Growing in Discipleship: Witness

Jesus gave us the Great Commandment: Love God and love your neighbor.

John Wesley built his Three General Rules of Methodism on this Great Commandment. He expanded “love your neighbor” into two rules: do no harm, and do good. The third rule was “to attend upon the ordinances of God,” which basically means to do worshipy kinds of things: prayer, fasting, study, and so on.

In our culture, I think we need to elaborate the Great Commandment again, because we have a tendency to think in individualistic terms. A Christian does not exist in isolation. We are baptized not only into a faith, but a faith community. We hold each other accountable to grow in grace together. When Jesus says “You are the light of the world,” he uses the second person plural form of “you.” It should really be “Y’all are the light of the world.”

Covenant Discipleship groups have often talked about four ways we love God and neighbor, both as individuals and as a community: Worship, devotion, compassion, and justice.

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To these I like to add a fifth area: Witness.

“Witness” is a loaded word in Christian culture, though, because most people think of it as being primarily about evangelism. I like to point out that there are two meanings to the word “witness.” The first means to observe. The second means to tell.

This fifth area of discipleship is really about loving ourselves, or taking time to experience God’s love for ourselves. How has God been at work in your life before you were ever aware of it? How has God been working to save you and make you holier? How has God grown you in grace? What talents, gifts, passions, and experiences has God given you to shape you into the person you are?

If you can observe this kind of stuff for yourself, if you can know yourself better and how you fit into God’s project of salvage for the world, then you can also tell other people about it and invite them into the same mission. This is what many Christians understand as evangelism, but I think we often put the cart before the horse. Sharing good news emerges from our own experience of God’s grace, and witnessing that means learning to be aware of how God is already at work.

All of these areas overlap each other—worship blends into our daily life and how we serve others, our work of justice blends into how we conduct ourselves toward God. Witness touches everything we do, both as individuals and as a community. It shapes how we share hospitality with others and how we communicate the Good News.

This is our discipleship model at Saint Junia. It’s actually really simple: Love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself.

Welcome, New Readers

Hi, folks! I got quite a traffic bump when my post “The Gospel is a Joke” was featured on the Freshly Pressed page. Thanks for your comments, which reflected a pretty wide range of belief and perspective. If you want to know more about me or the church I’m planting, you can check out the About section or go to Saint Junia’s website.

Just a few comments about comments:

  • I moderate my comments because I don’t believe in enabling bullies or trolls. Commenters who engage me get a lot more latitude than commenters who argue with my guests. The same is true for church: anyone can fuss at me all they want, but I insist on respect for my guests.
  • Even though I dislike comments that don’t actually engage the content of the article, sometimes I approve them because they say more about the commenter than about the topic. I believe that sometimes when you let people keep talking, they show the world who they really are.
  • My mission is to bring good news to people who have traditionally been alienated from church. I find that conservative biblical literalists often have problems with how I do this. If anyone has a problem with my message, they should consider that perhaps it isn’t for them, and shouldn’t insist that others need to believe as they do in order to experience God’s saving grace.
  • I enjoy debate as much as anyone, but it’s the internet. There’s plenty of places to go show how smart you are or fight heresy. If I don’t get back to you, it’s probably because I’m busy planting a church.
  • Bring more love and beauty into the world, and have fun!