How Should You Witness?
One of the hardest things for young Christians (and it doesn't really get easier for older Christians) is finding the right time to witness to non-believers or to help other believers get back to Jesus. Many times our excitement and fire for Christ can come off as abrasive or too pushy which can give people the wrong idea about salvation. To help prevent this hostal environment in your witnessing I am going to take a strange approach to this witnessing lesson but stay with me I promise I will tie it all together.
In 1943 Abraham Maslow, one of the founding fathers of humanist approaches to management, wrote an influential paper that set a standard for basic building blocks of human needs that has become known as Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs which can be seen below.
So I know what you are thinking, what kind of bible lesson is this when we are quoting old psychology theories and nothing from the Word, well I'm getting to that. The passage I want to concentrate on is a well know passage Matthew 13:1-23 which can be read here. This passage is commonly known as "The Parable of the Sower" and was Jesus' way of describing how we must receive the message of God so He can completely us use with the Holy Spirit. Messages from this passage is most commonly used in as a reflection tool that preachers or youth leaders will use to encourage believers to look at their own lives to make sure God has the proper sowing grounds (your heart) so His amazing will can grow properly. So now you are thinking, "I thought he said this was about witnessing, why concentrate on passage that talks about me and not them" well that is why I used the phrase "most commonly" because I am getting ready to flip it around on ya, check out this video.
This is how a lot of young Christian feel when they are trying to share the word of God with their friends or classmates. The devil will constantly fill your heart with doubts about how well you are equipped as such a young person to extend such an important message, what if you haven't read enough of your Bible to answer all of their questions? Maybe you have tried to extend the message to a less than receptive person, how can you bring someone to Christ if they just don't want to listen to you because God's judgement sounds more hate than love. Sometimes we forget that conviction on a sinner's heart (don't forget we are all sinners) can come off a little sharp if you don't know God and his wonderful love.
So far I have talked about an old psychologist theory on how to reach out to a human's basic instincts and a classic story form the bible about preparing a heart to receive the Holy Spirit. So here comes the connection to witnessing, if we want to truly want to witness to someone we must first stop and take a look at where that person is on a personal level in respect to Maslow's Hierarchy to decide where God's love needs to be applied to their life. Just like the parable of the sower tells us we must completely prepare our heart to receive the gospel, the people we are witnessing to must also be free of the disruptions to their spiritual growth like that rocky ground or those strangling thorns. To stay with Jesus' theme of gardening, if you are getting ready to plant a garden you must first bush hog and plow the soil before you drop the seeds. This is now different than witnessing to a non-believer.
Many times we feel like we aren't truly witness to someone unless we are throwing scripture at them but if we are truly the WWJD generation you would have to note that some of the most amazing miracles that Jesus performed were to simply take care of His people's physical needs. Feeding the masses with only a few loaves of bread and a couple fish is the perfect connection to this idea and Jesus' ministry. Way before Maslow constructed this triangle diagram Jesus was using the technique because he knew that if the masses didn't have that primary need meet then they wouldn't be able to truly take his message in. Jesus made sure everyone's basic physical need was taken care of so they could move up that ladder of needs to reach the point that God has a open window to their heart. Look at the story of Jesus calling Peter out onto the water where he was standing, it was Peter's feeling of danger or lack of safety that caused him to doubt thus falling in the water. It was that feeling of being in an unsafe environment that caused Peter to loose faith which just so happen's to be the second level of the triangle, safety. Maybe we should go ahead and rename the diagram Jesus' Hierarchy of Needs because it looks like he had this figured out way before Maslow put his name on it.
So what does this all mean? Well it is simple, if you truly want to witness to people you don't always have to open up with "did you know that if you don't allow Jesus into your heart then your going to spend eternity in a lake of fire :)". Though it is true, that knowledge drop isn't always the best way to lead people to Christ. Just like building a house, the most important part of the house if the foundation so we have to start at the bottom of that triangle taking care of their most basic needs before you really get into the gospel. So you might simple invite someone to sit with you at lunch that usually sits alone or post words of encouragement on a friends negative sounding Facebook status that might let them know that someone is thinking of them. God works in many glorious ways and he can use you to simply remove some of those rocks out of the soil in preparation for something later down the road. Check out this video. As you can see in the video, even though you don't see directly the moment when God takes a hold of a person's heart your actions can just be a single step in God's plan for someone.
So in conclusion, even though it is an amazing feeling to see someone accept Christ for the first time God's plans for your witnessing in their life might not be the one who drops that seed into the ground but instead you might the one who removes the rocks or clears out the thorns.