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GOD Calls Us To Witness, September 3, 2023

John 1:35-51 Prayers, Presence, Gifts, Service, and Witness…Today we will focus on our WITNESS as we complete the 5 commitments to Jesus Christ as we stive to follow His Way, His Truth, and His Life.

Last Wednesday I called my friend, mentor, and the first Senior Pastor that I worked with as his associate pastor, Rev. Dr. Pastor K. Lewellen McGhee. In 1997 I as appointed to The Village Church of St. Louis where we “Gossiped the Gospel and Lived the Love.”

Pastor McGhee was the first to graduate from St. Paul School of Theology with a Specialty in Evangelism as he got his Masters of Divinity. For his dissertation he wrote a small book entitled “Conversational Lifestyle Evangelism.” He taught a few members of the Village Church and me a 6-week class on the book and that opened my spirit to GOD’S purpose for my life. More later…

Christianity is a shared faith – one that is received through person-to-person testimony. In our developing tradition, the fifth practice to which we commit ourselves is WITNESS. The 5th of 5 commitments we make to Jesus Christ: Prayers, Presence, Gifts, Service, and Witness.

We heard Linde read John’s Gospel story of Jesus inviting the earliest disciples to “Come and see” to better understand Jesus’ style of evangelism.

Through sharing our personal WITNESS, we can CONNECT more deeply to God and others as we seek to be Uniquely Who GOD has created us to be.

Friends, today I want you all to learn about how, when we vow to Jesus our WITNESS to the Good News of Jesus Christ, it helps each one of us take part in GOD’S transforming work in the world.

Sharing the Good News through person-to-person WITNESS has been a part of Christianity from its very beginnings. It is so evident in today’s scripture. True followers of Jesus Christ commit to inviting others to experience God’s love.

The great author, Madeleine L’Engle, wrote, “We draw people to Christ not by loudly discrediting what they believe, by telling them how wrong they are and how right we are, but by showing them a light that is so lovely that they want with all their hearts to know the source of it.”

Giving witness is even more than sharing light and sharing what we know. The first Christian historian, Eusebius, defined witness in terms of the way one lived. He called it “philosophia biou”– a philosophy of life or more accurately, a way of life.

Are we living in such a way or sharing our personal experience of God’s love in such a way that we are living examples of the promise in the song refrain: “They will know we are Christians by our love”?

Jesus’ form of evangelism is based on a simple invitation, “Come and see.” He seems to believe that the best witness is showing people how life might be experienced.

I hope you will continue to strive to live following Jesus’s Way, Jesus’ Truth, and Jesus’ Life. THEN YOU WANT TO INVITE FOLKS TO COME AND SEE…

Unlike the often-negative images of evangelism that saturate our culture today, Jesus’ style doesn’t pressure or manipulate folks.

Jesus begins with the needs of others and invites them to find the thing for which they have been looking.

A Jesus-style of evangelism is simpler than it sounds:

-Begin with friendship. Evangelism should always be centered in Christlike love for others without manipulation.

-Listen. Remember that Jesus listened to the people.

Jesus asked in verse 38, “What are you looking for?” And then inviting them to find what they were looking for.

-Know your own story. In the book of Acts, the apostles are always ready to tell the story of the way they met Christ and the difference God made in their lives.

-Offer the invitation. Once a relationship is established and you’ve listened to the needs of your new friend, offer an invitation.

An invitation is a question that requires a yes or no response.

-Trust the Spirit. Part of Wesleyan theology is prevenient grace, a belief that the love of God is already at work in people’s lives long before they are even aware of it. The disciple’s job is to invite. It is the Spirit’s job to convict and move that person toward response.

In an October 2022 Barna survey of 2,000 U.S. adults, three out of four (74%) say they want to grow spiritually. Additionally, the same proportion (77%) say they believe in a higher power. Nearly half (44%) say they are more open to God today than before the pandemic. People are spiritually curious and are looking for a connection with God. An invitation from you might be exactly what they are looking for!

-Take time to write down your faith story. How did you come to know Jesus? For those with children, grandchildren or significant relationships with young people, consider writing a letter to them sharing your faith story.

•What does it mean to be a “WITNESS”? SO, How can we be witnesses?

•The dictionary defines “witness” as “having personal knowledge of something and giving testimony to it.” So my friends, one is an observer of an event and then can tell others what one has seen or heard. You can only share WHAT YOU HAVE EXPERIENCED!!

•What would it take for us to recover A PASSIONATE FIRE for sharing the love of God in Christ with people outside the walls of the church?

•Pray daily for the church, the people, its ministries and its leaders.

•Share how and why you became connected to Harmonie Church on a social media platform. Give a public reflection on how your experience of God has changed your life.

•I’ve shared with you a few activities from our church calendar to highlight great opportunities to invite folks to spend time with our folks…

Help your friends craft easy invitations to offer friends for these opportunities. Some of you are naturals at knowing what to say to relax people and encourage them to say, “Yes!” to your invitation.

If your note naturally inclined to reach out to folks, practice your faith story within a small group so you can soothe nerves and gain clarity on how to best share your story.

Please hear this devotion from Henri Nouwen, “Create Space for the Stranger”.

“In our world full of strangers, estranged from their own past, culture, and country, from their neighbors, friends, and family, from their deepest self and their God, we witness a painful search for a hospitable place where life can be lived without fear and where community can be found. Although many, we might say even most, strangers in this world become easily the victim of a fearful hostility, it is possible for men and women and obligatory for Christians to offer an open and hospitable space where strangers can cast off their strangeness and become our fellow human beings.

“The movement from hostility to hospitality is hard and full of difficulties. Our society seems to be increasingly full of fearful, defensive, aggressive people, anxiously clinging to their property and inclined to look at their surrounding world with suspicion, always expecting an enemy to suddenly appear, intrude, and do harm. But still—that is our vocation: to convert the hostis into a hospes, the enemy into a guest, and to create the free and fearless space where brotherhood and sisterhood can be formed and fully experienced.”

End quote from Henri J. M. Nouwen.

GOD says to us in Leviticus 19:33-34, "When an alien lives with you in your land, do not mistreat him. The alien living with you must be treated as one of your native-born. Love him as yourself, for you were aliens in Egypt. I am the Lord your God."

During the “Conversational Lifestyle Evangelism” class that Pastor McGhee taught, I remember breaking down in tears, because I realized that I had wasted about 20 years of my life not sharing the Love of Jesus Christ with my neighbors….

Then I confessed and repented and received the

Blessed Forgiveness of Jesus Christ.

Please join me in prayer…GOD, you call each of us to bear witness to your abundant love with a frightened world. You called your disciples to share the good news of your love to the ends of the earth. Give us a courageous and willing spirit so that we may boldly go wherever and to whomever you send us. Be with our church, our people, its ministries and our leaders. In Jesus’ Name we pray…Amen.

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