Recently someone wrote a rather long post to me about a bad witnessing encounter she had. This person is a high-school sophomore (we’ll call her the witnesser) who has been a Christian for about three years. She felt led by God to witness to a fellow female classmate via a written letter. This letter ended up upsetting the gal (it is unknown what exactly was written, but apparently the Gospel was in it), prompting the Vice Principal and witnesser’s own family to get involved. This witnesser essentially got read the riot act and she had her Bible taken from her. She was also accused of trying to force others to convert in addition to preaching “hate and intolerance.”
The witnesser is essentially in a tough spot. She feels she is a total coward for what went down. Furthermore, she does not want to lose her education and family over what happened (the witnesser’s family is not Christian, mind you).
Because I have a word to say about this entire matter, I have put this under the “Timeout” umbrella. Below is my answer to all the various questions she had (I do not list them as I typically would because this letter was very verbose and warranted paraphrasing). After that, I give a final word on the matter.
First, I want to state that I will most certainly pray for you and this situation of yours. There is obviously much going on here.
You had a lot to write, so I want to address as much as I can as direct and biblical as I can.
As it pertains to the letter, I would have to have seen it in order to best determine its content.
I think for future reference, you are better off conversing with someone face-to-face than in letter format as it pertains to evangelism. I am not against writing letters (or even writing emails/texts, which is the technological equivalent). However, stuff is easier to interpret in-person than in written format. Furthermore, written communication has a high chance of being misinterpreted. Moreover, because it is written, it is there to stay. Therefore, if something written does get taken wrong (as it obviously and unfortunately did with your situation), it sticks with you for some time. This obviously is not good. For future witnessing encounters (and I am all for witnessing, given Jesus Christ is the only way by which mankind may be saved, per Acts 4:12, Isaiah 43:11, John 14:6 and others), please keep your witnessing in the “person-to-person” context. Furthermore, you will want to ask a lot of questions during your witness encounter.
A good resource for witnessing is a program by an organization known as Wretched.Org. Each Wednesday, the podcast does a “Witness Wednesday.” Ray Comfort (the main evangelizer) and Todd Friel (the main host but more of a supporting evangelizer on these editions of the program) do an amazing job with their Gospel presentations. Comfort asks a lot of questions. You may be able to get some good pointers from a program such as this.
In regards to your family, I noticed that you stated, “According to my family, to be a Christian, you must be baptized, attend church every Sunday and pay tithes/do various good works, and unless you go to college and get a degree/credentials in theology, you have no right to interpret Scripture and/or preach the Gospel.” No biblical text supports any of the stuff mentioned as requirements for being a Christian. In fact, arguably the most important characteristics of a Christian (being born-again, per John 3:1-8, and repenting, per Acts 2:14-41; Luke 13:5; Matthew 3:1-8 and 2 peter 3:9, among others) were not even mentioned in their definition. Romans speaks of how if one confesses with his/her heart, “Jesus is LORD” and believes God raised him/her from the dead, then that person is saved (Romans 10:1-21). If baptism was necessary for one to be saved, then Jesus, while dying on the cross, lied when He told the thief on the cross (who most certainly could not be baptized, given he too was on a cross) that that thief would be with Him in paradise (Luke 23:33-49). How do your parents explain the apostle Paul’s not going to college and/or getting a degree/credentials in theology? Finally, Ephesians 2:8-9 (among other passages) explain how it is by grace we are saved through faith, not of works. God’s Word shows that your parents unfortunately do not have an accurate grasp of what it means to be a Christian. They have a works-based theology. Unfortunately, that type of theology does not save. As a result, your parents cannot be called right in this scenario. In fact, since you stated they were not Christian, they really have no right to say anything about the things of God since those very things are foolishness to them (1 Corinthians 2:14).
I do not believe you are a fool who does not know what you are saying. While the decision to write a letter to another gal may have been rash (it does not look like you consulted anyone on this decision, given the possibility of this decision’s being rash), it cannot be called stupid if you can learn from this scenario moving forward. As mentioned, you’ll want to keep witness encounters in the “person-to-person” context.
Please understand that it’s not you dishonoring your family. God’s Word shows that the family has a faulty theology that cannot save. If you ever dialogue with your family regarding what it takes to be a Christian, you will want to ask a lot of questions instead of make a lot of statements. For example, your conversation regarding one of their points can be something like this:
“You state that to be a Christian you must be baptized. However, Jesus told the repentant thief on the cross, who could not be baptized given his position, that the thief would be with Jesus in paradise. How do you reconcile this?”
