The term witnessing is commonly used to describe the process of proclaiming the Christian faith to nonbelievers. The term is very appropriate, as Christians tell others of what they have “witnessed” or seen of God’s grace and goodness. The apostle John saw himself as a witness of the Gospel precisely for this reason:
“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life” (1 John 1:1, NIV).
The Christians of the first century “turned the world upside down” (Acts 17:6) because they had a sense of urgency about the message of Christ. Paul said, “Woe is me if I do not preach the gospel!” (1 Corinthians 9:16).
All Christians are witnesses; they are either sharing Christ by life and word, or they are not. Some are negative witnesses; others keep silent about their faith. Each of us needs to seek a more vibrant relationship with Christ so that people will realize that we have been with Jesus (Acts 4:13).
In witnessing, example is essential; our lives must reflect our profession. By our example we establish credibility and build confidence and trust, which prepare the way for presenting Christ. However, we need more than just example. There is no substitute for the witness who verbalizes the facts of the Gospel:
• “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself” (2 Corinthians 5:19).
• “I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, . . . that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:1, 3–4).
• “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12, NIV).
A Christian witnesses objectively by sharing the facts of the Gospel, and subjectively by sharing his or her own experiences in Christ. We should not overlook the value and potential effectiveness of our own testimony. The first real impression some people will get concerning Christ’s power to transform a life (2 Corinthians 5:17) will be through hearing about what Jesus has done for us. Paul shared again and again his Damascus road experience.
These are ingredients of an effective personal testimony:
• What my life was like before I received Christ.
• How I met Him and received Him (through what instrument and circumstances).
• What life has been like since I received Him.
1. In order to witness effectively, an individual must know Christ personally. Ask the inquirer if he or she has received Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. If appropriate, present “Steps to Peace with God,” – Christian Biblical Counsel: STEPS TO PEACE WITH GOD
2. Jesus must be real to the Christian! There will be very little to share with someone else if the witness doesn’t seek and maintain a close walk with Christ through reading and obeying the Bible and praying. We do not have to be super-Christians to witness, but we must be genuine Christians. Urge the inquirer to be sure he or she is a genuine and growing Christian.
3. Witnessing begins in prayer. Concerned prayer for those who need Christ will spiritually condition the Christian for witness. A prayer list of “prospects,” the people you want to reach, is a good way to start. This list may include family, neighbors, an old friend, a new friend.
4. Advise the inquirer to gather all possible data about each person considered a likely candidate for Gospel witness. The more carefully he or she plans the approach, the more effective the witness will be. (The approach could be thought of in terms of rowing around an island, looking for the best place to land.)
5. Suggest beginning with one person. Be natural, caring, and friendly, without being patronizing. Don’t overwhelm the prospect by trying to go too far too fast. Be a good listener; most people really want to talk about themselves, their problems, their hurts, and their desires.
6. At this point, the witness may share his or her own experiences with Christ—how Christ came into his or her life and what His presence means.
7. This sharing should lead into the precise moment for the witness to explain God’s plan of salvation (see “Steps to Peace with God,” – (Christian Biblical Counsel: STEPS TO PEACE WITH GOD). The facts of the Gospel must be applied in such a way that they converge at the point of the individual’s need. Sin will have to be squarely faced, Christ’s atoning death for sin accepted as the only way to God, and repentance and faith expressed for a person to be born again.
8. Advise the inquirer always to be aiming for a decision—one that is comprehensive, intelligent, and definite. The witness should invite the person, lovingly but firmly, to make a decision based on the presented facts. The greatest service a Christian may render to another human being is to help the person understand the all-important step of surrendering his or her life to Christ.
9. Encourage the inquirer to seal the decision with prayer. If the prospect is sufficiently knowledgeable, suggest offering his or her own prayer of commitment. If not, the witness could guide him or her in a prayer.
10. Following this, the witness should review with the prospect what has actually transpired in order to confirm the decision.
11. The ultimate goal in witnessing and winning people to faith in Christ is that they, themselves, may also become effective, reproducing witnesses. In order for this to develop, it will be necessary to continue to dedicate time to the new believer, instructing on the importance of Bible reading and study, explaining the value and practice of prayer, and introducing him or her to committed Christians for fellowship, challenge, and encouragement.
Additional Suggestions for Those Desiring to Witness for Christ
1. Identify with a church where the Bible is preached and taught and where emphasis is placed on personal witness and soul winning.
2. Try to cultivate friendships with other witnessing Christians in order to learn from them: Observe, then do. Evangelism Explosion teaches in its seminars that evangelism is better caught than taught.
3. Enroll in any courses on personal evangelism that are available through your own or another church.
4. Read and study books on Scripture memory, personal evangelism, and witnessing. A few that are available are:
How to Give Away Your Faith by Paul Little (InterVarsity Press)
The Art of Personal Witnessing by Lorne Sanny (The Navigators)
“My Commitment” and “Steps to Peace with God” (Billy Graham Evangelistic Association)
Topical Memory System (The Navigators)
“Victory Scripture Memory” (Word Publications)
Personal Prayer Notebook (Tyndale House)
Know What You Believe and Know Why You Believe by Paul Little (Scripture Press)
Becoming a Christian by John Stott (InterVarsity Press)
(These books are available at your local Christian bookstore or you may write to Grason, P.O. Box 1240, Minneapolis, MN 55440-1240.)
“But 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).
“Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled. And they realized that they had been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13).
“God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself . . . and has committed to us the word of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:19).
“Always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15).
The Billy Graham Christian Worker’s Handbook; World Wide Publications, 1984, 1996