“Only Christ Converts”


We generally shy away from witnessing.  It’s a difficult task—or is it? I think it’s pretty clear that we’re still called to be Christ’s witnesses.  But what exactly does that look like?  I like what M. Craig Barnes says in his book, The Pastor as Mino Poet (Eerdmans): “Witnesses don’t really do very much. We have somehow twisted the term to make it more creative than Jesus intended it to be when he gave the Great Commission.  Often when pastors call their congregations to witness, what they really mean is that it is the laity’s responsibility to convert their neighbors and friends.  But that is asking too much.  Only Christ converts.  When the risen and about-to-be-ascended Christ tells his disciples ‘You will be my witnesses,’ he implies that he will continue to be the creative force for salvation in the world and that his disciples are now sent out as apostles who witness this work alone.  The witness merely sees and speaks about what he or she sees.  Ask any courtroom judge, and you will be told the last thing we need is for the witness to be creative. . . . That is not to say, however, that it is easy to witness the work of Christ.  It takes a lot of time and hard work to learn how to recognize it.” (63)  I like Barnes’ perspective on witnessing.  We know we’re called to be Christ’s witnesses, but we often feel overwhelmed in doing it, like it’s an impossible task.  But the task of witnessing is really about paying attention to what God is already doing and naming it.  So, what is God doing in your life?  Or in the life of your neighbors?  This is what you’re invited to speak of when the opportunity comes.  And then let Jesus do his work of changing hearts. After all, only Christ converts people.


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