Let’s say you’re a Christian and you stand by Acts 1:8 - “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” So you feel it is your religious duty to tell other people about your faith.
How does the obligation work? How much involvement is implied?
Can you get by on just a token effort? Or do you really have to try to engage people in a discussion about faith and try to convince them?
My question, obviously, is prompted by the people we see on this board who apparently feel it’s enough to come in as a guest, make one post telling everyone they should be a Christian, and then disappear. Do they really feel that is going to convince anyone to convert? Do these people really think they’re fulfilling their obligation to God by doing what is essentially the bare minimum of witnessing the faith?
Compare two recent posters: Timo and jesusguy. Say what you will, Timo is making a real effort to communicate. He’s writing original posts, he’s reading the responses, and he’s talking to people. Jesusguy, on the other hand, dropped in for literally ten minutes and left.
some orgs would absolutely teach you to count all the time you spend “spreading the good news of the kingdom” as a means to its own end (selling literature as the goal) irrespective of its conversion rate.
using you’re two examples - Timo seemed genuinely surprised that folks wouldnt just agree with him/her - while ‘jesusguy’ is clearly here just for the reaction - he picked a username that - in and of itself - would get a reaction. Whether or not he believes his own message is yet to be seen (odds are he doesnt).
I would say it’s really the Great Commission from Jesus found in Matthew 28 that has historically been viewed as driving the mandate for Christians to witness: "Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. "
This has traditionally been interpreted as a general obligation to go everywhere and tell everyone. As to what extent one can get by on a “token effort,” I think it’s fair to say there is no scripturally-related standard, so in practice it varies from people who believe their obligation is to tell everyone by every mechanism possible, to those who keep their faith completely personal.
In many traditional circles, there’s a general credit given for bringing the unwashed into the fold, and there’s even a famous hymn “Will there be any stars in my crown?” referring to the number of people you are personally responsible for having brought into the kingdom. However I have never heard a theology expressed where the failure to save anyone at all from hell costs one their salvation, so my personal observation is that no absolute obligation for saving others exists even in conservative Christian circles. (The liberal circles tend to be much more ecumenical; much more live-and-let-live even toward other religions).
As to the modus operandi of internet posters: I’d guess that spamming for Jesus is not thought to build up much credit even by sincere proselytizers. If only there were a mechanism to find out from the jesusguy sort of OP what the heck they think they are accomplishing.
Well, witnessing in the legal sense (being a witness or bearing witness to something) means telling people what you personally have witnessed (seen or heard or experienced), and answering questions about it (cross-examination (no pun intended)). I think religious witnessing ought to be more like this.
I don’t think Jesus was really about token efforts in anything.
Well, the Bible mentions the Internet, so obviously Internet witnessing gets you brownie points in heaven. And it’s a lot nicer than going around the neighborhood where the heathen slam doors in your face, sic their miniature Schnauzers on you etc.
As far as I can see stopping off and stating some Bible quotes and then departing only aggravates and irritates. When someone like Timo stops and stays and sincerely answers questions, he gets a measure of respect and others listen to his message. Of course, some will still be irritated, but that may be a kneejerk reaction from past threads/experiences/drive-by’s. So, “No” on the drive-by witnessings, IMHO.
Needless to say, Christians themselves disagree about what exactly “witnessing” means.
If you’re a Lutheran, chances are you’re a big supporter of the doctrine of* sola fide*, and witnessing doesn’t specifically earn you any brownie points in heaven. Just live your life, hope the non-believers see that you are happy and at peace, and pray that they accept the gift of the Holy Spirit.
If you’re Roman Catholic, witnessing is a dirty word, because Protestants keep trying to covert you by insisting you can’t be a real Christian because you worship the Pope. Catholics tend to wrap “spreading the faith” in with works of mercy or the principle of social justice, again, witnessing by example.
Evangelical Christians tend to take witnessing more literally as well as more personally. Some churches ask members to donate time to evangelical efforts, anything from staffing a booth at a street fair to actually knocking on doors and passing out leaflets. For others, simply dropping in biblical references or asking other people to stop by the church is enough.