Lesson 28: The Church and Personal Witness | Biblical Foundations for Living

Lesson 28: The Church and Personal Witness

As we’ve learned, the primary objective of the local church is the edification of believers. The second objective of the local church is evangelism . Evangelism takes place on two levels: personal witness and corporate mission. This lesson deals with personal witness.

[Personal witness is what you do on your own when at home, school, work, etc. Corporate witness is what the church does as a group, like visitation or evangelistic services. ]


Evangelism is the effort to see people saved , baptized , and become active members of a local church. Evangelism should be a natural result of edification. The more a believer is edified, the more effective he should be in his personal witness.

[Note the extended definition of evangelism. It’s not just winning people to Christ or getting a profession of faith from someone. ]

In this lesson, we will examine:

1. The role of the local church in personal witness

2. The method of personal witness

3. The message of personal witness

4. The results of personal witness

[A very good book on personal evangelism is Tell the Truth by Will Metzger. ]

I. The Role of the Local Church in Personal Witness

Many people view evangelism as a personal activity that has no connection to the local church. The Bible, however, indicates that all ministry in this dispensation is inseparable from the local church.

[This dispensation is the church age. "Para-church” organizations are those that are not part of the ministry of a particular local church. They attempt to minister either to all Christians or to a group of churches. E.g. colleges. Because the church is God’s organization for this age, all ministry should be done in conjunction with/under the auspices of a church or group of churches.]

A. The local church is the source of personal witness.

1. The local church has been given the authority to witness.

Just prior to His Ascension, Christ indicated that the authority to evangelize would be given when the baptism of the Holy Spirit took place.

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses.   Acts 1:8

This occurred on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2), the day upon which the church was established.

2. The local church provides the witnesses .

The local church is the training ground for evangelism (Acts 2:46-47). Those who are saved join a local church, where they learn to become effective witnesses.

B. The local church is the means of personal witness.

An individual’s personal witness is enhanced by the preparation and support provided by his local church.

1. The local church provides specialized training .

Witnessing is a learned activity . It is the educational ministry of the local church which prepares believers to witness more effectively.

It was [C[Christ]ho gave some to be . . . pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service.   Ephesians 4:11 12

2. The local church provides personal accountability .

Personal witness involves communicating the truth of the gospel with one’s words (doctrine) and actions (lifestyle). The local church has been given the responsibility to assure that its members remain pure in both of these areas so that their personal witness will accurately and genuinely communicate the gospel (Matthew 18:15-17 and 1 Corinthians 5).

3. The local church provides encouragement .

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another  and all the more as you see the Day approaching   Hebrews 10:24 25

Church members should encourage one another to tell others about Christ.

4. The local church provides strength through prayer .

Finally, brothers, pray for us that the message of the Lord may spread rapidly and be honored, just as it was with you.   2 Thessalonians 3:1

Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. – Colossians 4:2-4

Church members should pray for each other’s personal witness and that those to whom they witness get saved.

C. The local church is the end of personal witness.

Personal witness which only produces professions of faith is incomplete. The Great Commission calls for evangelism which not only produces converts, but which also sees them baptized and united in membership with a local church.

Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day. – Acts 2:41

[E[Evangelism does not end when a person makes a profession of faith. I.e. getting saved does not end the evangelism process. ]/p>

II. The Method of Personal Witness

A. Personal witness should be relational .

By this we mean that personal evangelism should focus on building relationships prior to presenting the gospel. An unbeliever is much more likely to seriously think about the gospel if it is explained by a friend he knows and trusts than by a stranger.

[T[The vast majority of those who visit a church or eventually get saved do so because they have a friend who talked to them. Thus it is important to work within the web/network of friends we have. ]/p>

1. Personal witness should be accompanied by an exemplary life .

One’s life has to support one’s message. One cannot expect an unbeliever to accept the Christian message from someone who does not act like a Christian. Peter stressed this important concept in his instructions to Christian wives with unsaved husbands.

Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives.   1 Peter 3:1 2

[I[In some respects, we win a person to what we display in our own lives. That is, a person will formulate a view of Christians and Christianity by what he sees from an example of someone claiming to be a Christian– you. C.f. also Matt 5:14-16; 1 Pet 2:11-12.]/p>

2. Personal witness should treat people as people .

Many method oriented evangelistic programs depersonalize those being witnessed to. One must remember that those to whom he is witnessing are not just objects. They are created in the image of God and should be treated with respect. This means that the evangelist will seek to show genuine interest in the unsaved and witness to them from that context. Both Christ and Paul evangelized this way (John 4:4 42 and 1 Thessalonians 2:8 12).

B. Personal witness should be message centered .

Though relationships with unbelievers are necessary, such relationships alone do not constitute evangelism. One must confront the unbeliever with the gospel message.

[F[Few if any ever get saved just by looking at a Christian’s exemplary lifestyle.]b>

1. Personal witness should value the message more than the method.

When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power.   1 Corinthians 2:1 2, 4 5

While the Bible presents no single method of evangelism, it does present a single message. Methods change; the content of the message does not. Whatever the method, it must be consistent with God’s character.

[B[Beware of any evangelism that stresses a step-by-step method. We don’t want to get locked in to any certain technique. Also, not all methods are equally good or appropriate. Remember, evangelism is a major goal, but not the highest goal. To glorify/honor/please God is the most important. Thus we must evangelize in a God-honoring way.]/p>

2. Personal witness should avoid methods that detract from the message.

Methods which appeal primarily to the emotions or are characterized by high-pressure “sales techniques” often cause people to make uninformed, hasty decisions. True saving faith can take place only if one understands the content of the gospel.

Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.   Romans 10:17

[T[This obviously takes some time. Evangelism usually does not take place in 5 or 10 minutes.]/p>

III. The Message of Personal Witness

It is extremely important that one understands the gospel message before he tries to explain it to someone else.

A. The focus of personal witness

1. Personal witness should not be man centered .

The tendency of many evangelistic methods is to make the gospel appealing in order to get more decisions. In so doing, however, the message is often corrupted. The following are common emphases of a man centered approach to evangelism:

a. Man centered witness views God primarily as a friend. This tends to minimize His authority.

b. Man centered witness views the lost from the standpoint of their needs. That is, one starts a gospel presentation by addressing an unsaved person’s felt needs, such as love, acceptance, etc. This tends to minimize his sinfulness.

c. Man centered witness views Christ primarily as the Savior. This tends to minimize His lordship; He is viewed as existing for mankind’s benefit.

d. Man centered witness stresses the idea that man seeks God, not vice versa. This tends to minimize God’s grace and sovereignty.

2. Personal witness should be God centered .

In contrast to the characteristics of a man centered approach, the following are emphases of a God centered approach to evangelism:

a. God centered witness views God primarily as the Creator and sovereign Lord.

When Paul evangelized in Athens, he began by explaining these very truths.

The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else.   Acts 17:24 25

b. God centered witness views the lost as totally sinful.

As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God.” – Romans 3:10-11

c. God centered witness emphasizes the lordship of Christ.

On the Day of Pentecost, Peter concluded his sermon by highlighting this truth.

Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.   Acts 2:36

That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. – Romans 10:9

d. God centered witness stresses the need for repentance.

I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus.   Acts 20:21

B. The content of personal witness

One’s presentation of the gospel should be built around the following truths:

1. The character of God

a. He is our Creator; we are responsible to Him.

b. He is sovereign; He may do with us as He pleases.

c. He is holy; He will not overlook sin.

d. He is gracious and loving; He has provided a way for man to be forgiven of sin.

For more information on these truths, see Part One, Section One of this curriculum.

[I[It’s important to start with God, because people need to know that their primary problem is a hostile relationship with God. ]/p>

2. The character of man

a. Man became sinful by rebelling against God.

b. Man is incapable of doing anything to please God; he is totally sinful.

c. Man stands condemned before God; this condemnation results in both physical and spiritual death.

For more information on these truths, see Part One, Section Three of this curriculum.

3. The person and work of Christ

a. Christ is the God man; because He is God, He is perfect; because He is a man, He can save mankind.

b. Christ lived a perfect life; He satisfied God’s demands for mankind.

c. Christ died a substitutionary death; He was punished for man’s sin.

d. Christ rose from the dead; He is Lord of the universe and can grant forgiveness to mankind.

For more information on these truths, see Part One, Section Four of this curriculum.

4. The proper response to the message: repentance and faith

a. Man must acknowledge his complete sinfulness; he is unable to please God.

b. Man must repent of his sin; he must change his mind about his sinful way of life and turn from it.

c. Man must believe that Christ paid the penalty for his sin; he must acknowledge that Christ died in his place, was buried, and rose again.

d. Man must submit to the lordship of Christ; he must recognize that there is a cost to being a believer in Christ.

For more information on these truths, see Part One, Section Five of this curriculum.

[N[Note that the correct response is not simply a profession of faith. Repentance and commitment are also necessary. ]/p>

IV. The Results of Personal Witness

A. God is responsible for the results of personal witness.

The abuses often associated with method centered evangelism are usually due to a misunderstanding of who is responsible for the results of evangelism. If someone’s salvation is solely in the hands of the evangelist, then one can understand the tendency of some toward high pressure methods. However, the Bible makes it clear that God is the One who is ultimately responsible for the salvation of the lost.

What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe  as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.   1 Corinthians 3:5 7

B. A genuine profession of faith will result in a changed life .

1. The initial response

A true believer will demonstrate his commitment to Christ in three ways:

a. Baptism by immersion

b. Local church membership

c. Spiritual growth

These do not guarantee the genuineness of one’s salvation, but their absence does call one’s conversion into question.

2. The continuing evidence

Lesson Twenty Seven pointed out that the book of 1 John was written to describe the marks of a genuine believer. They are:

a. Belief in fundamental doctrines (deity of Christ, inerrancy of Scripture, etc.)

b. A righteous lifestyle

c. Love for other Christians

[I[If this evidence does not exist, one can have no confidence that he is saved.]b>

Recap & Review

In this lesson, we have learned:

1. The local church is the source, means, and end of personal witness.

2. Personal witness should be relational and message-centered.

3. The focus of personal witness should be God-centered, not man-centered. One’s presentation of the gospel should include the character of God, the character of man, the person and work of Christ, and the proper response.

4. God is the One responsible for the results of personal witness. A true profession of faith will result in a changed life.

Learning to Live It

1. A popular “how to” book on evangelism states that when you visit someone whom you want to lead to Christ, you should begin by complimenting him on his home, children, etc. Why do you suppose the book suggests that you do this?

in order to make him more receptive to the gospel. Note the emphasis on method–“first do this, then this, then this, ….”

Is such an approach message centered or method centered?

method-centered

Is it man-centered or God-centered?

man-centered. Remember that methods change but the content does not. We should not be tied to a certain method/system of evangelism.

2. This same book says that it is the evangelist’s responsibility to make sure that everyone who hears the gospel is brought to a point of decision; the hearer must either say yes or no to the gospel. If he says no, the evangelist must press him to change his mind. According to this method, who is responsible for the results?

the evangelist

Does an unbeliever need to decide to reject the gospel? Why or why not?

no; he already has been rejecting it. John 3:18 states that an unbeliever is “condemned already.”

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