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Witnessing begins where we stand

by Craig E. Sider

We value an active and loving witness for Christ to all people.

How are we going to win the world for Christ? In Acts 1:8, Jesus tells His disciples to start from where they are in Jerusalem. His point is that witnessing begins where we stand.

There is a built-in strength to this approach. God has placed each of us in locations from which we are to begin our witnessing endeavors. The town where I live (Elizabethtown) is my “Jerusalem.” Through my actions—and, when necessary, my words—I begin my witnessing endeavors in this community by reaching out to my next-door neighbors, to the teller at my bank, to the cashier at the corner mini-market. These people—Charlie, Doug, Matt, and Tracy—are my immediate mission field. Witnessing is up close and personal and begins where God has placed me.

Yet we must be very careful, for while Jesus says that His disciples’ work will begin in Jerusalem, He is clear that it will not end there. Rather, He commands them to spread the news by moving outward from Jerusalem, first to neighboring Judea, then to Samaria, and from there to the ends of the earth.

As people, we tend to gravitate toward what is familiar and easily identifiable. The people we interact with and the country we reside in are, from our viewpoint, the “center” of the world, and we tend to look at God’s plan of redemption from that perspective. But we must be aware that the places we live represent only small parts of the world for which Christ died. God loves people in all those other dots on the globe just as He loves people in the dots you and I happen to inhabit. Jesus offered His life and blood for the Iranian, the Slav, the Hispanic, the Caucasian, the Chinese, the African-American. He offered His life and blood for you and me.

The challenge of telling the whole world the good news of Jesus is complicated by the distribution of those who have already heard. Christians are not evenly spread across the globe. At some places, both physical and cultural barriers separate the millions who walk with Christ from the millions who have never heard the name of Jesus. We need to be reminded that God deeply loves these least-reached people and that He died for them as much as He died for you and me. This should motivate us to do our part in spreading the news, as the apostle Paul recognized: “. . . how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!’” (Romans 10:14–15).

Witnessing started at Jerusalem but was never designed to stay there. The witness of the first disciples was to move increasingly outward, widening as it spread. The same is true for believers today. Witnessing begins at home, but moves continually outward to all nations.

This article originally appeared in the summer 2008 issue of In Part magazine.
Craig E. Sider

Even as he completes his 12-year assignment as bishop of the Atlantic Conference, Craig Sider has taken on the additional role of interim bishop of the Susquehanna Conference during Bishop Ken Letner’s health leave. Craig was a BIC church-planting pastor for 11 years in Oakville, ON. He and his wife, Laura, have three children.

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