“Then (the jailer) brought them outside and said, ‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’ (Paul and Silas) answered, ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.’” Acts 16:30-31 NRSV
It was another night: clock in, make eight, go home. Perhaps the jailer went into work that evening expecting a mundane shift void of any surprises that might upset an otherwise slow night on the job: a periodic patrol, shaking door locks, and telling a few rowdy ones to “pipe down.” He was a man of great responsibility and felt the weight of making certain no one escaped from this place of isolation, knowing quite well that if something should go awry, he would be held accountable. Everything seemed to be off to a good start. The jailer was in charge. The prisoners were subordinate. Yes, an evening on the job devoid of trouble. No trouble whatsoever…until… Until a certain two prisoners decided to “have church” in the confines of a Philippian prison cell. The setting was by no means a modern-day place of worship complete with pipe organ and padded pews. But, in spite of that, it was in the hearts and minds of Paul and Silas the optimal time and location for worship to unfold. Prayers and praises rang forth from their cellblock paying honor to the One for whom they found themselves worthy to suffer pain and persecution. Amid this worshipful atmosphere, something began to unfold. The ground beneath them shook violently, chains began to break loose, and cell doors became disconnected from their hinges.
Talk about perfect timing for an escape plan! But something quite unusual happened. No one moved. No one jumped at an opportunity to “get out of jail for free.” This moment which had the makings of complete and utter chaos, coupled with the certitude of escape, was almost too much for the jailer to bear. Rather than taking the fall for what would surely unfold, the jailer determined to take his own life. No life at all would be better than giving an account to the Roman authorities. Just when the jailer was about to “do himself in,” he heard a voice…“We are all here and accounted for.” Wait! What? There is no way! How? Why? A strange occurrence indeed! Between being fear-filled, drawing his weapon, and questioning the scenarios, the only utterance which escaped the jailer’s lips was “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” Simple. Yet profound. Short. But transformative. What might you have said or done in such a moment? “Um…well…I am not so sure…but um…let me find out” or “Here is what I have come to experience through Christ”? I Peter 3:15 indicates that all of us should “be ready, willing, and able to offer witness to the hope which we each possess through Christ” (my paraphrase). That’s right! God has called each of us to bear witness to and encourage a commitment to Christ from others. So, where do we begin? What are some of the “nuts and bolts” which are necessary for “reaching as many people as possible for Christ?”
- Always begin with prayer. While prayer is important to the time we will spend with others, we also need to be “prayed up” before we share our faith: for ourselves and others.
- We should always be clear about the purpose of our witness. Our calling in Christ is to love others just as we have experienced God’s love in our own lives. One of the greatest aspects of this calling is to offer others something which they are unable to find anywhere else in life. We as the community of faith have been given the gift of grace.
- While we may feel led to control much of our conversation with another, it is important to hold back and give him or her the opportunity to share what may be upon his or her heart.
- Our testimony need not be lengthy or spectacular. Most Christians do not have a traumatic experience upon which to base their faith story. That being said, we need not feel as though our witness is any less important or effective than that of someone else.
- When sharing Christ, make sure we are sharing Christ. We are not to be the hero of our story. We are to tell of what we have seen, heard, or experienced of God in our own lives.
- Some of the important aspects of a personal testimony may include: how we become aware of our need for Christ, what a relationship with him means to us, and how life is different since beginning such a relationship.
- Some models for evangelism include a basic format for leading people to Christ (for example G.R.A.C.E.): God’s gift, Recognize and repent of sin, Accept the free gift, Confess trust in Christ as Lord, Enter into the Body of Christ.
- Do not simply tell others what the Bible says about these elements of following Christ, show them. Have them read the passages that are relevant to various topics. Offer explanation of complicated words or phrases.
Sharing Christ with our world is perhaps the greatest undertaking with which we engage in our world. It need not be intimidating or overwhelming, but should be a joyous task that becomes a natural part of who we are in Christ. As Little Rock OFWB Church, we value “reaching as many people as possible for Christ” and these are just a few of the ways in which we offer expression to our faith. While this is a viable pursuit for us as the Body of Christ, we know that our calling does not conclude with “getting people saved.” We have the responsibility of assisting Christians of all ages and backgrounds in the journey of discipleship. Discipleship deepens the initial commitment to follow Christ and it is to this ministry/mission focus that we will turn next time: “To provide a place of Christian nurture.”
Witnessing Together, The Rev. Kelley Smart