“You state that we have to do various good works to be a Christian. However, God’s Word says that we are saved by grace through faith, not of works lest anyone should boast. How do you reconcile this?”
Please understand that any future dialogue between you and your family regarding salvation matters is almost guaranteed to be awkward. However, if you ask questions and have your family try to reconcile their beliefs with God’s Word, it is a lot less threatening. You can honor your parents by both staying true to what God’s Word says and handling all conversations with them (especially any Christian-related ones) with gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3:15).
As for falling away, please understand that you cannot lose your salvation. In John 10:22-30 (NASB), we read the following:
22 At that time the Feast of the Dedication took place at Jerusalem; 23 it was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple in the portico of Solomon. 24 The Jews then gathered around Him, and were saying to Him, “How long will You keep us in suspense? If You are the Christ, tell us plainly.” 25 Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe; the works that I do in My Father’s name, these testify of Me. 26 But you do not believe because you are not of My sheep. 27 My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; 28 and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand.29 My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.”
In asserting His deity, Jesus Christ plainly states that His sheep know His voice and follow Him (verse 27). He gives eternal life to them (verse 28). Furthermore, He says twice that nobody can snatch them out of His Father’s hand (verse 29; see also John 6:37, 44; 17:6, 9, 12, 15, 19; 18:9). He goes on to say that He and the Father (which is God) are one (verse 30). It is good to know that the entire Bible is without error (2 Timothy 3:16-17; Hebrews 4:12; John 10:35). Furthermore, God says Himself that He does not lie, He does not change, and He is the same yesterday, today and forever (Numbers 23:19; Titus 1:2; Malachi 3:6; Hebrews 13:8. As a result, when Jesus Christ says that His sheep both have eternal life and cannot be snatched out of his hand, He means exactly that.
Romans 8:1-39 is another passage showing how a Christian cannot lose salvation. The apostle Paul states how no condemnation exists for those in Christ Jesus (verse 1). Paul goes on to explain how the law of the Spirit of life (the Holy Spirit, specifically) sets one free from the law of sin and death (verses 2-4; see also John 8:36). The person who has the Spirit of Jesus dwelling in him/her is given life to his/her mortal body (verse 11). Furthermore, God adopts those led by the Spirit (verses 14-23). Verses 28-39 (NASB) also give excellent insight:
28 And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. 29 For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; 30 and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified. 31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us?32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? 33 Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; 34 who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was [l]raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. 35 Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 Just as it is written,
“For Your sake we are being put to death all day long;
We were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”
37 But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us.38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Those who have been justified by Christ can never be separated from Christ’s love by anything. He is our justifier, our advocate and our Savior (verses 30-39; see also Romans 3:28; 5:1, 9; Galatians 2-3; 1 John 2:1).
Finally, Ephesians 4:30 states, “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” To be sealed is to be sealed for security from Satan. Ephesians 1:13-14 states, “In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation – having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory” (see also 2 Corinthians 1:21-22). As mentioned earlier, Satan cannot pluck a believer from Jesus’ hand.
You can survive this tribulation by resting in the promises of God’s Word. Penitent believers in Jesus Christ cannot be plucked from Satan’s hand. As a result, you cannot possibly fall away.
Finally, you really need to stop believing you are a coward. You were very bold in writing the letter you wrote. While it may not have been the best way to communicate the Gospel message, it was anything but cowardly. You can learn from this witnessing experience and move forward in more personal, face-to-face evangelism situations. Please remember that you are indwelt with the Holy Spirit. Rest in the promises of God’s Word and continue onward in your learning, sanctification and witnessing for Jesus Christ, the only way by which mankind may be saved (Acts 4:12; John 14:6; Isaiah 43:11).
A FINAL WORD
A bad witnessing encounter does not make one a coward. A bad witnessing encounter is exactly that; it is a bad witnessing encounter and nothing more. Bad witnessing encounters come in all shapes and sizes; they can be on the extreme side (like the one I mentioned) or a bit on the frustrating side (like when someone being witnessed to just does not want to hear a lick of what you wanna say), among other sides. Christians should not think of themselves as cowards if they have bad witnessing encounters. Instead, they should learn from what happened and move forward.
This young gal should be in all our prayers. May she not lose heart in witnessing in the future. Instead, may she learn from this, recognize that she is not a coward for what happened, and move forward in proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ.
Finally, let’s pray for the family involved. As mentioned, God’s Word shows they have a faulty theology. May they come to understand what it really means to be a Christian.