This excerpt is taken from Being A Gospel Witness: 7 Marks Of A Witness From Mark 6 by Daniel Montgomery
ARE YOU A WITNESS?
The evangelical world has experienced a gospel craze over the decade, a renewed emphasis on church planting, and a revitalization of expositional preaching. We should be grateful and excited to live in such an era. However, sometimes even these principles can live in abstraction instead of reality.
Recently, I was in a discussion with young seminarians and the question was asked, “What is the evidence of someone being called to church plant?” After responses about theology, leadership, qualifications of eldership, and personality traits I remarked, “What if the would-be church planters were just asked, ‘Write out everyone you have evangelized in your life and how has the gospel grown in them since?”
The men shifted uncomfortably. The truth is, though, that fruitfulness in evangelism—which should be the norm for the Christian life—is non-negotiable for church planting. Further, it’s easy to overestimate how often we are “doing the work of an evangelist” as Paul exhorted Timothy in 2nd Timothy 4:5. Think through this “Witness Cardiogram” as a check up:
- Do I have regular conversations with people outside the faith?
- Have I shared a meal with someone outside the faith in the last month?
- Have I served a friend who is outside the faith in the last month?
- Have I invited a friend who is outside the faith to church or my small group?
- Have I shared the gospel in the last month?
If you’re a Christian, you’re probably saying, “I know I should . . . I know I ought to be witnessing more.” God does not want us to live out of “ought” and “should,” or out of a compulsive cycle of legalism. Resist the “oughts” and “shoulds” of legalistic Christian living by simply repenting for the sin omission (failing to do what is right) and turning to a life marked by consistent and courageous witnessing. God wants us to live out of relationship with him. A call to witness is first and ultimately a call to relationship with God.
"A witness is defined as someone sent by God."
So what is a witness? A witness is defined as someone sent by God. Someone who has experienced the power of the gospel and then testifies to what they know and have experienced. This is the natural movement of the gospel. The gospel comes to us in order to move through us.
YOU ARE WITNESSES
Witnessing isn't just something Christians do, but it’s who we are. This is what theologians would call ontology. The scriptures tell us that as Christians we become witnesses to Christ’s resurrection by experiencing Christ’s work in themselves. Listen to the scriptures speak on our ontological identity:
“You are my witnesses,” declares the Lord, “and my servant whom I have chosen, so that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed nor will there be one after me...I have revealed and saved and proclaimed - I, and not some foreign god among you. You are my witnesses,” declares the Lord, “that I am God.” (Isaiah 43:10,12)
Do not tremble, do not be afraid. Did I not proclaim this and foretell it long ago? You are my witnesses. Is there any God besides me? No, there is no other Rock; I know not one. (Isaiah 44:8)
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. (Acts 1:8)
In the gospel, we aren't merely defined by our actions or inactions; our functionality is not our identity. Gospel dynamics show our functionality comes from our ontology. Christians should witness because they are witnesses. If we fail to root our witness in the gospel, our evangelism may end up what Brennan Manning described as “...passing out brochures to places you’ve never been.”
This can be more than an individual issue, witnessing can be a church-wide issue. A church that isn’t witnessing, that isn’t moving outward doesn’t have a problem with technique. It doesn’t need a new program. Because the lack of witnessing isn’t a witnessing problem, it is first and foremost a gospel problem. Witnessing is a natural response to the experience of God’s grace, and its power lies entirely in the gospel. If we’re not compelled to share the gospel, we should wrestle with whether we actually believe it.
"Witnessing is a natural response to the experience of God’s grace, and its power lies entirely in the gospel."
The call to evangelize is a call to experience God and let the gospel shape and influence who we are and how we do what we do as a church. Too often, the reason we fail to live out our identity is because we are more shaped and influenced by the spirit of consumerism and a consumer culture than the Spirit of God. But instead of our churches being formed and fueled by the power of the Gospel, we are shaped by the power of consumer culture.
- Outwardly Critical – it’s all about pleasing you, your preferences are central
- Receiving - sitting back & waiting to be ministered to
- Individualized – church is something you do personally and privately, not anyone’s else business
- Often results in church shopping
- Inwardly Critical - marked by humility, wanting the Scriptures to search, challenge, and shape you.
- Giving – actively loving others through generosity, hospitality, encouragement, etc.
- Community Focused - church is a family with open accountability, support, and sharing.
- Results in commitment to local church
Witnessing or missional living first and foremost isn’t about technique. Evangelism is about an experience rooted in a relationship with the living God. What we do flows from who we are. It’s not just something we do; it’s who we are. God’s gospel makes us witnesses and our witnessing is all about his gospel.