As Christians, we have been given a Great Commission by Jesus himself to make disciples of all peoples. In other words, evangelism must be an integral part of our lives if we are going to be faithful as believers. As such, we are compelled to prepare ourselves for the task. This preparation involves not only learning the content of the gospel, it also requires that we engage people in life and verbally share it with them.
But I am afraid that most Christians don’t really understand the true significance of what we are being asked to do. If a person that we try to witness to is going to accept Christ, they are not only going to have to understand the message, they are also going to have to be willing to accept a new life – which includes both ideas and actions. This is a much bigger task than we are typically aware of.
Usually when we deal with the topic of witness, we think of it from our own perspective – that of the witnesser. Today we want to look at it from the side of the witnesses. As we share a witness, it is important for us to understand the implications of accepting Christ from the perspective of the one who must do it. If we can grasp this perspective, we can gain new sensitivity and insight about how we should approach the process.
When we invite someone to accept Christ, what are we really asking them to do? For one thing, we are asking them to literally change their worldview. We are asking them to change how they understand the very structure of reality. Those who have not spent the time to understand what worldview is all about may not realize the significance of this request.
But the fact is, our worldview is the single most basic set of assumptions that we have regarding life and the world. It is, literally, the way they understand reality to be structured. For an individual to change, two things must happen.
First, a person must understand the belief they are being asked to adopt. There are exceptions but, for the most part, people only know how to understand reality based on the way they were brought up. They simply don’t know any other way – or even that there is another way. The further away the Christian faith is from their own understanding of reality, the more difficult it will be for them to even comprehend the meaning of the gospel message.
Secondly, they have to be convinced that what you are proposing is true, as opposed to what they already believe, and must be willing to put aside their old beliefs for the new one. Depending on the situation, the consequences of this can be very dramatic. Many people are simply not willing to make that step.
So, just what are some of the things that people may have to change? Some possibilities include:
- the way they think,
- the way they talk,
- certain habits that they are “hooked” on,
- the friends they hang out with,
- how they schedule their week,
- their relationship with family,
- their standing in society,
- or their job.
And in some places it could even cause a threat to their very life.
Another thing that we must be aware of is that it is quite possible that they have had some kind of very negative experience in their past related to the Christian faith. It may be that they saw great hypocrisy in supposedly Christian parents, or the church they grew up in. This may have driven them deep into a different worldview position as they looked for truth and consistency. If this is the case, helping them regain trust in a faith they have come to despise may be quite a challenge.
So, how should this affect the way we think about witnessing? Well, the first thing it should do is to make us more patient and compassionate toward those we wish to share our faith with.
Making a decision to follow Christ is literally calling for an individual to die to self. While this concept is quite familiar, and perhaps even mundane, to those of us who already know Christ, it is a really big deal to those whose whole life has been wrapped around living for self. Because the life change being advocated is so deep, profound, and life altering, most people need time to process this for their lives. And the amount of time they need is usually dependent on the strength of their commitment to their current worldview position.
Calling on someone to make a decision to follow Christ may also be asking them to understand a way of organizing reality that is very different than what they already know. Dealing with this is not simply a matter of listening to a gospel presentation and making a decision to follow Christ. They have to literally reorient themselves to a different way of thinking. This will very likely take some time because this level of understanding doesn’t just happen. Not only do they have to learn new information, but they must also figure out the implications that this decision has for every aspect of their lives.
It is important to remember that the implications of following Christ go to the very core of a persons sense of who they are and how they live. It goes all the way to their very understanding of reality – their worldview.
As we seek to share a witness to those who are separated from God, we need to be very sensitive to where they are. We certainly don’t want to miss an opportunity to lead someone to the Lord, but we also don’t want to push people to make a decision before they are ready to do it. For the most part, those who are pushed to make a firm decision before they understand the implications of that decision will fall away very quickly and will end up further away from following Christ than they were before.
Our understanding of worldview, and the implications it has for life, is critical knowledge for Christians in a way that has not been true in times past. We live in a society where more and more of a percentage of the population does not acknowledge Christ. Recognizing and understanding the true nature of the task before us means that we have to know where people are coming from in their faith and how to interface with their lives in ways which make sense to them. It is a daunting task. But it is worth it if it allows us to be faithful to God as we seek to work along side him in building his kingdom.
© 2010 Freddy Davis