The Difference Between Witnessing and Being a Witness


August 21, 2018

Mark 1:43-45

Jesus sent him away at once with a strong warning: “See that you don’t tell this to anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing, as a testimony to them.” Instead he went out and began to talk freely, spreading the news. As a result, Jesus could no longer enter a town openly but stayed outside in lonely places. Yet the people still came to him from everywhere.


22. When a person experiences the work of the Holy Spirit, as this leper did, they will tell others about it. It’s that simple. No one has to tell them to spread the news. I am convinced human beings were created to spread good news.

It’s interesting how hard churches work to motivate people to “witness” to other people about their faith. They want us to tell others about Jesus, to lead others to Christ and so on. Don’t get me wrong. Those are great things, but we go about it in the wrong way. At the end of the day, all this activity adds up to is marketing.

You can’t talk people into being a witness. Really you can’t even teach or train them to be a witness. A witness actually has to witness something happening in order to be a witness. A witness is a witness by virtue of something they have experienced. Sure, we can get people to do marketing for Jesus, but that’s a far cry from actually being a witness to his work through the person and power of the Holy Spirit.

Not even Jesus could stop this leper from spreading the news about what happened. Our best “marketing” efforts can fill the seats of our sanctuaries, but getting people to talk freely and spread the news about Jesus—that only happens when the Holy Spirit does the work of Jesus within them.

23. Jesus said, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you and you will be my witnesses. . . .” I think he had in mind something of the scene in today’s text—the unstoppable sharing of the good news of the God who turns everything around. We live in a day when the gospel has been reduced to information about God that we should feel compelled to share with other people, and we call that evangelism. Real evangelism looks like witnesses telling stories in such a way that the people who hear them flock to the countryside in search of Jesus. Jesus can’t even get past crowd control to get into the building. Because of the witness to the Holy Spirit’s work in and through him, he can’t even get into the towns. People hate marketing for Jesus. They hunger for witnesses who will tell stories of what the Holy Spirit is doing through the people of God in the name of Jesus.

What if this actually happens better and more often on the outskirts of town, in the lonely places, than in our Sunday morning worship services? Just asking.


Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me. I want to witness your working in a fresh way in my life and in the lives of others. And I want to share the story of it with others. Even more, I want them to witness your life in me. Melt me. Mold me. Fill me. Use me. For the glory of your name, Jesus. Amen.


Can you draw a distinction between marketing and being a witness in your own life? In your walk with God? What have you witnessed of the Spirit’s working?

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For the Awakening,
J.D. Walt

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