Friday, April 27, 2012

Preach or Witness?

"I speak the truth in Christ -
I am not lying, conscience confirms
it in the Holy Spirit..."

Romans 9:1

Have you ever faced a moment when someone said something to you and you ended up feeling really put down? Where one minute you felt like you were riding high and someone did something that tended to burst your personal balloon?

I've had that happen more than I like to think about, but that's life. Particularly when I've tended to feed my ego. And I've subjected a few people with downers as well.

Many years ago, during a church witnessing function that I was leading, a man came up to me at the end and said I should check out the Bible passage I've referred to above. I though I had done an adequate leadership role during the weekend and yet the passage was troubling to me - had I fallen short in leadership? Did he sense something about my leadership or witness that did ring true? However, I have kept that passage in mind over the years asking God if what I have said or done has rung true?

I wrote a book on Christian witnessing many years ago and it ended up being used for many years. When I submitted the manuscript to the publisher it was accepted in its entirety - not a word was changed. I had spent a week trying to write the book and couldn't even get the first page done until, in desperation I prayed for the words and the words just flowed. Feeling an emotional high, I proceeded to write another book and felt assured that it would be better than the first. But the editor of the publishing house said it had potential but that it had a big difference from the first: "It was preaching, not a witness to God's power and influence". I can say without question two things: I had not prayed over the project, and I had allowed the book to become a "me" book.

I have since asked myself, again and again, am I preaching or am I witnessing? I've asked that about sermons I shared. In the process I tried to understand what the motive of he sermon was. Was I trying to entertain my audience? Or was I trying my best to convey a message of real inspiration - something that offered as heartfelt as possible something of how I experienced and experience God. Did what I shared truly encourage listeners to come closer to God? Did people leave church with a sense of Christian hope, encouragement, and inner peace in a time of turmoil?

I'd like to think that I've tried to be true to God. I would like to think that my years were not filled with self but with  desire to share Christlike love and optimism and the reality that we are loved by God in spite of moments when we don't measure up to God's hopes for our lives. And I have taken to heart the Scripture passage above and times when people have reminded me of the truth that it's a whole lot better to put self on the back-burner and think more of God's hopes for how we might influence the world with Godlike actions and words.

I think of an interview many years ago where one of the committee asked a question: "When you die, what would you like on your gravestone?" My reply: "He served Jesus." With that in mind, what would you like to see on your gravestone?

Forgive me Lord,
When I spent to much time focusing on self
and not enough depending on you

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