Withness In The Witness
As I read the gospel accounts, I’m struck by the fact that Jesus called and prepared His disciples to be witnesses for Him. This is evident when Jesus says in Acts 1:8, “But 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.” But before the disciples had witnessed the life of Jesus, His death and resurrection and then been commissioned to make disciples, Jesus had called them to be His disciples, and they had to be with Him for this to occur. We see this in Mark, where
…He appointed twelve—designating them apostles—that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach” (Mark 3:14, NIV).
Youth leader and missionary Tim Hawkins writes about this stating, “My picture of Jesus is always big and spectacular. And he certainly did demonstrate the amazing power of God to thousands of people. But if you analyse how he spent most of his time over his three years of ministry, that’s not what he mainly did. He invested most of his time into twelve very ordinary blokes. He called them to himself and devoted the best part of the next three years to their lives. He walked with them, taught them, ate with them, settled down for the night with them, laughed with them, cried with them, corrected them, encouraged them, questioned them, trained them, and commissioned them for ministry. He put up with their misunderstandings, their inadequacies, their failings, their brashness, their judgmental attitudes, and their selfish desires. He took twelve very ordinary men and transformed them into a discipleship team that not only changed the then-known world, but who now continue to be a major influence across the planet some twenty-one centuries later (Taken from Disciples Who Last by Tim Hawkins).
Clearly the example of Jesus is one of devoting Himself relationally to those He was seeking to impact. I like to refer to this as the leadership principle of having ‘Withness In Your Witness’. The idea being that as you seek to witness for Jesus you should be with Jesus and also seek to be with people.
This type of ministry is a stark contrast to the relationally famished world of 2022. It appears that there has never been a time in history where we are more connected digitally, but more isolated and alienated relationally. Especially with young people who had been abandoned and starved of meaningful relationships by society. Researcher and author Chap Clark suggests that, “… the root of the issues related to contemporary adolescence has to do with leaving this age group to flounder on its own; the answer is relationships with adults who sincerely care. That is the sole need of this abandoned generation” (Hurt 2.0 ‘Inside the World of Today’s Teenagers’ by Chap Clark). These comments were made over a decade ago but still ring true, and perhaps even more so today as David Kinnaman of Barna research recently asserted that, “Many young people feel that older adults don’t understand their doubts and concerns, a prerequisite to rich mentoring friendships; in fact a majority of the young adults we interviewed reported never having an adult friend other than their parents. Can the church rediscover the intergenerational power of the assembly of saints?”
I think our world and its teenagers desperately need some more ‘Withness In The Witness’. Let’s love both Jesus and young people so much that we seek to be ‘with’ them both. Our method and model is to follow the ‘incarnational’ way of Jesus, who came to earth to be ‘with us’ to help and save us, and now as the body of Christ we are His witnesses on the earth. Jesus was sent to us and now as His disciples we are sent for Him.
So being incarnational should be our life in Christ. I call it being down to earth! Literally, God came down to earth to know me, so now I become down to earth for Him and others. The book of Philippians describes it best:
Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men”. (Phil. 2:5-7)
So through our incarnational witness we ‘flesh out’ and proclaim Jesus relationally –through our words and deeds ongoingly to the people around us. We need to reach out to young and old by intentionally living among them and seeking to be ‘with them’ like Jesus was with His disciples. We lift up Jesus by having ‘withness in our witness’.
To specifically reach young people will require commitment and sacrifice to be with them. Being a relational youth leader or parent can be both demanding and rewarding because it requires intentionally being around teenagers and ‘showing up’ in their world. Daunting as this may seem, we can be there to navigate the triumphs and the tragedies with young people by entering their world to be WITH them (think sports, video games, coffee, walks etc.). The aim is to be with them through the ups and downs, showing them (witnessing to them) what walking with Christ is all about.
Pray for our lonely world – especially its young people and their need for disciples to be with them and witness to them.
In His Tread,
Pastor Andrew Edmonds
If you would like to explore this idea and learn how to come alongside teenagers with the Gospel then please join Pastor Andrew’s equip class ‘Come Alongside Me’.
Well said Andrew! The power of personal attentiveness and life on life discipleship.