Guilty Bystander

Do you know what a “wall flower” is? Someone, at a party who spends most of his or her time standing and watching, rather than participating.

Image © Krieg Barrie from

In the online world, “lurkers” are the folks who go into chat rooms or on discussion boards on the internet and just read what everybody was talking about, but don’t contribute to the discussion.

Some of us, for good or bad, are more comfortable standing on the side lines of whatever is going on than we are getting out into the middle of things and participating. I am one of those people. We are called “introverts.” We’re not necessarily shy. We just prefer to watch and listen to the stuff going on around us rather than taking an active role. I don’t believe being an introvert or an extrovert is, in itself, a good or bad thing. They’re just different ways in which we interact with the world around us.

Having said that, wall flowers or not, we are all called to actively spread the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Now, I don’t believe all of us need to rush right out and volunteer to do an evangelistic series at the nearest auditorium, but we are each responsible to tell our personal experience with Jesus to the individuals we live and work with. There are no innocent bystanders when we’re talking about witnessing. Comfortable or not, we each have a job to do.

“For ‘whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’ How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, who bring glad tidings of good things!’” Romans 10:13-15

Whether we like it or not, we are each called to “preach the gospel of peace” and “bring tidings of good things.” How we carry out our calling is up to us. It doesn’t take any special training. We don’t need any degrees or diplomas. We just need to tell someone what Jesus has done for us.

Lots of us want to believe that since the pastor has had specialized training, that he’s the one responsible for all the evangelism that goes on in the church. We would like to believe that one-on-one witnessing and Bible study are for the elders, the deacons and the Bible workers to do. But that’s just not true.

The truth is, no matter how well those people do their jobs, we make up the point of personal contact. If we’re not doing our part, the mission is not complete.

“Our heavenly Father has been pleased to make men co-laborers with himself in the work of human redemption. Those who have been commissioned to preach the gospel are not the only ones whom he will use as his instruments. All whose minds have been illuminated by the Holy Spirit will in their turn be required to enlighten others. ‘None of us liveth to himself.’ Every individual has his station of duty in the accomplishment of God’s great plan. And every one who receives and obeys the light which God has given, will be a living witness for Christ and the truth.” (E.G. White, Review and Herald, February 9, 1886, p. 4)

Mrs. White doesn’t leave any room for doubt there, does she? Every one of us has an assigned task to do. Do we need to be trained to do our task? It couldn’t hurt, but do we really need someone else to teach us how to tell what Jesus has done for us? Not really. Will we make mistakes? Probably. Should the fear of making a mistake stop us? No. Jesus promised us that the Holy Spirit would give us the words to say when we need them, right?

“But if you have an eye single to his glory, you need not take thought as to how you shall witness for his truth. “‘Take no thought how or what ye shall speak: … for it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you.’ How can the Spirit of God communicate with you? It is the Holy Spirit that is to bring to your remembrance whatsoever Jesus has said unto you. Are you now hearing the words of Christ? Does the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom? … O if you were hidden in Christ, if you were on the Rock of Ages, when you are brought before kings and great men, it would be evident that Jesus was at your side, and you would know just what answer to give, for the Spirit would give you what you should utter. Praise God for this promise!” ( E.G. White, Review and Herald, April 26, 1892, p. 9)

Have we run out of excuses yet? Witnessing is not just the preacher’s job; it’s not just the deacons’ or the elders’ job. It’s our job, too.

Do you have any idea how many people are waiting to be introduced to Jesus?

“In Matthew 9:37, Jesus tells his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.’ The results of a 2007 survey illustrates this point well:
• 82 percent—the number of un-churched people who are receptive to attending church if invited and escorted by a friend
• 21 percent—the number of church-going Christians who invited someone to church in 2006”1

Isn’t that tragic? Notice it doesn’t say that they’re receptive to a flyer they get in the mail, or an advertisement they see on TV. They want to be invited and escorted by a friend!

Wow! Even we introverts can invite someone to come to church with us.

What I’m getting at is this: many of us come to church every week and sit in the same spot. We listen to the sermon, wish our church friends a “Happy Sabbath,” and then we go home and don’t think about anything spiritual again until the next Sabbath. We do our best to keep a low profile. That way nobody will ask us to do anything extra. Who’s got time for that? We are wall flowers, lurkers, bystanders, and we’re okay with that.

So is Satan. He would like nothing more than for all us to show up for church every week, but to leave all the soul-winning to the pastor. The truth is, the pastor can only do so much. Maybe we should look at pastors as more like coaches. They give us our weekly pep-talk and send us out to find new folks to join the team.

We’ve learned from experience that no matter how good the pastor is, if a person doesn’t feel welcome in a church family, he or she quits coming. No matter how many people a pastor baptizes, if the church members don’t immediately start building relationships with them, they won’t stay.

