This week’s topic is “Witness and Service: The Fruit of Revival”
We are all very familiar with the faith versus works debate. We could go back and forth forever on this topic, getting progressively more frustrated, aggressive and cemented into our own bunkers of “rightness” and still get nowhere.
Let’s be outrageous and assume that both things are important and move on.
Jesus boiled down the Christian’s duty into “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength’ and… ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:30-31).
So, what does this mean in terms of this week’s discussion on witness and service?
How about we define our terms?
According to the dictionary to witness is: 1. to see, hear, or know by personal presence and perception;2. to be present at (an occurrence) as a formal witness, spectator, bystander, etc; 3. to bear witness to; testify to; give or afford evidence of.
Similarly, service is 1. tomake fit for use; repair; restore to condition for service; 2. to supply with aid or information.
I’ve got a challenge for you - in the discussions, both below and in Sabbath School this week, let’s steer clear of all the usual topics for debate and stay on target with the following questions:
1. As Christians (see above) can we even separate witness and service? Can we witness without serving, or serve without witnessing?
2. Assuming we all accept that we should both witness and serve, are we?
3. If not, what is preventing us?
4. If so, what are we doing?
5. How can our example (witness) encourage others?
In the interests of fairness and transparency I’ll start the discussion going by giving my personal (and they are personal, not meant to be definitive) answers.
1. I don’t believe that we can easily untwine witness from service. Surely the act of witnessing is itself a kind of service. And we witness by our acts of service. I suppose the question is in what manner we act and to what degree. Ostentatious acts of public service (like politicians turning up when there is a natural disaster) are likely going to be less effective a witness than smaller acts of real kindness; but I think there is room both for large corporate service, such as ADRA or Adventist Community Services and for smaller, private and personal service. Both serve as a witness to the world that the Westboro Baptists are not representative of Christianity.
2. I am trying. I’m not a naturally outgoing person so I find “service” more appealing than “witness” in the traditional sense of evangelism.
3. Embarrassment. I admit it. I’m embarrassed to talk about my faith to people I don’t know well.
4. I’m involved in the Women’s and Homeless Ministries in my church. Last year I was involved a project to knit hats, scarves and mittens for the Homeless in Washington DC. I’d like to do more though. I also have a job working for the church which, although far from my dream job, gives me a sense that I’m making a difference in some sense.
5. I believe that the evidence of God working in our lives, making us kinder, more tolerant, less judgmental will be a stronger, more lasting influence than any amount of shouting from a soapbox.
So there you have it. Take these questions, and any others you might come up with, and have vigorous, honest, but respectful discussion.
And be kind to each other.