Witnessing (part deux)

Big fat disclaimer: In the following, I mention a 12-step meeting and something I heard at that meeting. I have several friends in AA and I often hear stories that are revealing and educational from them. However, none of these stories should be construed as “the official word” from AA on a given subject. There is no such thing, as AA takes no position on any issue whatsoever. I am not a member of AA and have no authority on the doings and workings of AA. And…disclaimer fini

I thought I was missing something earlier when I was talking about witnessing, and I was. But it came to me through another source. I was at a 12-step meeting a few days ago (more on this later), and someone talked about the founder of Alcoholics Anonymous and his take on talking with others in the program about sobriety. The founder, Bill W., describes in AA’s Big Book how he would go to detox centers and talk to other alcoholics about what he had found to help him quit drinking. But what he told them never did any good, and it was driving him nuts — it worked for him, why couldn’t it work for them?

Eventually, he says, he realized that the only person’s sobriety it was helping was his own. This perspective might take some of the frustration and fear out of witnessing to others. After all, you don’t have to take responsibility for what someone else does with what you tell them, and they have many reasons for doing what they do — and for not doing what you do. Your beliefs will probably be stronger when you think of witnessing as a way to nurture your own faith. It also might help you to avoid unintentionally undoing what you set out to do with others.

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6 Responses to “Witnessing (part deux)”


  1. 1 Chuck Warnock January 16, 2007 at 3:50 pm

    Holly, good, but I am a pastor who doesn’t like the whole “witnessing” thing. Where else in our normal, mundane lives do we talk about “witnessing?” Nowhere, unless you’re involved in a murder case. Not all followers of Christ are button-holing total strangers (your earlier post) to dump the rant of the day on them. I like living, talking, conversing, sharing” and a thousand other expressions that respect the person with whom I am engaged. Okay, we’ll probably hear about this, but that’s where I’m coming from. — Chuck

  2. 2 Sylvia H January 17, 2007 at 2:40 pm

    I grew up Catholic, but my brother became a religious “born-again” fundamentalist in high school. I was “witnessed” to many many times by him. On several occasions, I was told that I had to be born again, his way was the only way, etc. There ARE those out there that believe they have to ‘save’ every soul that doesn’t believe what they believe. There are those that actually believe that anyone that is not their religion is damned, and this is what motivates them. It always has the same affect, it alienates you from one another. In the end it has caused a rift between him and every non-born-again person around him. I always vowed I would NOT take the pushy-shove-it-down-their-throats path with anyone in any aspect of my life.

    I do belong to AA also, have for 14 years. Everyone talks about the 12 steps, which are a guide to live your life by, but there are also 12 traditions. One in particular-“Tradition 11: Our public relations policy is based on attraction rather than promotion; we need always maintain personal anonymity at the level of press,
    radio and films.”

    In my experience, if I told someone AA was the only way, it didn’t work. But if I lived by example, and was open about how it affected me, eventually those that ‘needed’ AA came around later to ask me about AA. Sometimes it was years later. Attraction rather then promotion, living your life by example, works the same way with religion & spirituality. Letting your inner light (god, serenity, whatever) is the most effective witnessing tool there is.

  3. 3 lindy January 17, 2007 at 7:48 pm

    Holly, thanks for this post! It reminds me that though I may not be one of those people who “witnesses” to people like Sylvian and Chuck are talking about, talking about how my faith influences my life choices, etc., with people who aren’t believers can, as you say, nurture my own faith and possibly speak to someone else. Admittedly, I need to do more of that… Thanks for the encouragement.

  4. 4 disenchanted January 18, 2007 at 1:45 am

    I agree with you that people who venture out into the world with the intention of making everyone a convert should be careful! that’s dangerous territory … along with those who talk to non-Christians for the sole reason of making them one … why can’t you be a non-Christian’s friend because they’re a great person? you know … with no alterior motives?

    I think that so often Christians think that they “have to go out and witness.” Like it’s mowing the lawn or taking out the trash. I grew up in the church and can remember times when my family members went up to complete strangers and popped the ole’ “where would you be if you died tonight” question. That’s appaling! Did Jesus ever ask that question? No way!

    Sharing our faith should not be a thing we have to go out and do … it should be part of who we are. If it truely is a part of us … a part of our hearts … then shouldn’t it just come out naturally, involuntarily … like any other thing about us?

    I also agree that when you do get into a spiritual conversation … and it’s not forced … that sharing of something so intimate and dear is very fulfilling and really does witness to your own soul like nothing else!

    awesome post!

  5. 5 Mike January 18, 2007 at 7:10 pm

    I really want to reach out and spend most of every day trying, praying and wanting people to feel the love of Christ through what I do. Having said this, I also will not (unless I mess up) which I do sometimes, I don’t believe compromising scripture is ever a good way to bring people to Christ. In fact it just feeds the non-believers with the hypocryte argument. I am astonished that this outreach firm doesn’t know better than to take advice from a non-believer who believes in the knowledge of man/woman over the faith of a God who has instructed believers not to do what they are doing and allowing you to do.Read 2 John 6-11 It says if we allow you to do this stuff we are sharing in your wicked work.
    In Jude we are to show you mercy and we are to fear God but is straight up and calls you what you are if you don’t believe(godless). In 2 Peter 2 It states that people are bringing truth into disrepute and in 2 Timothy 3 for church leaders to stick to the scripture as we we’re taught. Look I care deeply about your soul and I want you to (feel) loved, most of all, I want God to be respected, trusted, and I want Christians to stand on the Rock not some shifting sand! If you see that we stand on the Rock and will not budge, because we trust God that will persuade you to love God. If you don’t believe in God because of what “Christians” say or do, that is an argument God our Father will have no part of after your days are through. You must ask God for faith and don’t think you know it all, man can’t reach the sun and can’t reach the core of the earth and we can’t know it all. I will gladly go meet unbelievers in the outside but to ask them for their godless opinion on how I should act as a better Christian is rediculous and ungodly. So you Christians, Read God’s word and abide by it, that’s how you show that you love God! Mike

  6. 6 Sylvia H January 18, 2007 at 7:59 pm

    Mike,
    How do you expect “the Godless,” as you so kindly say it, to come to your way of thinking, to know God? How do you suppose you get them there? It is people who think and talk the way you do that alienates people further away from church and organized religion. Alhtough I am sure the spricpture you quote is technically accurate, your tone judgemental, it feels unkind.

    What happened to understanding and generiousity of spirit? Didn’t Jesus act that way? I dare you, I implore you to put down your comfortable weapon of scripture and ‘get down’ to the street level with the rest of us and DARE you to try to understand the point of view of someone who is different then you. I IMPLORE you to, for one moment try to get in the shoes of someone else that is different from you. Because if you did, you’d know what a dman drag it is to talk to people like you. You alienate, you do not build a bridge. Building a bridge of understanding takes more effort then quoting your judgemental scripture, my friend. It takes the courage of one willing to understand. Do you have it in you? Jesus did.


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