And I (John) myself have seen and have testified that this is the Son of God.” (John 1:34)
Q: What do you get when you cross a Lutheran with a Jehovah’s Witness?
A: Someone who likes to knock on doors but doesn’t know what to say if someone answers.
There are lots of other jokes about Lutherans and other mainline Christians (you can change Lutheran to Episcopal or Presbyterian and the joke still works!). The basic assumption is that if you want someone to bear witness to Jesus, you need to find someone who doesn’t attend a mainline church. You need to find a Pentecostal, a Baptist or anyone but a Lutheran.
It isn’t clear where we learn to keep quiet about our faith. Perhaps it is because Lutherans come here in immigrant groups so everyone who came in a particular group and settled in the same area already shared the same religion. Norwegians (who started Zion in 1882) worshipped with Norwegians. Danes worshipped with Danes. Germans worshipped with Germans. The religion, the culture and the ethnic tribe from which we came were all one and the same. Perhaps the fact that mainline churches were successful for so long made people complacent. Maybe the baby boom masked the issues by supplying so many new people who were born into the church. Whatever the reason(s), it is true that we could learn a thing or two about bearing witness.
That’s why John the Baptist is so instructive. John is talented. John has the ability to draw a crowd. John could easily be the center of attention and a celebrity in his own right. But John knows why he is here and what he is to accomplish. He is here to get people ready to meet the Messiah. He is here to point to Jesus who would bring life and love to the world. Undistracted by other things, John simply points with his hand and speaks clearly with his voice. Everything about him pointed beyond himself and pointed to Jesus.
Witnessing as a central part of the Christian life is not as complicated as we think. Most of it begins with where John begins – knowing who Jesus is and connecting to him in your life. Then, as you live your life and do what you do, share the news about Jesus with the people around you, always being willing to step out of the limelight and into the sidelights so that people will notice Jesus and discover that what John started telling people centuries ago is still true: “Look, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”