Providing a witnessing support system
Mark J. Cares
After a day of witnessing, we heard comments like these: “My favorite part of the week was the nightly debrief. Not only did we hear some neat stories, we also discussed how to respond in various situations.” Or, “I was dragging by the end of the day because I didn’t get into many in-depth conversations. But it was so refreshing to hear some of the wonderful experiences others had.” Gathering together to debrief provided everyone with encouragement, support, and advice. These sessions were great ways to cap off each day.
“I don’t know if I could have done it without your ongoing support and advice. Honestly, I doubt if I would have even tried.” We hear such comments regularly from people who participate in our program of witnessing to Mormon missionaries called “Please Open the Door.” Participants can request a mentor who communicates with them regularly to review their previous visit and plan the next visit.
Our ministry, Truth in Love Ministry, is dedicated to reaching out to Mormons. A large part of what we do is support Christians around the world who are sharing their faith with Mormons. This ongoing support is one of the keys to our having helped thousands of Christians get excited about witnessing—and not just to Mormons either.
Unfortunately, such support systems for those sharing their faith are missing in many congregations. Members are encouraged to witness. Classes are taught on how to witness. But far too often it ends there. Many times, people are left to put their training into practice all on their own.
In most important endeavors, receiving feedback and support is critical to success. Witnessing is no exception. Not only did Jesus send out his disciples two by two, but when they returned, he also gathered them together to talk about their experiences.
Witnessing feedback and support
The two ways our ministry furnishes support could easily be adapted to a congregational setting.
Each year Truth in Love Ministry sponsors a mission trip for people to participate in door-to-door outreach to Mormons. Every night there is a debrief session of the day’s witnessing opportunities. This session could be duplicated in a congregation by forming an ongoing witnessing support group. Such a group works best if each attendee is presently witnessing or is intending to begin witnessing in the near future. It also works best if the group meets at least twice a month.
Meetings can look something like this. Begin with a half-hour Bible study about witnessing. Then have each person report on his or her witnessing activity over the past couple of weeks. People can share ideas that worked or ask for suggestions on how to do something differently.
Before moving on to the next person, take time to pray for both the witness and the people to whom he or she is witnessing. Talk about creating intimacy and giving support! Those prayers often aren’t just one-time occurrences. Frequently people will continue to pray for every person in the coming week. I have seen more than one person leave such a meeting with a notebook filled with prayer requests.
Of course, there will be times when some people fail to witness at all. That won’t be a problem if a climate of loving accountability exists. Instead of feeling guilty, they will leave encouraged to witness in the next week. In fact, when someone fails, isn’t loving accountability the secret to success for many support groups?
Over a period of time, as group members study the Bible from an outreach perspective and discusses various scenarios and individuals, they become increasingly confident and excited to share their faith.
And their excitement is infectious. Some congregations have started with one small group, only to have it multiply. Eventually, the entire congregation becomes much more outreach focused.
Another way to provide witnessing support is to offer a mentoring system. One key is having mentors with some experience in witnessing. They surely don’t have to be experts, but they need to have some practical experience.
The other key is supplying sufficient resources. In our case, we created an entire website with resources dedicated to witnessing to Mormon missionaries. Many resources would work in a congregational setting.
You can imagine that many people are pretty nervous as they begin witnessing to Mormon missionaries. This is especially true because we tell people not to wait until the missionaries knock on their door. Instead, we have them contact the Mormon church and request a visit by the missionaries. This means a mentor frequently needs to do a lot of encouraging just to have people take that first step of requesting a visit.
In addition, most people, in the beginning, need detailed instructions. What to expect when the missionaries come, what to talk about, and how to begin establishing a relationship with them are all questions people have. So the second thing a mentor does is remove many of the unknowns. The mentor explains what points the missionaries most likely will make and how people can respond. We even go so far as to talk about such things as where you want the missionaries to sit, what Bible translation to use, how to address them, etc. The more specific the instructions, the more a person’s nerves are calmed.
After the first visit, the mentor continues to talk with the witnesses. The mentor asks them to send a written summary of the meeting. This is a tremendous help when they chat again by phone or video-conference. The mentor can ask questions for clarification and discuss any questions they might have. After they have reviewed the previous meeting, they then plan the witness for the next meeting. Often the mentor can point witnesses to a specific article on the website detailing how to use a specific passage and approach. The mentor ends the call with a prayer for both the mentee and the missionaries.
It’s not difficult to see how this can work in a congregation—and how mentors will face many of the same obstacles. Mentors may first have to encourage people to witness and then give them detailed instructions how to witness—especially in the beginning of the process. But it’s also easy to see how momentum and excitement can quickly spread throughout the congregation.
Why does God leave people on earth after he brings them to faith? The Bible is pretty clear. Christians are the light of the world and the salt of the earth. We are his ambassadors, proclaiming the tremendous news that eternal life is his gift to us through Jesus Christ. God keeps us on earth so we can go and make disciples of all nations.
In this series we have looked at many different aspects of the wonderful mission Christ has entrusted to us. Each aspect is important. Bur don’t shortchange the importance of building a support system for witnessing. It is well worth it to take the time and make the effort to give adequate support to each other as we share the good news.
May God richly bless you as you serve as his ambassadors.
This is the final article in a 12-part series on sharing your faith.
Learn more about Truth in Love Ministry at tilm.org.
Author: Mark J. Cares
Volume 106, Number 10
Issue: October 2019