“Many Samaritans believed in Jesus because of her testimony.”
After hearing about living water, the Samaritan woman left her water jar by the well (no time to lug that heavy thing!) and ran to the city.
Her witness to the people might be the best example I’ve seen of Evangelism — Lutheran style. She tells her story, “this man knows everything I’ve ever done” — which probably includes some things she’d rather keep to herself. Still, he doesn’t shun her — but engages a deep theological conversation.
She tells her story. She invites them to come and see. And she ends with a question: “He cannot be the Messiah, can he?”
Speak (one of the hardest things for shy people), to people you know, share your story, extend an invitation, be humble.
The Samaritan woman spoke to her community, shared her story, invited folks to come and see, and witnessed to her faith in the form of a question: Perhaps this man is God’s Messiah, do you think?
Sometimes, I think we’ve so equated evangelism with conversion — with the need for a miraculous and immediate response from the listener — that we say more than we should, and speak it with more confidence than we have.
The world is a different place from the 1950s and 60s when I was a child. People aren’t just naturally showing up for church. We wonder if our children will still have faith. Still, even those deep concerns don’t banish our fears. We are still afraid to witness.
Oh, some of that fear comes from misunderstanding. We think that to witness means to ask someone, “Are you saved?” Or, “Will you read these four spiritual laws and pray with me for your salvation?”
To witness is not to convert. To witness is to share a story and invite to community. We Lutherans are pretty clear that conversion is much less about a one-on-one conversation — and much more about a community gathered around Word and Sacrament. We’re also pretty clear that conversion is a continual, life-long journey — beginning with eternal life in baptism — and receiving again and again forgiveness and new life in Christ.
So, let us Lutherans take our cue from the Samaritan woman. She teaches us to “speak, to people you know, share your story, extend an invitation, be humble.”