“Gentlemen,” the speaker said, “I mean Ladies and Gentlemen.” He nodded to two women sitting on one side of the room. “We are here to discuss the basics of an outline that will soon become the operating plan for the new School of Evangelism and Witnessing at the University of Adventists.”1
Nobody said anything.
“Before we begin, I think it would be well to define our terms. Vis a vis a formal academic program at our university, what do these two words mean to us: evangelism and witnessing?”
The speaker shuffled his feet. “Don’t you think we should have a definition as the first step in building this department?”
“If we don’t know what those two words mean, we don’t have any business dedicating a school for them,” a professor on the second row said. “A department, maybe, but not a school.”
That sparked a discussion that continued for thirty minutes. No conclusions were reached.
Then one of the women spoke up. “I wonder why Jesus didn’t attend such a school. If He didn’t, why should we?”
“Margaret!” at least two members of the group said in unison. Someone else said, “Jesus had the best training in the world, from God Himself.”
“And so should our students,” a sonorous voice said.
“We’re not getting anywhere,” the leader said. “Let’s cut to the chase. What would a school–or a department–teach about evangelism and witnessing?”
“Well, for evangelism, the students would have to learn public speaking methods, and know or find someone who knows how to set up a good database of all possible attendees. They would also have to learn statistics so that they could decide who should be invited to the meetings. And take a class in copy writing to know how to put the right words in all the advertising and promotion.” The group member thumped the heel of his hand on the desk in front of him and leaned back.
“And all of those are teachable, learnable topics,” someone said.
“What about witnessing?” The leader asked. “That’s the other half of this school or department.”
“You can’t teach witnessing,” Margaret said. “That comes from the heart.”
“Of course. But we can give plenty of lab experience. Turn the students loose in a bad part of town–under the bridge by the oil refinery, for example. And let them learn about witnessing as they do it.”
After another hour of discussion, the group realized it was getting late. The meeting was adjourned.
[Thought Questions for Defining Evangelism and Witnessing April 4, 2012]
1. Leading Thought. Is it possible to put big words in little baskets? Are “evangelism” and “witnessing” big words? Do they describe key concepts? Do you think the disciples ever sat in a group and worked out the definitions of these two words? Did Jesus think of our work in terms of definitions? Whether He did or not, should we define our terms before we begin Bible study? Does the Great Gospel Commission (Matthew 28:18-20) tell us what is meant by “disciples,” by “teaching” or “observing”? In the story above, do you think it would be possible to establish a department of evangelism and witnessing based on discussion as suggested? What then?
2. Job description. Are you troubled to any degree by thinking of your Christian experience as a state of following a job description? What do you think of this sentence, from the lesson guide: “Little has changed since the apostles’ time, Schopenhauer’s, or during ours. Thus, the main points of the first century evangelistic preaching also should be the main points of ours today.” What key points remain unchanged? Have any basic doctrines of the early Christian church worn out? or been changed? What is the main difference between (1) preaching a message with power and conviction and (2) leading the listener to a close relationship with Christ? Why do some new members drift away after they join us in baptism? What should we do about it?
3. Do we have evidence? What will we have as evidence when Jesus comes to show that we “belong” in heaven? What is the greatest evidence to you that Jesus and the salvation He offers are real? Imagine launching evangelism in the first century A.D. using eager followers with no training. What would you tell those untrained followers? Why did some step forward and became strong leaders in the early church even without special training in the religious schools of the time? Would you have advised the early church to be careful about putting new converts in positions of authority when their Christian lives had just begun? What do we need to be “eye witnesses” to the glory and holiness of our Savior?
4. Stories. In your opinion, can a person tell a convincing story about what life with Christ means if that person has never lived outside the friendship and fellowship of Christ? Do you agree that someone rescued from the throes of sin is a better witness to God’s redeeming power than is a person who has lived an outwardly clean Christian lfe? Should we all go out and “get a little sin on us” so we can testify better to the cleansing power of Christ? If you or someone you know has had a deep and fervent conversion, should that story be shared? Why? Have you ever heard a “conversion story” that didn’t seem real? Do such stories do more harm than good or vice versa?
5. Job description. Have you ever worked under a job description? On your job, past or present, have you ever said, “That’s not in my job description”? Did it help relieve you of the responsibility? How? What is the purpose of a job description when you’re working for the Kingdom of God? Have you ever written out your perception of your heavenly job description here on earth? Imagine that part of your job description is this: Take charge of evangelism for the local church. Would you eagerly assume that responsibility? What if you could see everything you do at church, from singing the opening hymn to greeting the forlorn as part of your job description? Is it?
6. Getting ready to serve. How much time do you spend each week praying for God to make use of your walk with Him in meeting the spiritual needs of others? What are the requirements you must fulfill in order to be accepted on the job team for God’s church on earth? What about acts of service that nobody in the church knows about or has defined? Should most of our service for the Lord be within the walls of the sanctuary where we worship? Or should we consider it God’s service wherever and whenever we have the opportunity to serve? Do we have to wait for eternity to be rewarded for our work on God’s team?