By Pastor Doug Batchelor
An Amazing Fact: In 1970, the U.S. government established the Witness Protection Program. This project provides a new identity to individuals who serve as critical prosecution witnesses even though it could endanger their lives, as in cases against organized crime. In exchange for this valuable testimony, the government gives witnesses completely new identities, furnishing them with new names, histories, legal papers, occupations, and homes. Jesus also provides a new identity when you enter into His family, but you aren’t supposed to keep it a secret.
There are three essentials for your personal health and growth. You need to breathe, eat, and exercise to thrive physically. Likewise, there are three priorities of growing spiritually.
For the Christian, prayer is the breath of life. Just as we need to breathe without ceasing, we need to pray without ceasing. Christ also taught that man doesn’t live by bread alone. We need to “eat” the Word of God, daily spending time in devotion and worship.
Finally, we need to exercise our faith. If we don’t exercise physically, our muscles atrophy. Likewise, we can stagnate spiritually if we don’t exercise our faith. Exercising your spirit means to share your faith with others, to be a witness. And that’s what I want to pursue with you now.
As Christians, we should long to see the body of Christ grow strong, spiritually and numerically. The Lord wants you and our church to grow. We are called to be His witnesses. A witness is somebody who gives testimony after seeing, hearing, or experiencing something. Have you had an experience with the Lord? Do you have a testimony? Then Jesus wants us to let our light shine so that others may see it (Matthew 5:16).
The simple truth: We’ve all been given marching orders from Jesus, who told us to go into the whole world and preach the gospel. We are to invade enemy territory, liberate captives, and expand His kingdom. And I think it is appropriate, in this day and age, to recalibrate our spiritual priorities for this purpose.
We’re Too Dependent on Pastors
Did you know that in the places of the world where our church is growing the fastest, they also have the fewest pastors per capita? Conversely, the more pastors a place has, growth seems to be the slowest. (And remember, I’m a pastor!)
“He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors” (Ephesians 4:11, 12 NKJV). It’s also true that not everyone is meant to be an evangelist or a pastor. We each have different roles in the church. But what is the purpose of these particular job descriptions? “For the equipping of the saints,” that’s you, “for the work of ministry.” No matter what your job is in the church, every Christian should be trained to do some kind of outreach.
However, a perilous mindset began to spread through the Christian church in the Dark Ages —the local church leader became responsible for everything. The priest was the one who told you what you’re supposed to believe. The church members were expected to just soak it up while he did all the studying, evangelizing, and baptizing.
Unfortunately, many never recovered from that caste mentality, even though the battle cry of the great Reformation was “the priesthood of all believers.” The core of our faith is that all believers are God’s servants, yet many have the mindset of church spectators, and more so in America than anywhere else.
Part of this can be attributed to the entertainment deluge in North America. According to a 2009 Kaiser Family Foundation study, by the time the average child graduates, he’ll have spent twice as much time in front of a television as in a classroom. We have become spectators — couch potatoes. As a result, the church here is struggling to grow.
Boldness or Cowardice?
The noted Scottish theologian William Barkley said, “Christianity is something which is meant to be seen. … There can be no such thing as secret discipleship. For either the secrecy destroys the discipleship or the discipleship will destroy the secrecy.” You can’t be a secret Christian; it’s an oxymoron.
Some believers think, “I’m going to be a Christian, but I’m just going to witness quietly through my lifestyle.” Many times these words are simply code for cowardice.
Of course, there are places and times when you must witness passively. When Amazing Facts was in India, it wasn’t possible for us to preach Christ as openly in the north because of persecution from Muslims. Many mission groups must send Christians into a hostile region to cautiously live out their faith and quietly invite people into their homes to share the gospel. Likewise, public evangelism in China and the Middle East is not practical for now. Missionaries must live out their experience there and gradually win people to Christ through a quiet influence. But we don’t have this kind of persecution in North America … yet. We should be much bolder while we can.
When the disciples prayed for the Holy Spirit, they asked for boldness. “Now, Lord, look on their threats, and grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word” (Acts 4:29 NKJV).
God answered their prayer by giving them boldness to witness: “When they had prayed, the place where they had assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness” (Acts 4:31 NKJV).
God’s Spirit can give you this same holy audacity today.
It’s Not About Who You Are
Some people, however, feel a sense of inadequacy when it comes to sharing their faith. They think they aren’t formally trained or educated enough. Many feel they aren’t holy enough, intimidated by their moral failures and frightened of offending someone and scaring people away.
If this describes you, I say do it anyway. It’s better to step out in faith and risk doing something wrong than succeeding at doing nothing. Jesus sent His followers out to witness. After a number of successful missionary tours, they came back to report that even demons were subject to them. They also healed the sick and performed all kinds of other miracles.
