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Unpacking the Difference: The Power of Your Christian Witness vs Testimony

Abstract water media image of a woman with her Bible
Pearl of Great Price, Water Media, Sara Joseph

How is your Christian witness different from your testimony?

You may think I'm splitting hairs by separating the two. Yet we're marooned in times of glaring inconsistencies in the faith some affirm and the lives they lead.

Your Christian testimony is the deliberate, ongoing expression of transformation as a new creation in Christ.

We have amazing stories worth telling—narratives of restoration, redemption, deliverance, healing... rich content to express in words, art or music. They will linger after our time on earth to continue to testify to Jesus.

Go! Tell them from whatever mountain is near you!

Your Christian witness, on the other hand, is the unseen, yet equally powerful, aspect of your role as a believer. Expressed in the balance of your life, it is like the magic between the lines of a great story. It is absorbed during the musical rests of a marvelous symphony, or sensed in the quiet passages of muted color on a canvas. It is the reflection of Jesus in arenas of life which are outside art or other creative expression.

Your witness and your testimony are potent in their impact. Without one, the other would be meaningless. But consistency is the key to effectiveness.

Detail of a painting of a woman reading her Bible
Pearl of Great Price, Detail 1, Sara Joseph

Whether we perceive effectiveness or not, we're constantly evaluated, judged and watched by an audience, who are either wildly enthusiastic, neutral or hostile. The latter two are far more likely to be delighted or offended by our flaws, than to be intrigued by our faithfulness.

We must be both the messenger and the message in one consistent, easy-to-read package. Expect to fail miserably if we attempt this mission on our own! It takes God's empowering grace.


A popular atheist blog posted the "confession" of an atheist. The son of a Christian pastor, he once wrote successful Christian music for some of the biggest names in the industry, winning Dove and Grammy awards. He composed music since he was a child, won acclaim over the years, and now had a large following.

“Finally, while in Nashville, I allowed myself to embrace my inner atheist (privately), all the while writing and recording Christian music,” he wrote.

His primary concern with this "embrace" was the following:

“I’m trapped: If I “come out” as an atheist, I’ll lose fans in droves. But by not doing so, I’m condemning myself to the torture of fans who assume I’m still a Christian.“

Detail of an abstract painting by Sara Joseph
Pearl of Great Price, Detail 2, Water Media, Sara Joseph

The "torture" that he described was his conflict at the admiration of his Christian fans, who wrote “We thank the Lord for your ministry!” and offered other similar expressions of gratitude.

How was he to maintain his fan base and the financial status that their favor conferred, without being subject to the "torture" of their praise?

After some struggle, he talked about tiring of his double life. His fan's comments on his "coming out" post were most disturbing. Many stated that his atheistic views would have no bearing on their enjoyment of his music!

Does Christian music, written by a professing atheist not disturb you if the music is well conceived and masterfully executed? How do you feel about Christian art created by an artist given to drunken brawls?

Does the character of the person have no bearing on the talent on display?


A surprisingly significant amount of Christian artwork by masters of the past was created by artists whose personal lives would make us wince in shame.

Does that surprise you?

Caravaggio, who created powerful Biblical illustrations, was known for his sordid lifestyle. Most of what we know of his personal life was retrieved from court documents, rather like picking through garbage hoping to find something of worth! In his brief life, he murdered a man, was known for brawling (even with his patrons!) and was constantly fleeing justice. Yet he revolutionized painting with his chiaroscuro style.

The world was moved by the artistic talent of Caravaggio, but he was a sorry Christian witness, despite the content of his work, or the longevity of his fame.

Abstract watercolor detail of a painting titled Pearl of Great Price by Sara Joseph
Pearl of Great Price, Water Media, Detail 3, Sara Joseph

So what makes a successful Christian witness? We, who came to faith because of an effective Christian witness, do not need to have the obvious pointed out to us.

We were led to Christ by those who were irresistible in their personality and character.

True, they were flawed human beings, but they exuded enough of Jesus to make us yearn for what was clearly missing in our lives. Their lives were infused with integrity, like a magnet snapping us to attention and drawing us closer.

Wielding extraordinary power, their saltiness made us thirsty for some mysterious, undefinable quality they possessed. Their unwavering commitment to the Bible and the vitality of their relationship with Jesus appeared peculiar at first, but their consistent actions of faith confounded and intrigued us.

In a world drowning in superficiality, the authenticity of a true Christian witness may seem awkward, but it cannot be ignored. They possess riches that defy definition—riches no one would ordinarily covet, except for the witness making them irresistible!

Jesus describes this best in Matthew 13:46 when He talks about the man "who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it."

This man's actions expressed his heartfelt response to his treasure. He demonstrated that all he owned paled in comparison to this "pearl of great price."

How could someone watching not desire the same?

Our Christian witness is reflected in consistent salty actions, which are inseparable from that which we proclaim, triggering a thirst so great that only Jesus can quench.

As Christian artists, regardless of who lauds our creativity, if we do not dwell in Jesus, the Vine, submitting ourselves for pruning and nourishment, we will be ineffective. We cannot separate ourselves, skin from seed, or stem from flesh. We are an organic whole, in a constant state of being and growing.

Abstract painting of a woman reading her Bible
Pearl of Great Price, Water Media, Detail 4, Sara Joseph

While others may admire the color of our fruit, perhaps represented by influence, or their luscious size (our financial successes?) only one opinion truly counts.

The Harvester of the fruit makes assessments of true worth. Disdaining popular outward appearances, He looks deep to evaluate unseen qualities. Jesus used fruit bearing as an analogy for effectiveness in His kingdom.

Make no mistake; He is a fastidious husbandman of His vineyard!

Do not permit admiration of the creative accomplishments of your peers, or delight in that of your own, distract you from honing the caliber of your unique Christian witness.

Your fruitfulness will see some rewards now, but more so in eternity. God's standards will determine their worth, not those of the world. He is good, generous and gracious, seeking simplicity in faith and integrity in commitment.

Perhaps, art has yet to be created by enough authentic witnesses in these trying times. Are you up to the challenge?

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