When I came to Christ in 1973, I was so shy and introverted that I would cross the street to avoid greeting a stranger. I remember one day in Wilton Manors when I literally did this. I became an usher at my church, but I hated having to greet people when all I wanted to do was hide. Yet, I knew it was my job to tell people about Jesus, so after much prayer, I decided to become a pastor. I preached for 20 years. That was hard, but for me, easier than evangelizing. I say all this so you know I feel your pain, also because I have learned a few things over the years that may help you overcome your fears. After all, nearly all of our obstacles to personal evangelism come down to the issue of fear.
We fear that we will be rejected, laughed at, thought weird, belittled and abused.
We have reason to fear these things because they will happen. But what we perhaps don’t realize is that they won’t happen nearly as often as we think. I find it safe to say that 7 out of 10 people will be gracious, even interested in what we have to say. They are interested because “the heavens declare the glory of God” (Psalm 19:1) and “the wrath of God is being revealed from heaven” (Romans1:18). Our witness simply confirms what people know in their heart.
We fear we won’t know what to say; that we don’t know enough about the Bible.
Well, you can learn what to say. In fact, if you simply memorized Romans 3:23, 6:23 and 10:9 you would know enough to lead someone to Christ. As to not knowing enough, how much Scripture did you know when you came to Christ? I am not suggesting that you stop learning. There is plenty to learn about evangelism, but you know enough to get started.
We are afraid that we will do it wrong and scare people off.
Can you really do it wrong? If you are gracious about it, you can’t do it wrong. Aren’t you thankful for the people who tried to share Christ with you? Besides, wouldn’t it be more wrong to not do it at all?
I don’t know how to start a spiritual conversation.
This was such a problem for me that I avoided talking to people. Then I realized that I could never “start” if I wasn’t talking to people. Just be friendly and give them a chance to talk. If they don’t want to talk, you’ve done your job. But once you are talking to somebody, what do you say? As little as possible! Ask them questions about their interests and let them talk. Listen with your heart. Eventually a topic will arise that lends itself to a spiritual question.
I couldn’t persuade anybody to come to Christ.”
Nobody can, but the Bible does. It is God’s power of persuasion. (Hebrews 4:12; 1 Peter 1:23) It is not about us. Most people hear the Gospel multiple times before they believe. We are links in a chain. Be gracious and leave them closer to Christ. People will believe.
Evangelism is not my gift.
This is a misunderstanding. There is a gift of evangelism, but evangelism is a command; Jesus’ first and last command. (Matthew 4:19, 28:19, 20)
Evangelism is the pastor’s job.
In the early Church, it was everybody’s job. (Acts 8:4) The pastor’s job is to equip you to do it.
I don’t have any non-Christian friends.
This is a real problem. If you have been in the Church a while, likely all your friends are Christians. Make new friends, join a club, befriend the clerks where you shop, your neighbors, and fellow workers. Let them know early on that you are a believer, so later they don’t feel deceived.
I’m still scared.
We all are, but Jesus gave the Holy Spirit to empower us to witness. (Acts 1:8) Notice also that Jesus sent the disciples out in pairs. (Mark 6:7) A partner gives you boldness. Find one. Join the evangelism training ministry of your church. If they don’t have one, ask your pastor to start one.
I just don’t care to get involved.
Thanks for your honesty. This is our real reason, even the reason we needed a Savior. We care more about our own comfort than another’s. But in admitting this, we have the solution. We may not care, but God does and has put His fearless, caring Spirit into our heart. I tell my students, “I can teach you how to share your faith, but you won’t do it, or as often as you could, if you’re not filled with the Holy Spirit.” Learn to share Christ. And stay near Christ by the Holy Spirit.
Dr. Bill McClain serves with Evangelism Explosion (EE), Int’l. He is responsible to establish EE’s evangelism training in South Florida churches. [email protected].