Remarkably, it was after these successful episodes that the disciples argued arrogantly amongst themselves about which of them was greatest. It was after this that Peter denied Christ.
Even after 3-½ years, Christ told Peter, “When you’re converted,” future tense, “strengthen the brethren” (Luke 22:32). These men were not yet thoroughly converted, but the Lord still used them in reaching others because working for the salvation of the lost is integral to our own conversion process.
If we wait until we feel we are holy enough, we’ll never be ready. Instead, we need to walk in the ways of Christ as we learn and share our victories. Christ’s power is never more available than to those who are willing to be His witnesses.
Perseverance Is Key
A friend who works in the fitness industry told me that the beginning of the year is the busiest time for health club enrollments. Why? Because a lot of people decide their New Year’s resolutions are to exercise more and lose weight.
Of course, this most common of resolutions is the one that is most commonly broken. Does exercise come easy, or do you have to discipline yourself to do it? Not many people want to wake up in the morning to go run in circles. You’ve got to make yourself do it because you know it’s good for your body.
Likewise, it takes self discipline to learn to be a witness for Christ and to be a missionary each and every day of our lives.
Some people mistakenly believe that the Holy Spirit is just going to drop from the clouds someday and that’s when they’ll be empowered to share their faith. But I don’t believe the Lord usually works that way. Instead, when you pray for strength and make an effort to share your faith, then the Holy Spirit comes to supply your need.
God has told you what He wants you to do: Go into all the world and preach the gospel. He then promises that you won’t go alone: “I am with you.” Inherent in every command of God is the power to perform what He’s asking you to do. As long as you have faith to do what He asks, you don’t have to worry about failing. Yes, you might make mistakes, but you won’t fail.
Jesus Wants You to Finish the Work He Started
The primary mission for Jesus on earth was not to evangelize the whole world when He was here. He, of course, died for the sins of the world, but He didn’t expect to convert all of Israel while He lived among men. Rather, He wanted to train and convert 12 men to then, in turn, do the same for other believers.
In John 17:4, Jesus says, “I have glorified You on earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do” (NKJV). That’s past tense: He “finished the work.” This comment is made just after the Last Supper but before the crucifixion. Why? What was His completed work? In this prayer, Jesus is praying for the unity of the apostles. So the great work that He had just accomplished was spending 3-½ years training 12 individuals to reach the world.
That’s why we need to realize we are all witnesses. The church needs to escape the mindset of thinking that the pastor is the only local evangelist. True discipleship means training the congregation how to reach their community for Jesus and not allowing them to become petrified pew warmers.
Plenty of Fish in the Sea
In Matthew 14:15–18, the Bible records, “His disciples came to Him, saying, ‘This is a deserted place, and the hour is already late’ ” (NKJV). They came to their pastor, Jesus, and said, “Send the multitudes away that they may go into the villages and buy themselves food.”
But how did Jesus respond? “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.” That’s a message to us today. If someone comes to you asking questions about Jesus, whether you are on the street or at an evangelistic seminar, you don’t need to send them to the pastor. You can give them something to eat.
You might think, “But I’m not equipped.” There are ways to get equipped.
The Amazing Facts Center of Evangelism (AFCOE) is a perfect way to get equipped. You might think, “I don’t know my Bible well enough.” You will never learn the Bible faster than when you’re engaged in sharing it with others. Give God a chance. He’ll supply whatever you need if you place yourself on the ground where you’re willing to share your faith.
Jesus said, “The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few” (Matthew 9:37). Notice Christ said the problem with the growth of the gospel isn’t that nobody wants to hear it. There isn’t a shortage of people hungering for salvation and purpose. Rather, the real problem is that there are very few people who are willing to labor in the soul-winning field.
This is a truth Christ kept highlighting throughout His ministry. The crowds are starving. Don’t send them away; you give them something to eat.
Serious and Urgent
I wish there were an urgency pill I could distribute to every believer. I’d give everybody a double dose. It seems fewer and fewer people are feeling the urgency that Christ is coming soon and that people are perishing every day for lack of knowing Him. There ought to be a sense of profound passion, a love in our hearts, to reach these lost souls.
It would be so easy to double the size of most churches in one year—if every member would see himself as a minister, remembering that not only do other people’s lives depend on it, but yours too. It might sound a bit melodramatic, but the truth is that we’re talking about life and death, heaven and hell. (Right after 9/11, church attendance in America jumped 20 percent!)
The Lord has given us the incredible comprehension of the full and everlasting gospel, the only serum for the deadly disease of sin. If we come to church every week and simply gaze upon brimming tanks of this serum without distributing it to the world, it’s a bad signal.
