One of the constant challenges Christians face in witnessing is the fear of getting it wrong. I believe this stems from a misunderstanding of what witnessing success is, what is expected of us, and what we might expect from our efforts. There are steps we can take to overcome this fear and win at witnessing every time.
Know who we are Dealing With
Often it might seem that the battle is simply against the mind but it is the ‘god of this world who has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ…’ (2 Cor.4:4) We must be spiritually prepared for these encounters and not just doctrinally – prayer is vital. Jesus instructed His disciples in Mark 9:29 to fast and pray if they wanted to see those affected by Satan released.
We are not fighting against or struggling with the people who are in the cults. Paul reminds us, ‘We do not wrestle against flesh and blood but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.’ (Eph.6:12) That is why we need the armour of God about which Paul went on to write. Our fight is not against flesh and blood but against Satan. Witnessing success starts with clear understanding:
- About Satan’s works – 2 Corinthians 2:11 (we are not ignorant of Satan’s designs)
- About our armour – Ephesians 6:10-16 (Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might)
- About Satan’s end – Hebrews 2:14,15 & 1 John 3:8 (The Son appeared to destroy the devil’s works)
We are not to be ignorant of Satan’s devices and we are to be aware of and to stand in our place of safety in Christ.
See God’s Heart
Jesus expressed God’s heart to the outcasts in healing lepers, dining with sinners, dying alongside criminals, and forgiving his enemies. Take careful note of the whosoever in John 3:16, and the not wishing that any should perish of 2 Peter 3:8,9. God has made it plain that He wants to save all those who at present are misled by various cults.
Acts 1:8 tells us to go to the ‘Samaritans.’ How does this apply to us today? When the Jews heard this they would have been astounded because Jews had no dealings with the Samaritans, neither did the Samaritans with the Jews. These verses teach us to go to those whom we would not normally associate with. Who are the Samaritans in our lives? We are instructed to go to them and there is no caveat. 1 Peter 3:15 also shows that we should always be ready to give a reasoned defence when we are asked the reason for the hope that is in us to anyone that asks. Witnessing success comes from a good heart.
Fruit of the Spirit and Preparation
If we are to witness successfully, we need to experience the reality of the fruit of the Spirit in our lives. Galatians 5:22 tells us that this includes, among other attributes love, patience, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. All are vital if we are to effectively witness to cult members.
Fear is often a weapon that Satan will use to stop us talking to cult members but remember he is not all-powerful. His works have been destroyed – 1 John 3:8. He wants to keep the ‘Christ in you’ out of his way – 1 John 4:4. Do also remember that our inheritance is not fear. Paul counsels Timothy, ‘The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.’ (1 Timothy 1:70) and John reminds us, ‘perfect love casts out fear.’ (1 John 4:18)
Doug Harris, our founding chairman, would remind us that, just as David prepared himself for battle with Goliath in the years he looked after sheep, we to need to prepare ourselves before God. When David went out to fight Goliath he had already defeated the lion and the bear. Through dedication and practice, he was now ready for the giant. The heat of battle is no place for experimentation. Witnessing success comes from good preparation. We must:
Learn to pray with authority, setting forth the truth plainly (2 Corinthians 4:1-4)
Learn to rely on the Holy Spirit not just good presentations (John 14:26)
Learn to be Patient (Galatians 6:8-10)
The Original and the Copy
This is a helpful way of showing the difference between a cult and true Christianity and at the same time taking away the sense of confrontation. Talk about the difference between a copy and an original. Ask which one they would prefer – the original or the good but lesser copy. Compare the original (the Bible) with what they are bringing and let the Word of God speak. Scripture is perfectly capable of speaking for itself and of being heard if the heart of the hearer is prepared. But that is the work of the Spirit, and no business of ours except as we pray.
We can also see from this illustration that until there is an original you do not know if you have a copy or not. A good copy will always be best until it is put against the original. Yes we do need to point out the errors of the group the people are in but unless we show them something better there is no reason for them to change. By using the illustration of the original and the copy, you do not spend all the time condemning the group they are in but showing them that there is something better. People sometimes see much that is good in copies of the gospel and it is well to remember the good is often the greatest enemy of the best.
The clearest insight, the greatest revelation of God is Jesus Christ, and God’s plan and purpose is plainly set before us in God’s Word in the Bible. It is focused on the Cross of Calvary, and an empty tomb. It is lived out in the community of faith that is the Christian Church and the quest for “spirituality” finds its goal in the Christian message.
It is not a question, then, of judging the comparative qualities and deficiencies of respective groups but of putting each group we come across up to the light of the gospel and judging them by God’s revealed truth. It is not so much a case of being expert in the error but of being proficient in the truth against which any error must be judged. Witnessing success comes by witnessing to the truth, not simply condemning the error.
The Scriptural basis for discernment is described in passages like 1 John 4:1, where we are told, ‘Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.’ Thessalonians 5:21 cautions us to ‘test everything, hold fast to what is good.’ We need to be discerning Christians if we are to know success in our witnessing. There are five pointers that help us know what to look for in any group or person we may encounter.
