Witnessing: The Progress of Revival -- By: James M. Boice

Journal: Reformation and Revival
Volume: RAR 02:3 (Summer 1993)
Article: Witnessing: The Progress of Revival
Author: James M. Boice

Witnessing: The Progress of Revival

James M. Boice

Many Christians think that the task of witnessing should be fulfilled primarily by ministers, but this is an error and a serious one at that. Witnessing is every Christian’s job.

An acceptance of this task was, I believe, the single most important factor in the astounding outreach and expansion of the early church. It was not simply that Paul and the other leaders carried the gospel to the farthest corners of the Roman world. Many of the so-called leaders were not particularly zealous about the missionary effort. It was rather that all Christians—small and great, rich and poor, slaves and freedmen—made it their consuming passion to tell others about the Lord.

Edward Gibbon was by no means sympathetic to our faith. Nevertheless, he chronicled the spread of Christianity until, as it was said, by A.D. 49 the gospel had reached the shores of India and by A.D. 61 even the distant borders of China. Tertullian, who was writing slightly before and after the year 200, declared to his contemporaries: “We are but of yesterday, yet we have filled every place among you—cities, islands, fortresses, towns, market places, the very camp, tribes, companies, palace, senate, forum—we have left nothing to you but the temples of your gods” (Apology, ch. 37).

How did this happen? Gibbon wrote that in the early church “it became the most sacred duty of a new convert to diffuse among his friends and relations the inestimable blessing which he had received” (The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Vol. I, ch. XV). Adolf Harnack, the great church historian, declared: “We cannot hesitate to believe that the great mission of Christianity was in reality accomplished by means of informal missionaries” (The Expansion of Christianity, Vol. I, p. 460).

Informal missionaries! That is what all Christians should be.

The Witness of John

In the first chapter of John’s Gospel we have an outline of what our witness must be if we are to become “informal missionaries.” The outline is given to us in verses 6–9: “There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.” If we outline these verses, we find that they contain three statements about John the Baptist’s testimony: 1) he was not the light, but 2) was sent to bear witness to that light, in order that 3) all men through him might believe. This outline is then followed quite accurately in the narrative section of the chapter. Thus, in verses...

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