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How NOT to witness – Part 1

April 5, 2013

I’ve always wanted to write a book.  The only problem, other than the fact that books are hard to write and I am pretty lazy, is that I am not sure what to write about.  I’ve always been interested in evangelism and witnessing, how about that?  The first problem I found was that, when I entered “books on evangelism” in the search box, Google came back with 6,180,000 responses so I am guessing the subject is pretty well covered.  Come to think of it, if we could see one person saved per month from each book the whole earth will be saved in just a few years.

The second problem is that I’ve come to see that I am pretty lousy at witnessing.  It is not that I haven’t tried, or that I haven’t seen a few people respond, I have.  The problem is that my past is also littered with botched presentations, failed attempts, indifferent responses and colossal blunders.  But when I think about it perhaps I am like Thomas Edison and the light bulb; I’ve found hundreds of ways how NOT to witness.  Of course, Edison went on to actually invent the light bulb but we will leave that out for now.

With that in mind I’d like to offer over the next few weeks lessons I’ve learned in how not to witness.  So here is tip #1 – Don’t set up a straw man.  A straw man is creating the worst characterization of what someone else is saying, not what they are actually saying, and attack that.  Even when we do this with good intentions and, yes, even when we think we are stating “the other side” accurately, this never works.

A good example is this article.  This woman addresses concerns she has with feminism and does it with a touching and clearly heartfelt story from her personal life.  I applaud her honesty in sharing something so personal and so painful.  She talks of a passive father, a domineering mother and the impact it had on her and that this impact seeped into her own marriage.  In her “letter to [her] feminist sisters” she works from that to urge an attitude of serving.

The problem is that her example is a straw man.  No feminist I have ever met, and certainly no Christian feminist, proposes that a patriarchal system be replaced with a matriarchal one.  However true and painful her experience was, it is not what feminism is about.  Take it from me, when the person you are trying to reach knows that how you describe what they believe is wrong good results never come.  So here is what I learned about straw men in teaching me how to not witness:

Never describe what you think the other person actually believes.  Let them do it or, if that is not possible, quote directly a person who hold that belief and ask them to affirm it before you say anything else.  It is said that we learn from our mistakes.  Over the next few weeks I’ll try to share ways you can learn from mine.

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