Learn What it Means to be a Witness | 08
AUTHOR: Holy Scripture
As we continue to study the timeless words of the apostle Paul in Romans, the profound message of rescue, redemption, and restoration comes alive. Paul also embodied the last words of Jesus to the disciples “…and you will be my witnesses….”
Men and women of the Bible can serve as our mentors and guides as we learn to be effective witnesses.
Read or listen to Luke 4:14-30.
Then Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread throughout the entire vicinity. He was teaching in their synagogues, being praised by everyone.
He came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. As usual, he entered the synagogue on the Sabbath day and stood up to read. The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him, and unrolling the scroll, he found the place where it was written:
The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me
to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to set free the oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.
He then rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. And the eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fixed on him. He began by saying to them, “Today as you listen, this Scripture has been fulfilled.”
They were all speaking well of him and were amazed by the gracious words that came from his mouth; yet they said, “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?”
Then he said to them, “No doubt you will quote this proverb to me: ‘Doctor, heal yourself. What we’ve heard that took place in Capernaum, do here in your hometown also.’”
He also said, “Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in his hometown. But I say to you, there were certainly many widows in Israel in Elijah’s days, when the sky was shut up for three years and six months while a great famine came over all the land. Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them except a widow at Zarephath in Sidon. And in the prophet Elisha’s time, there were many in Israel who had leprosy, and yet not one of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.”
When they heard this, everyone in the synagogue was enraged. They got up, drove him out of town, and brought him to the edge of the hill that their town was built on, intending to hurl him over the cliff. 30 But he passed right through the crowd and went on his way.
What does Jesus say about himself in this passage? What is his mission?
The written Scripture is CSB, however, the audio Scripture is ESV.
Read the blog below. What does it teach about being a witness?
Witness and Marginalized Communities
By Brent Nelsen
An Intriguing Question
When I was an undergraduate student I had the opportunity to attend the Urbana Missions Conference in 2006 in St. Louis. I had only recently begun taking my faith seriously, and I was intrigued by the idea of becoming a missionary. The adventure and danger of taking the gospel to the corners of the earth where it was unknown excited me. In my mind I imagined traveling to remote villages or urban slums where I would bring the news that would transform lives.
I remember one of the conference speakers, a pastor from Kenya. He pointed out that the church in Europe and North America was rapidly declining, while in Africa, Asia, and South America it was rapidly growing. He said that the future of global missions would be one of reciprocity, rather than a one-way street from the West to the majority of the world. This was an intriguing idea to me. The only way I had ever imagined missions was people who look like me taking the gospel to people who don’t look like me.
And then the speaker asked a question that had me stumped. He said, “what does the church in Africa have to offer to churches in the West?” This idea was so foreign to me that I’m ashamed to admit that I couldn’t come up with an answer. It had never occurred to me that American Christians might have something to learn from their global neighbors. In my mind, all the assets were here, and they needed what we had. I’ve come a long way in my thinking since then.
Learning in a Multiethnic Community
A decade later, during my seminary application process, I visited the campus of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. I met a professor there who would become my academic advisor and eventually one of the most influential mentors in my life. He was also the person who recommended that I apply for the residency at Christ Community. On my campus visit, he told me about a program that would allow me to experience seminary in an intentionally multiethnic setting. I would meet regularly with a “formation group” of students who are traditionally underrepresented on American seminary campuses (international students, people of color, and women) and learn about faith, mission, and reconciliation in that diverse context.
I grew up in a typical monochrome suburb where most everyone looked like me, talked like me, and thought like me, so I jumped at the opportunity. The Urbana conference had ignited a desire in me to learn from people from different backgrounds, and this was exactly the kind of opportunity I was looking for. Since the campus group was geared toward underrepresented students, spots were limited for white guys like me, but I applied and was ecstatic when I learned that I had been accepted.
Few times in my life were as formative as my time in seminary. Part of that was the gift of studying the Bible, theology, and church history under the incredibly gifted and godly faculty at Trinity. The other part was the gift of those I studied with. For the first time in my life, I was a minority. My new companions included international students, second generation immigrants who grew up in Latin American, Chinese, and Korean immigrant churches in the United States, and black students from predominantly urban settings.
My experience of being in the minority gave me a taste of what their lives were like all the time in the United States. If you have ever had a cross-cultural experience, you know that it can be disorienting. You can’t always trust your intuition. You’re around people with different expectations and assumptions. And they don’t always respond to situations as you would expect. “Common sense” isn’t necessarily common.
What was common among us, however, was a vibrant faith in Jesus. That was often expressed differently, and sometimes we unintentionally offended one another. But it made us all better Christians. We had to learn to ask for, and extend, forgiveness. We had to learn to listen. We had to learn to see things from another point of view. Our own understanding of the gospel and its implications in the world became richer. And we were a witness to the broader community of the unifying effects of the gospel. Nothing shows the world the love of Christ like a bunch of really different people who love one another.
Unity and Witness
Now when I think back on that question from the Kenyan pastor at the Urbana conference in 2006, I realize how much we need our brothers and sisters from around the world and in marginalized communities here in the United States. My own faith journey would be incomplete without them. Every group has something to teach every other group, if only we are willing to listen.
And as I think about the witness of the church in the diversifying United States in the coming decades, I truly believe that our effectiveness will be directly tied to our ability to work together across lines that the rest of the world struggles to cross. When men and women, young and old, black and white, and immigrant and natural-born citizen work together for the cause of Christ, we will present a more compelling witness to the work of Christ to a watching world.
How are you intentionally crossing these lines? Are you listening to a variety of voices, or only people who share your worldview? Are you in community with people who challenge your thinking and practice, and with whom you can ask for and extend forgiveness? Are you learning from brothers and sisters from around the world who are our partners in the cause of Christ?
Lord, grant me the humility to learn about you from the poor, the needy, and the oppressed. Open my ears to hear what they have to teach me about being a witness to your salvation.
Week 8 of 8 Witness
Click to read and listen to Scripture.
Click to read and listen to Scripture.
Click to read and listen to Scripture.