I will never forget one of the craziest things I have ever seen in a church. I was sitting in a crowded sanctuary listening to a guy preach by the name of Pastor Mark. I was the senior pastor of that particular church but I was not preaching on this day. Our church was giving away free turkeys for Thanksgiving to anyone and everyone who was willing to come and get one. While we were giving away these turkeys, we requested that each person would also sit through a short presentation. Pastor Mark began passionately sharing his own personal story during the presentation. He shared how his life used to be a complete mess and how Christ had transformed him into a new creation. He shared about how he had been set free from the multitude of sins that had plagued his life. As I sat and listened to Pastor Mark share about the work that Christ had done in his life, I began to see an unexpected interest spread across the sanctuary. When Pastor Mark finished telling his story, he offered an invitation for people to come forward and receive Jesus as their Savior. And guess what? People responded… and not just a couple of people, there were dozens of people responding to the offer of salvation. On this day over 40 people came forward to receive Jesus in their life. I was completely shocked. People came to receive a free turkey but left with something so much more! They received Jesus as their Savior.
It was in this moment that I began to believe in the concept called “Compassionate Witness”. This concept is a two- fold concept:
Compassion – “concern for the sufferings of others by acting in response”
Compassion is a familiar concept that most Christians understand; if you see someone who has a need, then you do what is needed in order to meet that need. If you see someone who is hungry, you provide them with food. If you see someone who is cold, you provide them with the resources necessary to keep them warm.
The second word is one that is not as common, and that is the word “witness”. As Christians, we use the word, “witness” often in our Christian vocabulary, but rarely take the time to process what it really means.
Witness – “to speak about what you have seen, heard and experienced.”
To be a Christian witness is to be one who talks about what they have seen, heard and experienced in relation to what Christ has done in their own personal life. So to be a Christian witness means to simply share your story (everything that you have personally seen, heard and experienced in your relationship with Jesus Christ). Everyone has a story and that story will always have a powerful effect when shared.
Acting as a “compassionate witness” means acting in response to the suffering of someone else while sharing your own personal story of what Jesus Christ has done in your life. I saw this concept first hand in the above story. As Pastor Mark acted in compassion by giving out free turkeys while at the same time sharing his story, he was able to meet a need both physically and spiritually all at the same time.
Since seeing this first hand, I have begun to live my life by this concept. I have pursued the concept of being a “compassionate witness” with everyone I come into contact with. Every person has a need that can easily be met. If a person is lonely, I can offer a conversation. If a person is discouraged, I can offer encouragement. If a person is feeling down, I always have a few jokes up my sleeve to make them laugh. But, I always make it a point to share my story within the conversation and share with them the very hope of Jesus Christ that has changed my life forever.
Here is what I believe; Christians have stopped talking about Jesus outside of church. It has become awkward and uncomfortable for us to even acknowledge our association with Him, let alone boldly testify of the good work He has done in our lives. So, why don’t we change this? Why don’t we start talking about Jesus again? I believe the best way to do this is by using the concept of being a “compassionate witness.”
Jesus used this concept over and over in the Bible. Jesus was great at compassion. When Jesus responded to a need, it always gave Him an opportunity to share. Read the Gospels and you will see this concept lived out in the life and ministry of Jesus.
So here are some questions for you. What ways today can begin to act in compassion? What suffering or need do you see in the lives of people around you? Are there needs that you can respond to? If so, then respond! Act in response to the suffering around you. But don’t just respond by meeting a need, respond, also, by sharing your story! Act today and begin being a “compassionate witness”.
Let’s take this concept and change the world with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.