What does that mean to me, as an introvert? It means that every time someone slips out of the backdoor of my church, I’m guilty of not sharing the joy I’ve found in Jesus with a baby Christian. I’m guilty of standing by and waiting for someone else to do my job. And, honestly, no one else can do my job. God has equipped me with a particular set of experiences that will speak specifically to the needs of some other person. If I don’t share my testimony with anyone, I am a guilty bystander.

Don’t be a guilty bystander. Share Jesus.

  1. Bill White, Outreach Pastor  Emmanuel Reformed Church, Paramount, California


Guilty Bystander — 21 Comments

    • Unfortunately, sometimes I call that person I know I have to do better, but I do oftentimes, participate in the discussion.

  1. Dear Lillianne,
    Amen, to your powerful message. It reminds me of 1 John 4:19, "We love Him because He first loved us". If He loved so much that He died for us, and in return we love Him, why would we not love someone else enough to share His great Good News of the Gospel? God's rich blessing on you and your postings ministry, a "wallflower" you are not. May the Holy Spirit use each of us to "touch" some one with Jesus Love! Happy Sapati Eve to you and your loved ones this Sapati.

  2. Lillianne, I think you have a lot of very important things to say and being a bystander is one of them. What scares me most about my own life is the fact that we are witnesses whether we want to be or not (see Acts 1:8). If people know, from whatever source, that I am a Seventh-day Adventist and my life is anything but Christian then my witness is very negative to say the least - even if I say nothing - and I have given my church a black eye. On the other hand if I live an extemporary life yet say nothing the only conclusion people can reach is that I am merely a good person without any connection to Christ so they lose out on why I am that way.

    When I do nothing I not only hurt Christ but I also hurt the objects of His love (Rom 1:14). More than that, I also hurt myself. I am personally convinced that, "if these should keep silent, the stones would immediately cry out" (Lk 19:40 NKJV). In other words God is not dependent on us - we are dependent on Him. But what I end up doing is to sever a partnership with my Lord that might end up on the wrong side where He says, "I never knew you."

    I also believe that our witness is a matter of gracious involvement in the same way that a mother or father allows their child to do something that they could do better and faster themselves. We therefore become part of His family and actively engaged in it. Besides, it says something about how strongly we believe in Christ and His government and also how much we wish to be in Heaven with Him.

    • Well said Tyler, I particularly like what you said about how it is with parents letting their children do something that they could do better and faster. What an honour our awesome Father has given us.

  3. The text that Ellen White quotes (Mat 10:19-20 or the same thing in one of the other gospels) that is the quoted from the Review and Herald, April 26, 1892, p. 9, in my opinion is not saying that we don't need to study the Bible but rather tells us not to fret over trying to memorize and figure everything out beforehand.

    The simple fact is that the Holy Spirit generally is not going to bring to your mind what you have failed to read prior to that event. As Jesus said, "But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you" (Jn 14:26 NKJV). So, we hear Jesus through His word in the Bible which the Holy Spirit interprets for us and in that way teaches us all things.

  4. This week's lesson has surely lit a fire under me to share Jesus with a ministry in my church. Off to work I go!!

  5. In this world you will find that the more you give yourself in service to others, the more you will enjoy your Christian life. May God empower us with His spirit to perfom His work!

  6. I just want to thank a Brother from our church, for sendig us your site. I haven't been to church in over 8 months. I don't want to go into to why, but my husband and I still keep the Sabbath each week. We live stream to Pastor Dwight Nelson, each week for our worship hour. Then we do Bible studies the rest of the day.

    Your message got me to thinking, I may not be able to get out and talk to people, (I'm handicapped) but I can do another thing. I am going to put an ad in the paper, for Bile Studies... A person can do things to witness for Christ. They just have to take the time. We only have a short time left here on earth.

  7. I just want to thank a Brother from ours church, for sending us your site info. We haven't been to church in over 8 months. I won't go into why, but we still have our worship service each week. We do live streaming with, Pastor Dwight Nelson. After the worship hour, we do Bible studies the rest of the afternoon. You have inspiried me to try and do more for Christ. Our time is so short here on earth, and Christ is coming very soon. Reverlation prophecy is being fulfilled as I write. We must be ready or be left behind.

    Thank you for your words, they have been a blessing to me. Also an up-lifting. I'll let you know how our project goes.
    God bless all....

  8. Why me?
    It has touched me very much! I don't do as per bible instructions! I call myself a Christian - yes - but I think I am not! I just pretend to be a Christian! Being a Christian means that you are a follower of Christ, a disciple of Jesus. That is, as a Christian I must obey what my Lord tells me to do! And do it with all your heart!
    Our Rabbi, our Lord, Our Saviour, Our Creator, our Redemeer, our Father, our Protector; asks us to have the communion with Him and co-workers with Him, and therefore has commanded us to "GO Ye.." and HE promised "I will BE with THEE.." Matt 28:19-20.

