Years ago, I was preaching and decided to share about a person who was blessed, and transformed, by one of our church’s ministries. Since this person was part of the congregation, I did not use their name or offer too many personal details, at their request. As you might imagine, folks were listening to me as they often did, with passing interest.
Then an amazing thing happened. The man who was the subject of the story stood up and interrupted the sermon. “Pastor,” he said, “I guess we can tell everyone that the person in the story is me. In fact, why don’t I just tell the story myself.”
Immediately every person in every pew was fixated on the man. Each word had special meaning, for this was no second-hand tale, but the story of someone who was intimately involved in each moment of God’s grace. When he finished speaking, I knew enough to put a caboose on my sermon and say a closing prayer. Nothing could top what we had just witnessed.
The dictionary says that a witness is “someone who has personal knowledge of something.” They “attest (testify) to a fact or event.” Let me ask you, would you rather have it second-hand, or from someone who has personal knowledge? Would you like hearsay, or someone who can testify to a fact?
Friends, for many reasons—and raising money is one of them—use witnesses regularly. Use them in classes, newsletters, videos, groups, and especially worship. Don’t talk about Jesse in the AA group—see if Jesse would share his own story. Don’t report on young Ellie, whom you sent to camp—have her tell her own story. If you can’t get Jesse or Ellie to come, get the AA group leader to come, or get Ellie’s camp counselor to come. Stay as close to the source of transformation as you can.
Then, when the witness is through, thank everyone for being part of a church like this, and thank them for giving their time and money to make it happen. Remind them that this is why we are in business. If in worship, invite the ushers forward to collect the offering. Yes, feel free to connect the witness with the giving. Transformation and generosity go hand in hand.
Where do you find a good witness? Start looking. We tend to find what we are looking for. Your church has many wonderful things to share, and we all need encouragement to keep believing in our mission together. Yes, you should definitely get a witness.
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Director of Development
United Methodist Foundation of Indiana