In his last recorded words to his disciples, Jesus said:
“…and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” – Acts 1:8b
For today’s disciples of Christ, as those of the first century, Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and “the end of the earth,” can be thought of as expanding circles of influence – the city, surroundings, region, and world. And so, while we often think of “missions” as happening across the ocean, in reality, our mission starts much closer.
Like we constrain the word “mission,” we often constrain the word “witness.” Certainly, witness involves showing and telling others the Gospel – that God offers all of sinful mankind reconciliation to him, their holy Creator, through the ministry, sacrifice, and resurrection of his only Son, Jesus Christ.
But while witness involves spreading our faith, it also includes acting upon our faith. As we read in James 2 (the chapter I am working on for the Summer memorization challenge):
What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warm and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? – James 2:14-16
And so, while it is important that we remember the power of faith as contained in the Scripture that 2 Timothy 3:16 tells us is “breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,” we must not forget to continue into verse 17, “that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”
Make no mistake, we don’t believe we are somehow saved by our works. But we do believe that works is the evidence of saving faith – that “as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead” (James 2:26).
And so, we believe that we are called to witness not only to the ends of the earth, but also to our Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria – which for us perhaps could be envisioned as our town, region, and nation, and that our witness should include words and actions. So while we seek to witness through the spreading of the Word of saving faith (which will be the subject of future posts), we also seek to witness through showing the actions that proceed from that saving faith.
There are so many ways these actions can take form. We believe in work as worship, and have begun commissioning members of our congregation not only for “vocational ministry,” but as missionaries to their places of work, to school, to teams, or to other places in the community.
We believe that we are called to witness by sharing our financial resources with those in need in our communities, which we do in several ways including through our Deacon Caring Board fund.
We believe we are called to witness to our community through “SURV” (Servants, Uplifters, Role-Models, and Volunteers) teams, who conduct “flash-mobs” of sorts, completing short-term service projects to help others.
We believe we are called to witness to our community through providing assistance, training, counseling, resources, and shelter to the disadvantaged and to people in crisis, whether within our own gifts or in partnership with other local churches and ministries, including Rise Again, CareNet, Aspire, and several others.
We believe we are called to witness to our community by reaching out to those in prison, and those who may be outside the walls of prison yet are imprisoned by this fallen world, including the multitudes enslaved and otherwise impacted by the opioid crisis.
And yet another one of the ways in which we believe we have been called to witness in our local community is through the Clough Pond Project, which you can read about here.
How do you show your faith as an individual Christ-follower, or as a group or congregation of Christ’s disciples? We’d love to hear your stories!