In the nineteen sixties, Joseph Bayly wrote a book entitled The Gospel Blimp which was later turned into a Christian movie. The story focused upon two neighbors, members of the same church. One of the men was always seeking ways to witness about Christ. All of his attempts utilized second hand methods, culminating with renting a blimp to pass over the city and drop tracts. He never developed any relationships with his non Christian neighbors. His next door neighbor, on the other hand, developed relationships with the non Christian families in their neighborhood, occasionally even skipping church to be with them. When a crisis hit one of these families, it was only the latter neighbor who came to their aid and was instrumental in introducing them to Christ.
Holly Vicente Robaina in her blog “Walk with Life” describes a night when she and her husband had dinner at a local café. A man at a nearby table was a boisterous Christian. During their dinner, he was constantly praising Jesus for this and that, talking about God’s blessing him, all in a loud voice that could be heard throughout the restaurant. Later that evening her husband, who is not a Christian, remarked: "Acting that way, did he actually think that I'd be interested in what he said? That I'd want to be like him?” Obviously, his answer was “No!” While the man was most likely trying to witness, the content of his words in their setting, was found to be distasteful. Holly reflected: Does he blare out his faith so he doesn't have to engage in a real conversation? Or does he truly believe someone might approach him and want to talk about Jesus? If so, his technique isn't working.”
Keith Green takes a similar view regarding all of the Christian clothing and billboards, bumper stickers and other Christian paraphernalia, concluding that they may just immunize people from the real gospel. He says “It pains me to see the beautiful truths of Scripture being plastered about like beer advertisements. Many think it is wise to “get the word out” in this way but, I believe that we are really just inoculating the world with bits and pieces of truth - giving them their “gospel shots”. (And we’re making it hard for them to “catch” the real thing!). People become numb to the truth when we splash our gaudy sayings in their eyes at every opportunity.” He wonders if those who use these tactics are seeking more the approval of other Christians than to truly witness. Like the man in the restaurant, these are forms of blaring out our faith without having to engage in real interaction with non Christians. All three of these accounts can be considered forms of second hand witnessing. Both have the danger of turning people away from being receptive to the gospel.
If these forms of second hand witnessing don’t work, what does? How can we be most effective in witnessing to our faith? By living transformed lives as Christ’s disciples. This is the best way. Just as Jesus was a magnet to those who were caught up in sin, so by living as Christ lived, we also can be a magnet, drawing others to him. The second man in the Gospel Blimp story was effective because he demonstrated love to his neighbor. The early Christians were described as those who turned the world upside down. How often are we viewed in the same way? What kind of witnessing are we engaged in – first or second hand?