The ABCs of Witnessing
Often we’re reluctant to share our faith with someone because we feel we don’t know what to say. The reality is, we do know what we believe, but putting it into words does require some organization of our thoughts. I ran across a simply outline the other day, which I’ve adapted for our use. As the opportunity presents itself, I pray that you’ll find the simple ABCs of witnessing to be helpful for you.
A is for Admit
The Bible says that everyone is a sinner (see Romans 3:23). In other words, everyone breaks God’s commands in thought, word, and deed. We all fall short of God’s expectations for us for He actually demands perfection. Because this sounds unreasonable, and because we tend to justify our actions, we’re often reluctant to admit our sin. We tend to compare ourselves with others and as long as we see other people behaving worse than us, we figure we’re ok. The other way we justify ourselves is by making sure we have more good deeds (or qualities) than bad. But all this is rationalizing and not reality. The Bible says that if we claim to be without sin we’re deceiving ourselves (see 1 John 1:8). So step one for lost people to come to faith in Jesus is to admit to themselves and to God their sinfulness and acknowledge its deadly consequence (see Romans 6:23). When you’re witnessing to someone, listen carefully for awareness of sin and admission of guilt. It’s often just below the surface.
B is for Believe (and be Baptized)
Once people admit their sinfulness, and acknowledge its deadly consequence, then they will see their need for a savior. There’s no demonstration of despair or degree of groveling that is necessary, just an honest realization that we cannot save ourselves and are completely dependent on the grace of God. At this point, we can invite people to do what we do, to look to Jesus as our only Savior from sin. When Paul and Silas were miraculously released from prison by an earthquake, the jailor thought that they had escaped and, knowing this would mean his execution, was going to kill himself. But Paul and Silas stopped him just in time, and at his point of desperation he asked them, “What must I do to be saved?” To this simple but honest question, they gave a simple honest answer: “Believe on the Lord Jesus and you will be saved” (see Acts 16:30-31). We are saved by grace, but we receive that grace through faith. In order for me to be forgiven and saved, I must believe (i.e., trust) that what Jesus did for the world with His saving death and resurrection He did for me personally. The call to believe may sound like a command, but it is really an invitation, and with the invitation comes the power of the Holy Spirit to be able to receive it. Luther wrote: “I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus. . . but the Holy Spirit calls me by the Gospel” (explanation to the 3rd article of the creed). Another “B” that needs to be added here is to be baptized for “he who believes and is baptized shall be saved” (Mark 16:16). As Jesus gave His church our mission, He said that we are to make disciples of Him by baptizing and teaching (see Matthew 28:19-20). Indeed, as you read of the many conversions in the book of Acts, including the jailor that Paul and Silas converted, he and his whole household were baptized. Often we’ll find that the people who come to faith as a result of our witnessing have already been baptized as a baby or young child. Even though their baptismal faith died of neglect or was rejected for a time, when they return to faith in Jesus there is not a need to re-baptize them. They are like the prodigal son come home. But if the person who comes to faith has never been baptized, a plan to get baptized should immediately follow. In the event of an emergency, you could baptize the person pretty much on the spot. But ordinarily baptism is done by the pastor of the church that the person will ultimately become a member of for further instruction and discipleship. Obviously, that church (and pastor) could be your church that you invite them to attend along with you.
C is for Confess
We are saved by faith alone, apart from any works that we do. So we need not, nor should not, add anything to “believe and be baptized” in order to be saved. But when believers have sincere faith in Jesus they will express it in words and deeds, as James so bluntly puts it, “faith without works is dead” (James 2:26).). For this reason, Jesus also said that we will know if someone is a “good tree” (truly a born again believer) by the fact that they bear “good fruit” (see Matthew 7:17-18). Likewise Jesus said, “Whoever acknowledges (or confesses) Me before others, I will also acknowledge before My Father in heaven” (Matthew 10:32). So then as St. Paul describes Christian conversion he writes: “For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess (or confess) your faith and are saved” (Romans 10:10). The first opportunity to confess faith for new believers might be in a prayer to God in your presence. You could lead them in a simple repeat-after-me-prayer, in which they would admit sinfulness and confess faith in Jesus as their only Savior from sin. Their baptism will also be an opportunity for them to confess saving faith for in the baptismal rite they will speak the Apostles’ Creed as an expression of the faith into which they are baptized. Indeed, throughout their whole life of faith within the Church they will continue to confess faith in worship and in loving service to their neighbor. As they receive the Lord’s Supper, they will join all believers in proclaiming the Lord’s death until He comes again to take us home to Himself (see 1 Corinthians 11:26).
While the ABCs are basic and elementary, they are also profound and the building blocks for the “deep truths of the faith” (1 Timothy 3:9). They are, what St. Peter called in one of our epistle lessons this Easter season, “the sincere milk of the word” (1 Peter 2:2) that we need to crave that we might grow. The more clear we are on these things, the more we will be able to share them with others. May the Holy Spirit show us the opportunities that we have, especially during these extraordinary days, and grant us the grace to take advantage of the opportunities to share the ABCs of our faith.
In Christ, Pastor Naumann