“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)
The risen Saviour guaranteed that His children would be empowered to The chief task of a Christian is to witness for Christ. If a Christian is reluctant to witness for Christ, we have to suspect his or her Christian conviction.
The early Church was a witnessing Church. In fact, the main intent behind the sending of the Holy Spirit by our Lord on the day of Pentecost was to empower His disciples so they could witness for Christ everywhere on earth.
When we think of witnessing during festivals and special seasons, it can take place in two ways. We can communicate the gospel with peoples of other faiths during their festivals without disturbing their celebrations or ceremonies. During festivals, large crowds gather together. We can witness on the roadside or as they travel in vehicles – wherever, Christians can witness for Christ meaningfully and peacefully without hurting the religious feeling of others.
We must use Christian festivals, seasons and celebrations as times to witness Christ. Christians celebrate Christmas, Easter, and Passion Week and other holy days. Other times of social celebrations such as marriage ceremonies, house warming, birthday parties are opportune moments to share Christ with others. The Christians who follow sola scriptura (Bible only) generally don’t have special celebrations of Christmas or Easter. But the majority of people, irrespective of any religious differences, consider these festivals as typically Christian. They are in an open state of mind not just to celebrate but to know the origin and purpose behind these celebrations or observances. Evangelical Christians must use these occasions to witness for Christ and His salvation through communicating the Gospel in effective and attractive ways.
Evangelical Christians don’t believe in the outward celebrations of Christian themes. Instead, they emphasize the inward experiences of Christ’s life and teachings. They don’t celebrate Christmas or Easter and don’t observe Passion Week, Lent or other days. But since these are generally accepted Christian seasons of celebrations, the biblical/evangelical churches can organize special meetings, public programs, rallies with attractive singing or music concerts to communicate the gospel to people from all different walks of life. Our ultimate aim must be to truly witness for Christ and His salvation to all people.
Our Lord commanded his disciples to just share the gospel with all people in His last Commission. However, Our Lord has never commanded us to compel or force others to follow Christ or Christianity. Neither did Jesus nor the apostles ever compel anyone to follow him. Compulsion or force is the work of the Holy Spirit. But the Holy Spirit will work only if we share the gospel with people.
There are so many special occasions in a Christian’s life. They are all golden opportunities for us to witness for Christ. For example: our marriage ceremonies. Most Christians today give importance to the external decorations and feasting in marriage ceremonies. Evangelical/biblical Christians may even set apart a time for the ministry of the Word of God. However, most times these messages focus on the counseling aspects. It is good, no doubt, to mention a few things related to married life during its solemnization – but this must not be seen as a substitute for pre-marital counseling.
In many Christian marriages in India, the only semblance of marital counseling the couple receive is during the wedding service – this is not really the place for effective counseling. Instead, more time can take place in the marriage services for communicating the gospel in very simple terms for the benefit of the many friends and relatives of the bride and bridegroom. This is an audience that one cannot have easy access to in any other way. If used well, we can impact lives with the salvation message and create in hearts of the people a hunger for the Truth. May God give us the wisdom and creativity to use such occasions most appropriately.
House-warming and birthday celebrations are also occasions when all our friends, relatives and neighbors gather together, hailing from various religious or church backgrounds. Contextual presentation of the gospel must be the focus.
Besides festive occasions, there are times and situations of sorrow and pain like sickness, death and burial in homes. These are also poignant moments when we have a chance to present the gospel in a very meaningful way. Wisdom and the power of the Holy Spirit alone cause us to make use of these special occasions. What is of utmost importance is to reduce the number of repetitious and self-promoting condolence speeches in burial services! Instead adequate time must be set apart to present brief yet comforting gospel messages in simple, lucid style appropriate to the occasion.
No matter where we go as Christians, let us not cease to use every opportunity to lift up the name of Christ and be His WITNESS, in season and out of season. witness for Him. The focus of this verse is not power. Some Christians misunderstand the word power and think they will have powers like god men of other religions. The emphasis is on witnessing. The mandate of witnessing is not optional or one of the many choices. It is expected from each Christian. Witnessing is also not for just professionals (full time workers), it is the obligation of all Christians.
However, there are several challenges faced by people who care or dare to witness. They could be broadly divided into two categories: Inner struggles and external struggles.
Inner challenges
Spiritual: There are inner spiritual challenges as well as external spiritual challenges. There are Christians who have authentic born-again experiences, lead a righteous life but are not involved in witnessing, even when there are opportunities. The reason is the lack of understanding about the call and mandate for each and every Christian to witness. Sometimes, they have a false understanding of God, witnessing and missions. A good example is the leadership of the local church, where the great missionary, William Carey, was a young man. When he shared his heart and burden for reaching Indians, the leaders replied: “If God wants to save Indians, He could save them without your help or my help.” This is a classical mistake. They did not understand that God uses human instruments to accomplish His purposes.