    A Christian must read the Bible (WORD of GOD). Therein we hear HIM talking to us, and we pray to HIM, then Go and share HIM!

    A question here is why I am not obeying to My Rabbi? Why am I so reluctant to go? Why is it to me? Does this means I have no faith, or I do not believe in Him.

    Let us wake up and GO; it won't help us if we are good in studying lessons, good in discussions, while we are escaping our responsibility and obligation.

  9. Thanks for the encouragement. God bless you all. lets have our hearts burning within us to tell the story of Jesus.

  10. Our only effective witness is that which comes from a heart that is under the influence of the Holy Spirit. A person that has Godly love and joy and peace in their hearts will be witness of that spirit to every soul they meet, and if they are willing to give God the credit, the Holy Spirit will bring needy and seeking souls into their lives. A close walk with Christ will produce the necessary willingness to witness, but keep in mind that one who has been forgiven much, loves much.

  11. What a great discussion! I find that I'm not a "God talker" often. I enjoy listening, studying, and writing about things. What I've learned though is that sometimes God puts me in a place where I must talk and then He sends His Holy Spirit to remind me of what I have studied and fills the hearers' ears with what He wants them to hear. In that way I have learned to not be afraid to speak when He asks.

    • Lillianne, writing is also a form of witnessing only with it one needs to communicate far better because the listener can't see facial expressions or hear speech inflection. I also believe that whenever we communicate we are given a form of the gift of tongues, at least to some extent, so that whatever we say we present it better than it would normally be. I am glad we have an intercessor!

      By the way, I had a friend that once told me that after a conversation he had with someone he realized the error he had made and thought of the worse scenario resulting from it only to discover later that the person didn't hear a thing concerning the blunder he had made.

      Now, I don't want everyone to think that something like that is automatically going to happen everytime we witness but sometimes God works in wonderful ways depending on the situation.

  12. We all know the world loves extroverts. Being an introvert is not a negative thing. I am an introvert, my husband is an extrovert. Being an introvert does not mean I don't like to talk, I just wait until I have something to say. I am not into small talk, I'm not shy, just need a reason to interact. Some social flatteries seem superfluous to me. I love people and I am a loyal friend. I'm also comfortable being alone to process thoughts, whereas my husband goes stir crazy by himself too long. I also don't follow the crowd, and I like to relax in nature. I think the main difference between my husband and I is he is energized by being around people, I get energized by being alone. Extroverts think as they speak, introverts think before they speak.

  13. I was just reading the post Guilty By-Stander on the Sabbath School net home page. I totally agree that it's not the job for everyone to be a speaker at an evangelistic meeting,or to just let the pastor &/or elders do it all. It the duty of every Christian to share Christ in their sphere of influence.

  14. Extrovert, introvert, wallflowers, takes all sorts to make a world. Its a creative God (bless His Holy name) who has made us all different, with all our intriguing and unusual personalities. It would be an awfully boring world if we were all the same. Equally boring and unrepresentative of the God we serve, would be the idea of doing the same kind of sharing wittness. Some people should NOT speak for Christ for all sorts of reasons, and could do more harm than good if they have not been prepared appropriately, especially in our present cynical, skeptical and highly secular so called western world, where people are increasingly NOT interested in listening to anything you have to say about your faith. We each need to ask God to show us how best to share Him as this need not be complex, just the way one lives one's life, a general personal demeanor of peace in this world of chaos, which draws people, random small acts of kindness and genuine concern for others, which draws people to you, which I do find church people sometimes seem to so struggle with! So busy witnessing that they miss the plot. It reminds me of a well known gospel song.. which I have paraphrased here.'so busy working for the kingdom, I aint got time to pray', I firmly believe that the reasons our churches do not grow is that people come in, genuinely wanting to relate and serve God, and do not find much in the way that we interact with each other that inspires them to stay.

    I witness to my friends by showing genuine interest in them as people, Then share my faith when they ask, as they inevitably do, then when it comes to bringing them to church, it is only a matter of time before they decide they do not want to share the hypocrisy they say they find. It is frustrating, If you happen to be a 'lurker', 'wallflower' or 'introvert' or whatever, there could be an awful lot of criticism because you are not doing things the usual way. I say find your unique way of sharing, and the God who made you different will honor it just as much, (in fact even more, because he knows it comes straight from the heart and not for public show or accollade).

  15. It's our duty to go and share Jesus because that is what He commanded us in Mat 28:19-20. Also it doesn't matter what you are, God knew us before we were born so if we cannot give we can go to preach and all is about witnessing. May God Bless.


Please leave a comment long enough to say something significant and considerably shorter than the original post. First and last name required.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *