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Eyewitness Testimony

Eyewitness Testimony

Most of our popular images of the courtroom involve attorneys making impassioned arguments to the jury.  But in reality, trial attorneys focus most of their time preparing witnesses for trial.  While making a dramatic closing argument makes for good television, virtually all of the evidence that a jury can rely upon to reach a decision must be introduced through the testimony of witnesses.

There are two types of witnesses that can testify at trial: expert witnesses and percipient (lay) witnesses.  Expert witnesses are carefully selected because of their impressive backgrounds, their expertise in a field of study, and their ability to speak with confidence about their ultimate opinions.  But expert witnesses are not required to have seen or witnessed any of the actual events.  Instead, they are hired after the incidents have taken place to give their opinion and to interpret what has already happened.

Percipient witnesses, however, are those who actually witnessed the events or experienced the incident first hand — what we might call “eyewitnesses.”  And while many attorneys are careful to select a good expert witness, most trial attorneys know that jurors tend to give more weight to the testimony of percipient witnesses.  After all, it’s the people that lived through the events that we find most convincing over and above the experts who can only talk about things theoretically.

I find the same to be true with people who want to evaluate our testimony as Christians.  While we have repeatedly relied upon and studied many “experts” in order to develop the teaching series we presented in our interactive forum, it is best to remember that the testimonies of the people who witness the activity of Christ in their life speak volumes to those who are weighing the evidence for Jesus Christ.

Jesus Himself spoke to a group of lay witnesses who had lived with Him day to day when He announced, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)  It is interesting that Jesus’ use of the word “witnesses” was the same word used to refer to those who would give testimony in a courtroom.  And when the power of the promised Holy Spirit arrived at Pentecost, it is not at all surprising that we see an explosion of lay witnessing throughout the book of Acts.

Because of the importance of hearing directly from those who personally experience the work of Jesus in their lives, there is a rich tradition of Christians sharing their testimony with one another.  It is meant to encourage one another, and it is born out of the Acts tradition of providing eyewitness testimony to the Lord Jesus Christ.

I recently came across a few testimonies that I thought were worth passing along.  The first is from Rodney Heinrich, a servant of the Lord who has led the homeless ministry efforts at NewSong Church for over two decades.  Rodney recently shared the following testimony of how the Lord has worked through that ministry, reminding us of the power of eyewitness testimony to the work of Jesus Christ:

During the July homeless dinner, I was at Pomona First Baptist in the parking lot while volunteers emptied my little trailer of clothes donated by NewSong.  One of the long time people who comes to the dinner for a little help, but also volunteers herself, came to me with a problem.  Sarah lives in a home with her husband and son in Pomona, and she asked if I knew where she could get a refrigerator since hers had just broken down.  I don’t get refrigerators donated often, maybe once every two or three years, and I explained that to her.  While we talked, a truck pulled into the parking lot with a refrigerator in the bed, and the driver went to the church office.  I was kidding her that we could just take that one since it was ready to be delivered. While we were discussing this, a man came up asking if I was Rodney, telling us that someone sent him to me because I might know someone who could use a refrigerator.  He had bought a new one and the old one still worked, so he felt someone could use it.  I introduced him to Sarah and shortly after, they left and he delivered it right to her house.  Sarah and I had not even been standing there 5 minutes and hadn’t even prayed about her need yet.  God chose in that moment to meet her needs through a total stranger!

Another exciting story involves a woman named Lisa who came to the NewSong office to talk to me.  She had been sleeping on the floor of her apartment because they have no beds.  Her boys had been sleeping on an air mattress so they were somewhat comfortable.  The floor was hurting Lisa’s back terribly and she asked me to keep my eyes open for a bed for her.  Patty, who is one of our front office volunteers, just happened to be working that day and asked me, UNKNOWINGLY, if I knew anyone who could use a bed and some furniture.  I let her know that Lisa, who was waiting for me outside, was in desperate need for a bed.  Also the family I helped move out of a trailer (like a camping trailer, not a mobile home) and into an apartment only had some chairs, no real furniture.  I got some help, and my trailer, and we picked up and delivered the furniture from Patty the next day.

I am the first to state that we are often much better at talking about Jesus, rather than testifying to His very real action in our lives.  I am grateful for the testimony that Rodney shared, and for reminding us of the way that God reveals Himself to us in very tangible ways.

In our next post, I’ll highlight the recently-published testimony of a television news personality whose experience with Christ and other Christians brought her from disbelief to a vibrant faith.

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