Psychological: India is a country with many faiths. There are also many castes and a well-defined hierarchy. The Christians who come from the lower social status in the society have psychological barriers: “How can a high-class message go from low-class people to high-class people? Will they accept it?” Again, it is the lack of understanding of God’s work. Naaman was touched by God through the witness of a slave girl. (II Kings 5)
Emotional: Indian culture, like many other Asian cultures, is based on ‘honour and shame’. When some one shares the gospel, there is a fear of rejection. This is understood as a shameful act. So, many are reluctant to share fearing failure. Again, it leads to misunderstanding the scripture. When we are persecuted for the gospel sake, we have to rejoice. (Mathew 5:10)
Physical: Some Christians think wit-
nessing should happen in formal settings. The settings could be in a church atmosphere or a special stage with other communication equipment. Again, this is a misconception. Naaman’s slave could have shared the good news of hope in the kitchen. Naaman’s wife could have been the only audience, or the couple. Paul witnessed to Aquila and Priscilla when they were making tents together. (Acts 18) Aquila and Priscilla shared with Apollos over a meal. (Acts 18: 26) Our physical stature is not a matter of concern. All characters in the bible were simple, humble people like any of us.
Mental: Many Christians feel that they are inadequate in knowledge to become witnesses. Yes, getting as much knowledge is wonderful, but that is not sufficient. There is a need to be guided by the Spirit of God. We should be mentally alert and spiritually discerning to get insights from the Holy Spirit. Here is an interesting story. A not-so-well-educated missionary from South India was serving as a missionary in Bihar. One day, a few non-Christians came to argue with him. They said that their god is mighty enough to carry even a mountain. The missionary asked them to sit down and asked a question: “Why did he carry a mountain?” The ill-informed young people did not know. The missionary explained: “If your mother is sick, and the doctor states the name of an injection. You rush to get it from a pharmacy. However, you forget the medicine. What will you do? Will you carry the whole medical shop home? He was physically powerful to carry a mountain but could not remember the name of an herb that he had to bring, hence brought the whole mountain.” The Bible says that God has engraved us in his palms (Isaiah 49:16), and he will not forget us, even if a mother forgets her child. (Isaiah 49:15) This was a wise answer although the missionary was not very well educated. The reason is that he was well-versed in the Scripture, sensitive to the Holy Spirit promptings and insights.
External challenges
Religious challenges: Witnessing hits the road block of religion. There are numerous religions in the world. All the religions search for God or truth. However, the gospel declares that the God of heaven and earth came down to earth to redeem lost humanity. There are many people in various religions who truly seek the truth. When we witness, they are ready to accept our testimony. However, there are many who are not for truth, but proud of their own religion. Such people do not have minds open to receive the gospel.
Social challenges: There are many social challenges in India and also abroad. There are social traditions that are not conducive to share the gospel. For example, in the Western world saying “Christmas greetings” is replaced by “Seasons greetings” so that they do not hurt the sentiments of others. In India, in many places, Christians are branded as ‘foreigners’ or ‘aliens’ or ‘low-caste people’ or even ‘traitors’. In such situations, there is prejudice in the minds of the people. In such situations, Christians have to work hard on relationships to remove such prejudices.
Political challenges: In some states in India, there are ‘anti-conversion laws’. The law forbids conversion by allurement or coercion. However, this law is misused against Christians. There has been harassment in many places. The truth is that there has not been a single conviction for such kind of conversion. This kind of political pressure hinders Christians from witnessing.
Spiritual challenges: Witnessing results in release of people from the bondage of blindness, darkness and the kingdom of Satan. (Acts 26:16-18) Like the Pharaoh who refused to let the children of Israel go, Satan will not let his slaves go free. Witnessing is a spiritual warfare. There is a need for spiritual resources to counter Satan’s strategies. That needs spiritual preparation, wisdom, method and strategy.
Challenge in every generation
There will be always intimidating challenges like the giant Goliath (experiences, expert and well-equipped with a modern warfare arsenal). Goliath was irrelevant to the God of Israel. India is a religious country, however, no one would speak against the Lord Jesus Christ (would speak against the Church and other institutions). Today, we can observe this phenomenon. Goliath changed the rules of war to make it advantageous for himself. Satan would subvert laws and regulations to work against Christians. Another psychological strategy adopted by Goliath was to mock the children of Israel. In fact, they were intimidated and terrified.
God’s answer is a shepherd teenager, David, with just a sling and few pebbles. In fact, David was provoked by Goliath that his identity, zeal and faith surfaced. David questioned: “Who is this Philistine?” He compared Goliath to his own position as a child of the living God and belonging to the people of the Covenant. David in his zeal discussed this with common people. His brothers’ comments and rebuke could not quench the zeal of David. Saul tried to quench his zeal by saying that he was only a lad, in contrast to Goliath. Perhaps David’s age equaled the years of Goliath’s experience. Saul tried to discourage David by stating that he did not have the experience or expertise. Again, Saul pointed out that he did not have the equipment for war, and asked him to use his uniform style. David was not comfortable with this. David made his own rules to counter Goliath, who made his own rules. If Saul could change his strategy by changing rules, David also would change his strategy and have his own rules. So, he took pebbles and sling instead of sword, shield and spear. David’s pebbles were inexpensive, available, but effective. Witnessing need not be an expensive enterprise. The reason for victory is that David did not depend on himself or his weapon but on the Name of the Lord God Almighty. (I Samuel 17: 44-47)
Lord Jesus Christ is not an unreasonable God to give a command that could not be accomplished. He gave this mandate, because it is possible for all born-again believers. Witnessing should not be seen as a challenge but a privilege and honour. Witnessing Christians are victorious Christians.