- Does the Word of God forbid the experience or teaching?
- Does the Word of God forbid the principle behind the experience or teaching?
- Is the outcome glory to and recognition of God rather than man?
- Is the fruit making the individual more Christ-like?
- Is the person more outgoing to others rather than inward looking?
The Myth of the Killer Text
“What do you say to a Mormon/JW?” I often get asked this question and my reply is always, “There is no killer text you know.” “I know that”, is the reply, “but what do you say?” So I share a text and they say, “I tried that and it doesn’t work.” To which I reply, “What does it look like when it works?”
It isn’t as simple as dropping some texts into a conversation, standing back and waiting for a reaction. It involves relationship, understanding, preparation, and patience and there are no short cuts. Some see apologetics and witnessing as an assimilation of handy facts that can be brought out and used on appropriate occasions. These cold, hard facts are to be marshalled when ‘opportunity’ presents itself and are expected to do all the work that relationship, preparation, patience and understanding are meant to do.
When the facts ‘don’t work’, or worse, are forgotten in a moment of crisis, the Christian is driven back to the books to relearn what they thought he knew better, or to glean more facts that might prove more effective next time. Or they just give up, declaring ,’it’s a waste of time talking to these people!’
Preparation, understanding, and prayer are key to witnessing success.
How to Always Witness Well
Witnessing may be seen in stages and we might consider ourselves as having succeeded if any stage is successfully negotiated:
- Get into a conversation about how they are doing. What do you say to a JW? You say, “Hello. How are you?” It’s troubling how some think that having a JW at the door gives them the right to ignore the normal rules and courtesies of human society. You wouldn’t speak to your neighbours the way I hear some people talk to a JW.
- Tell them your a Christian. Not as though challenging them to make something of it but simply declaring you see the world through Christian eyes.
- Get them to talk about what they believe, rather than telling them what they believe and correcting and/or condemning it. Even when you are right in your understanding it is well to get them to articulate their beliefs because it can be advantageous. They can’t deny it if they have said it; they have heard themselves say it and that is important; they may say it in a way that gives you fresh insight and opportunity, or say something to inspire you with an answer.
So you have entered into a polite conversation, explained that you see the world through Christian eyes, shown an interest in having them speak for themselves, now you are ready for step four.
- Share in more detail what you believe; You have listened now you can reasonably expect them to offer the same courtesy. Having heard how they see things, you are leading them through your faith world not just telling them things.
I work from number 1 to number 4 and with each step I consider myself as having succeeded more and more. Some people work from number 4 to number 1 and with each step consider themselves as having failed more and more, declaring:
‘I set out to ‘tell ’em, they wouldn’t be told, and it ended in a quarrel and a slammed door. You just can’t talk to these people!’
Come on, we’ve all been there. But there is a better way.
Where Are You Taking Them?
Always try and take the shortest route to the Cross, which is not always short, by listening and then trying to bring the conversation back to what you consider needs to be addressed. Don’t major on minor issues. Remember, the main things are the plain things, and the plain things are the main things. Witnessing success needs clear direction.
Have simple texts memorised but don’t expect them to be “killer texts” because killer texts don’t exist. Do expect them to throw out a challenge, this is God’s word we are talking about, so use them confidently. An obvious one for a JW would be John 20:28 where Thomas addresses Jesus as, ‘My Lord and my God’ and is commended by Jesus for his confession. Another is John 2:18-21 which addresses the question of who raised Jesus from the dead. One I use for Mormons is John 5:24 because it challenges their view of salvation as being achieved by a mixture of faith and works. 1 John 5:13 works alongside this very well. You may also have some texts about the nature of God because their view of God is so unbiblical.
Don’t throw texts out as though they are truth bombs that will explode to devastating effect. They form an integral part of the discussion that move the conversation along in the right direction. Think of yourself as building on the good work done by other Christians met before you. Think of yourself as laying a foundation on which others can build after you. These things take off the pressure to ‘succeed’ and leave space to be effective as far as the Lord will take the encounter. He is in it with you.
Of course, these encounters can be brief so use your knowledge appropriately, sometimes having the luxury of time to develop a theme, sometimes only being able to share a few appropriate words. But if you move from 1 to 4 then you will never have failed if only because you have shared with them your Christian conviction and shown them Christian charity (spiritual fruits) in taking the time to speak to them.
Who Are You Talking to?
Finally, it is important to always speak to the person standing before you and not the organisation standing behind them, or the person you encountered last time.
Your theme should not be, ‘the trouble with Mormons/Jehovah’s Witnesses.’ Your prayer should be, ‘Lord, how do I show your love to this person today?’ The desire for witnessing success is motivated by love.
Finally, this reflects our aspirations and, let’s be honest, does not describe how we always conduct ourselves. We need to be honest with ourselves about this, but not with a view to making excuses. We are all human and it makes no sense to despair because of our last encounter. Instead we determine to make the next encounter a four step plan to love someone into the kingdom; or at least bring them closer to the truth of who the King is. We have not yet attained all that God has for us:
‘But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward for what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained.’ (Philip.3:13-16)