Witness : Sharing our Faith Philippians 4:6-7

Discussion opener for a gathering of Diocese of Toronto Cursillo groups, at St. Andrew's Church, Scarborough, Saturday October 13, 2001 by Robert Brow  (www.brow.on.ca)

First of all I suggest we relax. Most of us are uneasy about having to witness and share our faith. But Paul wrote "Do not worry about anything (and that includes witnessing), but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Jesus the Messiah" (Philippians 4:6-7). God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit are far more concerned about getting through to the people we worry about than we could ever be.

Praying - So our first task is to pray for our family and friends and coworkers in our office or factory. And prayer means leaving them safely in the hands of God.

Thanking - As in everything else we keep thanking God. We give thanks that our family, and friends, and co-workers, are already being reached by the three Persons of the Trinity. Having said that, we also have a part in cooperating with what God is doing.

Sharing - A witness is someone who can speak from personal experience of what he or she has heard. But in our discussion group we will go beyond that to sharing our faith. And our faith is a response to what we have seen and heard from other witnesses, and especially to the witness of the writers of the Bible. "Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name" (John 20:30-31).

Caring - We are not to view people as raw material for our evangelistic efforts. We are to treat others as persons whose concerns are important to us. So we begin by knowing who they are. In each church I have served I make out a 3 x 5 index card (begin with a recipe box) for every person I come into contact with. At the top I write BLOW, Joe (that enables me to keep them in alphabetical order) and a phone number. The next line is their address. Then, if the person wants to share more information, I write down anything they want me to know about their children; where they live, and current situation (no information should be written on the card which the person would not be happy to be known by others). I might write "coaches hockey" or "plays the guitar" or "volunteers at the hospital." Then when I get a phone call, I pick up the card from my tray, and I can ask "Is your mother still in hospital", "Is your Mary happier with school?" Soon you get to know each person and find yourself caring about their social environment.

Listening - It is also important to listen carefully to what the person wants to say. We could ask "What do you think is wrong with our churches? What could we improve?" Also we should confirm and affirm what they already believe. When I meet an atheist I ask "Do you ever find yourself saying thank you?" Obviously you can't thank chance or matter or energy, so any expression of thanksgiving is already a beginning of faith. "Would you be interested in exploring what kind of person you are thanking?" Or we can approach God by suggesting that love is the most important power in the world. Where did this come from?

Stories - I also like to tell stories like the one about the two twins in their mother's womb who were having an argument about life after birth. One of them said "there's no place to go." The other said "There must be more to the universe than you and I in this narrow place." So they kept arguing for nine months until the woman went into labor. As they got squeezed and pushed they both said "this is the end, we are going to die." And when the first was born, the other said, "I'll be next." Then they both found themselves sucking milk on their mother's breast in a huge, huge wonderful world.

Having told the story, we could ask "Do you ever wonder whether life after death might be like life after birth?" I also tell the caterpillar story, which you can find under the sermons in my website. But it would be better to collect your own stories to catch the other's interest.

Closing - I once tried selling Volkswagen cars with Markham Volkswagen, but I discovered that closing is the hardest part of selling. I could take people for a test drive, and I knew all the specification off by heart, but I never sold a single car. Another salesman sold cars one after another, and people would come back to him three years later for a new model. He knew how to sum up what the customer was looking for. Some wanted to be sure that this was the best value for money. Others were interested in the performance and stereo system. Some only cared about the looks of the car, and its color. Similarly we need to know what avenue into faith will appeal to each individual person.

The Trinity - Many people view the Trinity as a problem to be solved. We should recognize when someone feels like a little child who is scared and lonely, and longs to run for protection and comforting to a loving parent. We can introduce such people to God the Father, who is infinitely more loving than any human father or mother. Others already admire Jesus as a great teacher, but they wonder about forgiveness. These days we can point to him as King of kings and Lord of lords reigning in our world (see Advent Comings of the Lord among the Nations). But there are also many who will respond to the Holy Spirit who can give them wisdom to raise their kids, guidance in difficult decisions they have to make, and inspiration to move them out of a dull life into exciting creativity. This morning when we thought about the New and Old Covenants, we noted that the Holy Spirit delights in giving us love and joy and peace (Galatians 5:22-23). So we can pick up on any sign of longing for the ability to love, any who seem to be miserable, and the anxious and worried. As we seek to witness, the Bible gives us a rich array of approaches into a living faith.

As we break up into our groups I suggest two questions to get us started:

What is the main objection you hear to Christian faith?

What is the greatest thing we have to offer in helping people into faith?

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