Not only that, we have the privilege to cooperate with angels in accelerating our Lord’s return. “The gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness, ... then the end will come” (Matthew 24:14). It’s going to all the world now, through radio and TV, DVDs, the internet, and everything else. It’s going to go to the whole world in this generation. Would you like to participate in hastening that cosmic crescendo? You have an opportunity by sharing Christ.
Rich Man and Lazarus: A Potent Parable
In the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, the rich man sits in his house, within his gates, and feasts while a beggar lies at his gate starving for the crumbs that fall from his table. The only comfort the beggar gets is from the dogs that lick his sores.
Many miss the point of this parable as they focus on its potential afterlife symbolism. Its real purpose is to show how important sharing the gospel really is. The Jewish nation had the very oracles of truth, the Word of God, yet hoarded it amongst themselves, choosing instead to critique the Word and argue about it — all the while the world was lost around them, dying for the crumbs.
In this parable, who is saved? It’s the one hungering for the crumbs. Who is lost? The rich man who refused to share his feast. We don’t want to be in the wrong group. We’ve got a feast of truth. We’re missing some wonderful blessings. Millions of Americans are just conversions waiting to happen. The devil wants us to think that people aren’t interested. This is a lie. He’s manufactured bogus information and a false fear into many Christian minds.
Saving Others, Saving You
“Take heed unto thyself and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee” (1 Timothy 4:16). In other words, as those you are reaching hear your words, you hear them yourself, and you are likewise blessed by truth.
In the middle of winter, a rural school bus for an elementary school in the far north was making its rounds when it slid off the road in blizzard conditions. The situation was dangerous, and the driver knew how desperate the circumstances could get, so he went off tromping through the snow to find help. Before he left, he told Tony, a 12-year-old boy, “You’re in charge. Keep everyone in control and make them behave.”
However, not long after the driver left, the bus engine died. Tony vainly tried to restart the engine. In subzero temperatures, it wasn’t long before the cabin began to freeze. After a few hours went by, and the driver still not back, some of the shivering kids were nodding off. But Tony knew that if they went to sleep, they could freeze to death.
So he went from one classmate to another, shaking them, even slapping then, fighting to get them to stay awake. He made them sing songs to keep them alert and behaved. Finally, the driver came back with a rescue party.
For his efforts, Tony got an award and was even called a hero. But Tony replied, “I’m not a hero, because in trying to keep everyone else awake, warm, and alive, I kept myself from freezing.” That’s one reason I’m involved in ministry. It might be a little selfish, but it’s still true that as I preach to others, it warms my own heart. That will be true for you when you share your faith.
Why Aren’t We Sharing?
If we’re not eagerly sharing the gospel with others, it typically indicates one of a few serious spiritual problems. For one, it might mean we don’t love our neighbors very much if we have no burden to share the gospel with them even though we know they’re lost. The love of God can’t abide in a heart not willing to tell the most wonderful news imaginable.
Two, we might not really believe it enough. I think if we could see heaven and the glories God wants to share, we’d be more motivated to tell others about it. On the opposite spectrum, we might not believe enough in hell. To think what the lost will feel when they realize they have lost eternity is something that should make us try to prevent that from happening as much as possible.
Three, it’s evidence that we are not walking in the Spirit. If He were here, dwelling with us, we wouldn’t be so afraid. We’d be more like Paul, eager to march into any territory for Christ.
Finally, and most important, we might not love Jesus very much. After the resurrection, Jesus asked Peter, “Do you love Me?” Peter answered, “You know that I love You.” Then Jesus said to him, “Feed My sheep” (John 21:17). The way we show our love for Christ is by sharing the Bread of Life with others.
So What Now?
Paul Harvey said, “God has called Christians to be fishers of men, not keepers of the aquarium.”
Perhaps you sense you have been a pew warmer or treating church like a spectator sport. Maybe the Holy Spirit has been speaking to you while you have been reading. Perhaps you’ve realized that you’ve been distracted with less important priorities, storing your treasure down here on earth and squandering precious time that could be employed in winning souls for eternity.
You’re missing a tremendous blessing. You’re missing the opportunity to rediscover your first love, to be totally revived. Just as the Lord took you as you were when you first came to Him, He’ll take you as you are now, infuse you with that first love, and make you a soul-winner.
After Isaiah saw the Lord in His glory, after being cleansed from sin, the Bible says God asked, “Whom will I send and who will go for us?” He asked Isaiah to volunteer to be His witness; without hesitation the prophet said, “Here am I, send me” (Isaiah 6:1–8).
Is that your prayer? God has forgiven you and wants you to volunteer for His army and be willing to be used of Him in sharing the gospel with those who are perishing. Remember, in saving others, you save yourself. Would you like to say, “Lord, here am I — send me!”?