This is the final part of a series of three posts on the topic of witnessing at work. In Part 1 we introduced the general topic, saw that witnessing can be divided into two types – active and passive – and started considering passive witnessing. In Part 2 we looked at some specific aspects of passive witnessing. In this part we will consider active witnessing.
What is Active Witnessing?
By ‘active’ witnessing, I mean actually going out of your way to do or say something which will directly tell people what you believe. Being an active witness and talking about your faith with others who don’t hold the same beliefs, and might be hostile to them, is challenging. I can’t claim to be very good at this – I know a number of people who put me to shame, but it is important for us to be as active as possible in our witnessing. This will depend somewhat on your character and the receptiveness of those around you, and will vary greatly from situation to situation. However, there are several points to be made about active witnessing which would apply to most situations.
Do the groundwork: pray for opportunities
Every day, when you pray about the day ahead and the work you have to do, remember to pray for opportunities to be a witness. In my experience, opportunities seem to come more frequently when I am praying for them – perhaps I’m just better at noticing them! Also pray that you might be given the courage to take those opportunities: sometimes an opportunity comes along and it just seems easier not to say anything, particularly if it’s around a controversial topic. Pray that God will give you the right words to say and the boldness to speak out when an opportunity comes, he has promised to do this (See Jeremiah 1:6-9 & Mark 13:11). Finally, take time afterward to pray that what you have said will be blessed and ask for help if that person comes back to you to find out more.
Always mention church where applicable
When people ask about your weekend, don’t just mention something that you did on Saturday. Make sure you add in about going to church or chapel on Sunday too. If people ask you about your weekend every Monday, you may end up saying this every week, however, not only does it remind them that you attend a church, it shows that you consider it as worthy of mention as whatever you did on Saturday – which of course it should be! Furthermore, this removes any possibility of people thinking that you only go to church occasionally. I’ve been asked by colleagues ‘Do you really go every Sunday? Don’t you ever have a Sunday off?’ which is a great way to start a conversation about worship.
Don’t be ashamed to admit that you don’t know an answer
When you do manage to engage people in conversation they often ask hard or controversial questions. Things which may be clear to us from a lifetime of being brought up in Christian circles are puzzling to others. If someone asks a question that you don’t know the answer to, be honest and tell that person that it’s something you’re not sure about and you’d like to ask your pastor/a spiritual elder before you give them an answer. This also gives you a clear opportunity to begin another conversation at a later date.
Many people who don’t believe in God have a stated reason for doing so, such as having watched a family member die of a difficult illness and coming to the conclusion that no god would allow such suffering. These people will often go straight in for the attack if you do speak to them about your beliefs and will ask you a difficult question, like ‘Well, look at all those people dying in Syria. How can you believe in a god who allows that?’ Such people are usually hurting inside and although you may have a very good answer to them from a theological point of view, make sure that the way you give it is as loving and understanding as possible.
Give glory to God
This is particularly difficult, not only because of worries about feeling awkward or saying the wrong thing, but also because our pride gets in the way of giving glory to God. We like to think that we have been the author of our own success and happiness. We firstly need to have a right view in our own hearts of what we owe to God both in a spiritual and a natural sense and then we can more rightly glorify God through our words. That difficult meeting you prayed about…When a colleague compliments you on the way you handled it, let him or her know that it was an answer to your prayers. You don’t have to say a lot, a simple ‘Thanks. I was really worried about it beforehand – I’ve had to pray about it a lot.’ will be ample food for thought for someone who may never have considered the role of prayer in a Christian’s daily life.
Talk about Christ
The main aim of witnessing is to share the good news of the gospel: salvation from sin through God’s grace and the work of Jesus Christ at Calvary. Where possible, if someone is open to talking about church or your beliefs on a certain matter, steer the conversation toward that vital personal relationship with Christ. Tell them a bit of your testimony, what Christ has done for you and the hope he gives you of eternal life through his own death and resurrection. It is all too easy to have a long academic debate with someone on creation vs evolution, or moral issues, for example, but never once directly mention the gospel. Try to keep this in mind when opportunities do present themselves.
Being a witness to the world around us is a daily battle and one which we too often forget we are engaged in. We need to pray for help daily to honour God in our words and deeds, and for forgiveness for where we fail. The ideas given in this series of articles are by no means exhaustive but I hope they could form a starting point for you to think more closely about aspects of your life and your witness. Finally, consider the words of Jesus,
Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men. Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven. (Matthew 5:13-16)