Monday, November 26, 2012

A Passion to Witness

Several years ago the United Methodist Church (General conference) added to our membership vows the word “witness”. We now uphold the church with our prayers, our presence, our gifts, our service and our witness. We added the word but it’s difficult to get a handle on. I grew up in Union, SC, a small mill town. In our county alone, there were 17 Baptist Churches and 13 United Methodist churches. That doesn’t add in all the others, including Presbyterian, Lutheran, Episcopal, Catholic, and Church of God, and Church of Christ, to name a few. It seemed in those days that everybody went to church, although I knew it wasn’t so. Some of my friends did not go to church. They were good people, but they didn’t go to church. Some of my own family did not go to church. I remember some cousins who would show up at our house on Sunday mornings as we were getting ready to go to church. My mother would say: “We are going to church and we would love to have you join us…or, you can stay here until we get back.” They never went with us but the invitation was always given. My mother wasn’t going to let anything or anybody keep us from getting to church. She was nothing if not hard-headed, I mean, committed. She stood up for her own faith. That’s the witness I grew up with. I also remember a young man who came to our door on a Sunday afternoon and sat on the front porch witnessing to my mother. He tried to tell her she wasn’t saved unless she had been immersed. My mother loved a good argument, and she gave him what for. It was fun to watch. I remember some Jehovah’s Witnesses who came by a couple of times and my mother was always ready for them. That’s what I remember as witness. That and the Mormon’s who rode bicycles and wore white shirts. Now, every once in a while my grandmother’s Baptist friend out the street would visit my grandmother, who lived with us. When she came to see my grandmother, we knew that the preacher at her church the Sunday before had gotten on them for not witnessing enough. And, though my grandmother was a good Methodist, she let her friend witness. Now, in some of the churches I have served, I have found that most of them were family. The only way to get into the church was to marry into it. I remember when I was a boy that a few times someone from the neighborhood would come to our church and they would get “run off” as my mother said by someone who didn’t want their kind in our church. Now, the culture is much different. You can’t even say God without getting into trouble sometimes. But, I live and work in a culture where there are large and small churches, and churches of every brand and stripe. It’s become a real competition for people in the community. Also, in our area Christians witness has been abused by those who almost attack and try to manipulate you into a decision. One nearby University sends out students to torment others. It’s part of the requirement to graduate. OK. I get it. Jesus has called us to bear witness, to be his witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and all over the world. How to do it? Well, sometimes we have to use our mouths, though often we use our mouths to serve our own ends, not God. I often think that if we Christians would just refrain from gossip and talking negatively about others that would be a great witness. Or, maybe if we used our hands and arms for more embracing others in our community than judging and pushing away. Or, maybe if we used our feet to run to help others instead of running to watch a train wreck or something… It’s all about our lives, isn’t it? Any discerning teenager can tell you that. Let the one who has ears to hear, hear. Blessings! Dave Nichols

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Thanks for checking out my blog. I'm new to this, as you can probably see. But, I, like you, have convictions and ideas worth sharing. I hope this will be an opportunity to connect with others who are Christian and/or religious. I am happily United Methodist. I am committed to the basic teachings of our church, and to the compassionate outreach to the world.

I hope these pastoral ponderings will generate something in you that is hopeful.

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A graduate of Newberry College and Duke University Divinity School.  I have served as a pastor in the United Methodist Church since 1975.

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