In Jon Wilson’s fine study, Why Church Matters, we turn this week from “Foundations” to “Renovations” and in his two chps on this topic he speaks first about “Witness.” And his way to put it all together is in this: “Witness as Kingdom Words and Deeds.” Read on.
Question for the day: How is “witness” understood in your community of faith?
First, Jon emphasizes the community nature of Jesus’ and Paul’s concerns: they spoke in the plural (to groups) instead of singular (to individuals) and the community of faith is at the center of their vision. This leads to an important juncture: witness is done by the community.
Second, Jon sees the kingdom as the telos of the witness. He is typical in his viewpoint that kingdom is the big circle and church a smaller circle within that kingdom. I, for one — Jon are you reading because if you are I’d like to know what you think of my suggestion — think “kingdom” and “church” are largely the same thing. I don’t see them as ontological substances — church being one thing and kingdom another — but as linguistic markers by one person (Jesus) and another person (Paul). In other words, what Jesus calls kingdom more or less is called church by Paul. At any rate, if you agree or not, the point Jon makes is a good one: the church is not now what it will be and what it will be (he calls Kingdom), is the telos of our witness.
Third, Jon fights through the mess of the “spiritual evangelism vs. social justice” debate to contend that the community witnesses both in word and deed — kingdom words and deeds. We witness as much to the kingdom by deeds of mercy as we do with words of mercy.