Me, Witness?

When I hear the word “witnessing,” I think of Bible-thumping, street-chanting, in-your-face-or-I’ll-beat-ya-black-n-blue holy rollers.

Ron Rearick tells about this approach in his book Iceman. He was a Mafia strongman whose last crime was hijacking a plane for a million dollars.

Then, after meeting Jesus in prison, he was miraculously released by the same judge who had sentenced him to 25 years. Upon his release, he set out to witness.

One Saturday, Ron went to the local park to watch the Jesus People witness. They were much younger, and in Ron’s opinion dressed a “little funny.”

Discontent to stand on the sidelines, Ron purchased some tracts to give away. He approached a group of three students and attempted to share his faith. One belligerent student took the tract, crumpled it up and threw it on the ground. That’s all it took to ignite Ron’s fuse. He growled at the student, picked up the tract, handed it back to him and said, “Hey, man, straighten up and read it, right now, in front of me! . . .”

Ron remembers the incident like this:

“The kid was obviously shaken. I decided I was going to break through to him; I was going to teach him to respect God. After he had time to read the tract, I asked, ‘Now, are you ready to receive Christ? Are you ready to do the four steps and respond to it?”

“The guy just looked at me dumbfounded, and said: ‘Hey, man, who are you kidding? Get off my back.”

“With that, I grabbed him by the throat and slammed him up against a tree, my voice rising in anger. ‘Are you ready to receive Christ? Or are you going to burn in hell, punk?”

“Scared out of his wits, he responded, ‘Yeah, man, whatever you want, whatever you want.”

“I cuffed him on the side of his head a couple of times and told him to kneel down and pray with me.”

Take heart!

Christians and non-Christians have something in common—they’re both uptight about witnessing. Non-Christians fear being assaulted by a “Jesus freak” like Ron Rearick. Christians fear being obnoxious in trying to witness.

If you struggle with witnessing, take heart. Jesus doesn’t expect you to be anyone other than yourself. He wants you to witness in the clothes you feel comfortable wearing.

Just to show you how that works, consider some of the personalities in Scripture. They used a wide variety of evangelistic styles. For example, you find Dorcas in Acts 9:36, who was a terrific witness by serving the poor. Or you have the demon-possessed man in Mark 5:18, 19, who led many to Jesus by simply telling others what Jesus had done for him. Then there’s Paul, who used an intellectual style in Acts 17:17 by appealing to reason. Or you can study the invitational style of evangelism as modeled by the woman at the well in John 4:28-30, 39. She simply invited her friends to come hear an evangelist. Then there was the confrontational style (a.k.a. Ron Rearick’s style) that Peter was known to use. In Acts 2:14 he commanded the people, “Listen carefully to what I say.”

Whatever your style of evangelism, don’t be afraid to use it. God’s calling you to witness. So get busy and start witnessing. Stop lazing around like a dead sloth or else I’ll come cuff you up side the head a couple times, hah! Only kidding! That’s not really my style. •

March 01, 2003 / Fresh Start

Karl Haffner is senior pastor of the Walla Walla College Church and writes from College Place, Wash.