Stepping on board brought forth a sense of excitement, nervousness, opportunity and adventure. This would be a milestone in my life – not earth-shattering mind you. Yet, stepping into the cabin of a helicopter in Glacier National Park (Montana) with three teammates from my traveling Jewish gospel music team was a thrill…and we hadn’t even taken off!
The tour of the park from the air in early August was spectacular too say the least – glaciers and mountains as far as the eye could see. And the helicopter ride itself – a bit surreal. It felt kind of like floating – “Am I really doing this?”
That whole experience in the late 1990’s could’ve been summed up in a word – new. A new day brought forth a new opportunity for a new experience in a new place. Ah, the wonder of newness!
As new creations in Messiah (2 Corinthians 5:17), God has blessed us with the new birth. Yes – ‘His mercies are new every morning’ (Lamentations 3:23). Additionally, there is a future reality for God’s people – the new heaven and new earth – of which He says, “Behold, I make all things new” (Revelation 21:5). Pondering these truths brings to mind that God is in the newness business and evokes within me praise and thanksgiving!
In context of our witness, we close the book on 2015 and enter a new year filled with the potential of new opportunities and experiences, and perhaps new relationships. For 2016 will bring forth a new season of striving to know God and making Him known.
Whether you are a seasoned missionary, feel like a witnessing flunkie, or feel somewhere in between, the truth is that none of us ever arrives. You see, we don’t rest on our laurels and the past doesn’t necessarily equal the future. For the Great Commission mandate continues and much work remains to be accomplished as the Lord continues to build His church.
So, what will the new year mean for your witness?
May I suggest a few ideas to prompt your thinking, praying, and doing:
New Learning Opportunities
You may have heard this famous quip from Ray Kroc – founder of McDonald’s – “If you’re green you’re growing, if you’re ripe, you rot.” Regarding the development of our witness, since God is not done with you or me, we should never stop seeking to grow. Take advantage of the myriad of learning opportunities 21st Century technology affords – you can watch, listen, or read online. One of my preferred ways to learn is to listen to various teaching online. For example, I listen regularly to Ravi Zacharias (RZIM.com), one of the foremost apologists in the world. Perhaps you’ll attend an evangelism/apologetics conference or seminar in your area, or read a good book or two. If you want some specific ideas and suggestions, please contact me.
New Ways to Engage
Perhaps God will lead you to engage in different ways evangelistically in 2016. Prayer should be a foundation for all our activity, for evangelism should begin on our knees. Kingdom Praying is an excellent online resource for you if you’d like some structure – it has prayers for the lost, prayer walking guidance, praying for open doors and more. I’ve prayed biblical prayers from this website for a couple of years now and found it quite useful.
Journaling is a powerful tool in our Christian life in general. Maybe this new year you’ll begin a witnessing journal where you record interactions, prayers, what God is teaching you and how you see Him working among those in your sphere of influence.
Volunteering time and expertise, in the name of Jesus, in your community may be something new for you. That service may be for someone in your own life or with your church or local mission organization. It may even be an out of town or international mission trip. It’s been said good deeds lead to goodwill that can open doors for the good news to be proclaimed.
As you engage people in faith-based conversations about Jesus and the gospel, think about allowing others to witness to them via evangelistic books, videos, or through sharing cyber links. You may even have an opportunity to give a bible to someone who has never read one or currently doesn’t have.
New Relationships and Witnessing Opportunities
The adventure of a new season of life is a blank canvas for the Lord to birth relationships. Along with people to whom the Lord may have you connect, witnessing opportunities may also arise. Perhaps you’ll reach out and have a cup of coffee, share a meal, or watch a ballgame with someone new in order to develop rapport and trust. This summer and fall I’ve struck up a friendship with an elderly man I regularly see at Starbucks. We’ve watched some ballgames at a local sports bar and have had some good faith-based conversations.
One prayer that’s been something new for me the past couple of years is to regularly ask God to provide open doors, ministry opportunities and divine appointments. If you’ve never prayed a prayer like, I’d encourage you to do so, but with one caveat – God will answer that prayer – so be ready!
If you don’t have any regular contact with an unbeliever, perhaps you’ll pray that God will bring someone into your life for the purpose of being salt and light.
Growing Existing Relationships
Sometimes opportunities to be salt and light are already in place, but it just takes eyes of faith to see. For example, recently I had a friend ask me how to be a witness in his workplace, as he manages a store and doesn’t want to alienate those he supervises or abuse his authority. I told him he could simply ask the guy or guys he knows best out to lunch or invite them to hang out or get together beyond the workplace. This way the relationship can move beyond the professional to the personal, which is a wonderful environment for trust and rapport to be built and for faith-based conversations to take place.
I encourage you to ask the Lord to reveal if there is someone in your existing sphere of influence He would have you reach out to in order to take the relationship to the next level.
In Season and Out of Season
While newness is beautiful and fresh with opportunity, the mandate be a witness remains a constant:
“Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching” (2 Timothy 4:2)
As we close the book on 2015 and a new chapter called 2016 opens, may God renew our witness as we recommit to be salt and light to a world and people desperately in need of the ‘truth that sets men free’ (John 8:32). Amen!