The Witness of the Laity
By Amy Thompson
As our former conference lay leader, Brian Hammons, mentioned at Annual Conference in the laity address, the UM Book of Discipline Paragraph 127 reveals the key to the renewal of the Methodist movement is the witness of the laity. What does that mean? It means a challenge lays before the laity of the church to reach out into this world to help others know God. Many of us have various images in our minds when we hear the word witness. I offer this image. A Christ follower seeing another individual and taking a moment to listen, to care, to share.
In scripture, we find reference to Jesus sharing the two greatest commandments. Love our God, and love our neighbors. We are called to actively share Jesus with those around us. How do you prepare yourself to share the love of Jesus Christ with others in your life? It is important for us to be intentional about the ways we demonstrate love to all people.
Our paths cross with individuals every day through work, church events, school activities, shopping centers, interests and activities. As we encounter others in our everyday life, we can be ready to share the love of Jesus Christ through simple gestures, kind words and helpful actions.
Being ready to witness involves preparation. Preparation that all of us can do. Prepare first through your prayer life. Pray daily to acknowledge the presence of Jesus Christ in your life. Pray daily to give thanks and praise to God. Pray daily asking God to prepare you for those you meet. If you are seeking words to use for your prayer, consider using the “I’m Open” prayer from Mark Wilson’s book, Purple Fish.
God, please guide me to someone who needs to be reminded of your love. Help me to be a blessing and encouragement. Amen.
Pray daily for the Spirit to nudge you and guide you when you meet someone. Pray daily for three people to become aware of the Spirit, so they may discover a relationship with God.
The second part of preparation is to increase your awareness of what is around you. Many of us miss informal opportunities to share the love of Jesus Christ.
These opportunities may involve someone you know directly but may also be strangers or people you see at the local convenience store or at a restaurant. If you use the “I’m Open” prayer daily, you will discover that the Spirit will lead you to opportunities.
Engaging in these opportunities may mean moving out of your comfort zone but you can do it. Do not fear as the Spirit is with you! Start a conversation and learn something about the individual. Show care and compassion by listening. Share your story of how God has helped you.
I encourage you to have a committed prayer life. I encourage you to be intentional in being more aware of individuals that you may meet during the day. I challenge you to follow the nudge of the Spirit in witnessing to others. If you choose to accept this challenge, we will have a great impact in our churches and our communities as we build the kingdom of God.