While we're on the subject of the woman at the well, let's talk about how well her witness worked. I've written about her many times before, and she's a great study in a lot of things, but she's got something very important to teach us about bringing others to Jesus.
You'll remember that she runs into town, telling everyone what's just happened to her with Jesus at the well. And they all come rushing out to see for themselves what's going on. By the time the whole encounter is over, the people of the town proclaim, "We believed because of what you had said, but now, we have heard Him for ourselves and believe all the more!"
It's this second step that I think is too often missing from our own witness, too often the root cause of why so many visit the church but don't stay. We aren't setting them up to hear Jesus speak.
We're investing our time to tell them our story. We talk about what we know and what we've experienced, what we believe. And sure, we can even get some to come to church with us, where they will hear more stories about what others have experienced and what they believe. Everywhere we go, we're talking about Jesus, as if that's the thing. As if that's what we're supposed to be doing.
And in part, it is. But the end goal is not for others to believe what we say about Him; the end goal is for others to hear Him speak just as clearly and intimately and lovingly as we have. And that, we're not so good at.
Oh, we're good at programs. And we're good at preaching. We're good at sermons and putting on a show. We're good at worship. But most persons, when they leave our churches, have only heard what we've said. We have not created the space for them to hear Him speak.
We haven't taught them how to listen, how to hear the voice of God. We haven't shown them the way to the solitary places where He meets us for real. We don't tell them how to get away from it all, how to settle down into their Spirit and hear the whisper. We don't give them a cup to draw their own water from the well.
What we're really trying to do is to get someone to come to our faith when honestly, they can't. No one else can come to our faith. No one else can have what we have. They need their own faith, their own story. They need their own Jesus moment.
And we're too busy creating cultural phenomena to teach them how to get that. We're too busy shouting at their faces to show them how to actually hear anything.
We're too busy giving them a tour of the well to point out to them the Jesus who sits just across the road, watching...waiting...ready to speak.
That's why they're leaving. They come looking for Jesus and find...pamphlets and brochures, sight-seeing tours of our own holy places, programs and spectacles, and they realize...this isn't what they were looking for. This isn't what we promised them. We told them there was a Jesus, and they stay with us just long enough to realize...if there is, He's not here any more. He's clearly moved on, and that's reason enough for them to do the same.
So yes, tell others about Jesus. Share your story. But remember that your story is never going to be their story; they need their own. They need to encounter Him for themselves. They need to be shown the spaces where He can speak to them. They need to be taught to listen. They need to be brought to where He is and then left there, so that Jesus can tell them what He means. So that they can form their own intimate relationship with Him.
Others cannot live through our stories. Not for long, anyway. They need their own. And most importantly, Jesus needs theirs, too. Let's focus our witness on making that happen.