Do you proclaim or explain as you witness? What do I mean by that?
Before I give a couple of examples, I want to summarize what I mean. The goal of proclaiming is simply to tell others the message. It is not focused on helping them understand it—the goal is to have them hear it. Often proclamation is more personal and emotional and is aimed at a person’s heart. The goal of explaining, on the other hand, is to have people understand the message. It is akin to teaching. It often is less personal and is aimed at the head, at people’s intellect.
So, first, a couple of non-witnessing examples. A politician has just been elected. His campaign workers celebrate and joyfully spread the news far and wide. They don’t get into details or explanations. They just yell, “We won!” On the other hand, newscasters and talking heads dissect his victory in an attempt to explain it. Do you see the difference in tone?
The same thing happens when a sports team wins a championship. Fans react one way. Reporters and commentators react differently. One proclaims the other explains.
This doesn’t mean the campaign workers or fans never explain. Over time, they will do both. But we would be taken aback by the campaign worker or fan who only dispassionately explained the victory.
When it comes to witnessing, I fear far too often we do more explaining than proclaiming. Both are needed. At times, people need to hear the message without explanation. “Jesus won!” Period! And they need to hear us proclaim it in an emotional, personal way. “Jesus won for me! I no longer have to worry if I’m forgiven. I know I am! Heaven is my home!”
When Mormons contact us and tell us we are wrong about a certain teaching, we answer by first explaining our teaching and giving more biblical references. But we don’t stop there. Before we close, we add some proclaiming. For example, once I responded to a Mormon who said we had misinterpreted Matthew 5:48. After explaining Matthew 5:48, I ended the email by saying:
“I agree we can’t be perfect right now. The Bible says no one has done good (Romans 3:12). That is why Jesus had to come not only to pay for all our sins with his death but also to live a perfect life, not as our example to show us what to do, but as our substitute. He gives us his perfection! So in God’s sight, covered with his perfection, God right now considers me perfect!
That is tremendous news. It gives us so much joy and confidence. It fills us with tremendous love for God and others. It motivates us to thank and praise him.
We want to share this news because there is urgency for people to place all of their trust in what Jesus has already done for them. The only way to be perfect in God’s sight is to cover yourself completely with Jesus’ perfection.”
Friends, keep on explaining God’s truth. But don’t forget to also proclaim it. People need to hear both.