. Recall what happened -
· She met Jesus.
· She became a witness to Jesus.
· She invited others to meet Jesus.
· Others followed Jesus because of her testimony and their experience.
1. Who led you to know the saving power of Christ?
2. What is your “Samaria” – what segment of our community needs to hear the gospel from you? Who are considered outcasts by some who need to be befriended by you and me?
3. For whom can you pray – the family that will buy the home for sale in your neighborhood, the persons who will rent the vacant apartment near you, the acquaintance who knows your name but does not know your Lord, the stranger who connects with you in some small way with whom a relationship can be built, a co-worker, a neighbor, others?
4. What are some tangible ways that you can begin to reach out to these persons – pray for them, share time with them, have a meal with them, invite them to join you in an activity, others?
5. The woman left her water jar to tell others about Jesus. What are you willing to leave behind? How has Jesus changed you so that you will find an urgency to share the gospel with the persons identified above?
Witness flows naturally from our relationship with Jesus. It is also a commitment. Witness is a spiritual and social practice that requires focus and alertness. Paul addressed this in Colossians 4:2-6:
2 Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. 3 And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. 4 Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. 5 Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. 6 Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.
This text helps us “get started”. God can use it to awaken us to steps we can take in our journey as witnesses to Jesus. It is a call to alertness.
Alert in Prayer
· Prayer kindles our love for God.
· Prayer strengthens our fellowship with other Christians.
· Prayer focuses our attention on others and conditions us for proclamation/witness.
Alert to Opportunities
· Open Doors - Paul wanted them to pray for his missionary activities. We can engage the mission of God by embracing opportunities to support organized missionary efforts.
· Outsiders - We have an individual and congregational call to witness to others in our local setting. Some need to enter a relationship with Jesus. Some need to enter a vital relationship with a local Christian church.
You may recall the principle of rows we introduced during the sermon series, Fieldhands. We can be alert to opportunities to witness to the:
· Neighborhood (ministries of FBC Waco)
· Neighbors/FRANS (friends, relatives, associates and neighbors)
Alert to Speech
The gospel must be shared in deed and word. Our speech must be gracious, salty and responsive. The work of witness is the daily conversational use of words in the service of the gospel. Using words is necessary.
1. Make a list of persons you know who need Christ – your relatives, your neighbors, your co-workers, your acquaintances. Set a time to pray for each, by name, asking God to give you an opportunity/open door to speak with each of them about spiritual matters.
2. Identify the various local missions ministries of our church. Keep the list with your prayer list for persons. For the next month, pray about your involvement in one of these ministries. Commit to exploring your involvement with one of them in the next three months.
3. The gospel is shared both in what we say and in how we live. Are you living a life worthy to be called a follower of Christ? Make a list of your actions that point others to Christ, even if you never said a word. Make a list of your actions that distract from your witness. Make these matters a part of your prayer life, asking God to make you an instrument for the spreading of the gospel in our community.Analyze your role in the church’s essential function of proclamation and witness. Are you alive and well, and helping the church to be so? If not, what steps can you take to help our church be alive and well in this regard? Share your thoughts with the outreach leader in your class