Then there was that service meeting part of which almost nobody got the point, the one about informal witnessing. ‘Let the conversation run,’ was the theme. It’s okay if it doesn’t lead to a witness. It’s not a defeat when that happens. Just having started it is a victory. In case it does present an opening for witnessing, we have plenty in our ‘toolbox’ to nurture it along.
And for the duration of the part, that’s all anyone talked about—how we have tools for everything. The takeaway was that everyone will get a witness, every conversation should lead to one, whereas the text and video of the part specifically allows that they may not.
Now, to harp on this may seem small, perhaps even anti-mission, but the service meeting part presents a problem: “We may get nervous [the CO said in the video said “terrified”] about the idea of starting a conversation if we focus too much on how we will introduce a Scriptural thought.” If you someone is terrified, telling them that they’d better know that toolbox inside out so that every conversation leads to a witness will not make them less so.
The solution, as presented in the part? Don’t focus on it. Just start a conversation, which is a victory in itself, and see where it runs. Alas, the way the part was handled, it was Do focus on it. Know that toolbox well so that everyone gets a witness. Even the ministerial servant handling the part covered it that way.
The accompanying Iron Sharpens Iron video made just the opposite point. The first of two demos showed the clunkiness of moving in quickly for the witnessing ‘kill’—which came across as one. “It started okay but then got awkward real fast,” said the make-believe householder. The second demo let the conversation run, and it did indeed lead to a witness, but the CO and text repeatedly made clear it might not—and if it did not, that’s okay.
Yet—“I thought the first demo was pretty good too,” said one of our publishers, about the awkward mess. It wasn’t. The householder and CO said it wasn’t. She missed it.
“If during a conversation an opportunity presents itself to express your faith . . .” the text said—the CO in the video repeated the ‘if.’ I am reminded of an old chum, now deceased, who for whatever reason, never thought he had it in him to be an elder or ministerial servant and so declined all overtures. “IF any man is reaching out…” he would quote the verse. ‘If’ doesn’t mean ‘when!!’ It means ‘IF!”
We treated the informal witness as a ‘when.’ The part presented it as an ‘if.’ The nervous [or terrified] ones who feel the pressure feel it all the more. ‘Counting time’ probably aggravates it. You can ‘goof off’ on your dime, but not the Boss’s, and so you stick it a word for God no matter awkward it seems—picture Him watching you with the eyes-on sign, fore and index finger from His eyes to you. But if you’re doing it on your own dime, not a problem.
This is that bird’s nest illustration come back to haunt us: the guy who found a crumpled up tract in a fallen nest, who unraveled it, and came into the truth! It is so much emphasis on ‘life-saving Bible literature’ taking us captive that leads to a determination to leave some literature no matter what! It may be life-saving, but it’s also a little like an invasive species—once it takes root, it is all but impossible to eradicate. These days the brothers are trying to eradicate it with the message that not all conversations will lead to a witness, and we look quite awkward when we pull out all the stops to make them all go that way.
The circuit overseers seem to have this new method down pat. They’re working hard to spread it around. Exiting a Starbucks where we’d taken a break, one publisher delayed a bit. When he caught up with us, he said he’d left a contact card with the fellow one table over. But the CO (gingerly) said we don’t really do it that way. At the door, we do—if you knock on someone’s door, you’d better have a purpose for your call. But when you haven’t knocked on anyone’s door, when its just informal start-up chit-chat, he likened witnessing to ‘tossing a ball.’ See if they toss it back. If they don’t, it’s okay. Even Jesus’ woman at the well waited seven verses to toss it back.
****** The bookstore