Witness is a Noun, Not a Verb

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I feel a great sense of inadequacy to sit down and write a blog on witness. Yet, I believe it is so essential to what we are as ekklesia (church) that I must at least try to frame why it matters and where we should focus our attention.

First, let’s clear up a common misconception: witness is a noun, not a verb. It’s about who we are, not what we do. Our actions naturally flow from our identity. Western Christianity has become so task-oriented and outreach-focused that it’s busy talking about the truth but often overlooks the character of the witness. We “go witnessing” as if talking about it is the same as “being” witness. We have so under-mined our message that it no longer resonates as true. Ironically, in our eagerness to share the Gospel, we neglect to ensure that our message is supported by authentic evidence.

So, if witness is a noun, then where is it found? 

I believe it is found in two forms.

First, it is found in our personal character that is transforming into the image of Christ! Yes, His image, that is how people see Christ (2 Corinthians 3). Without this character transformation, our message rings hollow. This matters to God, and ourselves, and is noticed specifically by people we work with and are close to us. 

Second, it is found in community. This is fascinating because it underscores the importance of the ekklesia as a kingdom society. People very close to us will see our transformed character. But what is more visible to people casually watching, such as our neighbors, is the character of our relationships and the way we live and act together. 

There are about 50 New Testament “one another” statements that define the kind of inter-acting that we should have with each other. And one of those is repeated often: Love one another. This culture that defines Christian community forms the basis of the evidence that Christ is in us. There is far greater attention given in the New Testament to the character of Christian relationships than there is to the proclaiming of the Gospel! Think about it. Don’t think I’m saying the Gospel is not important. I believe Scripture is saying that the Gospel is so important that it must have the best evidence possible to back it up!

John 17 is a crucial passage on this, among others. It’s worth quoting John 17: 20-23 here. 

Jesus is praying to the Father: 

“I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also maybe be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me.

The glory which you have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one; I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me.”

Although witness through our personal character is important, there is profound power in witness through our love for one another, modeled after the love between the Father and the Son. This concept is staggering to me. What an incredible example to follow. Yet, He grants us the power to achieve this. He gives us “the glory” so that we may be this witness!

When we are willing to return to being communities of witness that demonstrate a radically transformed way of life in relationship to each other, we will see a new generation of people asking about the hope within us. Our modern expressions of church emphasizing “Sunday Services” fall woefully short of the transformed communities that are the backbone of the Witness that we are called to be.

The Gospel of the Kingdom, and ekklesia societies within that Kingdom are not just doctrines or places we go for teaching. I believe they are the master plan by which the world is convinced that Jesus is the Messiah. If we care about souls, if we care about the lost, let’s get this right. Without witness, there is nothing.

Don’t look at this post as an answer sheet. Look at it as a provocation for you to challenge your notions about church and witness and ask God to transform your thinking. After all, Jesus already prayed this prayer on your behalf!