UNCOVERING TREASURES THROUGH ENCOUNTERS
I believe many Christians shy away from witnessing because the only models they have seen are either very invasive or argumentative. How many of us enjoy being accosted with the salesman’s pitch to get us to buy something we do not need or want? Unfortunately, many Christians are perceived with the same disdain as the unwanted salesman. How many of us cringe listening to the futile, fruitless arguments in the lunchroom in the name of “witnessing.” As a result, many shy away from witnessing to avoid leaving a “bad taste” in the non-Christian’s mouth to protect the reputation of the Church.
Of course, the apostle Peter instructs us in First Peter 3: 15 to “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect....” Some read this passage and assume that Peter is speaking about giving an intellectual reason for the hope, that he wants us to prepare a theological dissertation for the existence of God that would convince even the most hardened atheist. I have rarely ever led someone to Christ through argument. Not because I cannot argue, but because at some point the debate requires a leap of faith, “It is by grace you are saved, through faith” (Eph. 2: 8), not debate. Obviously, a debate can lead someone to the point of deciding to take the leap.
Billy Graham is a classic example of someone who is masterful at walking a crowd through the logical steps toward the launching pad of faith. But most people do not come into the Kingdom through a well-developed argument. They come through an encounter, whether it is a personal testimony of how someone else encountered God in some way, or a supernatural encounter in which God revealed Himself to them in a specific way. The reality is a man with an experience is never at the mercy of a man with an argument. And a man with an argument is only one encounter away from changing his argument!
The apostle Paul had a pretty good argument that Christians should be persecuted. He spent all of his time and resources toward that end. Yet on the road to Damascus, when Jesus appeared to him personally, he was ready to change his argument. When Ananias showed up a few days later by divine appointment, Paul gladly accepted the counter message of the good news and spent the rest of his life promoting it wherever he went.