It’s one of the most dreaded moments in your Christian faith, that moment when you have to ‘evangelize.’ You know you’ve got something which needs to be heard, it’s the appropriate time, and the person or people in your presence need to hear the message you carry. Getting from deliberation to delivery spikes fear, anxiousness, and in some cases, genuine panic. Many methods have sprung up to serve as segways from “secular” conversations to “spiritual” ones, but come across as artificial, rehearsed, or just plain disingenuous. I’m not saying they’re all wrong, but many of them smack of “bait and switch,” psychologically manipulative tactics, sales pitches, or blatantly forceful, as if to start off a Kingdom conversations with carnal crowbars.
Sure, there are those who would propose that we must make friends first, or develop a relationship with those whom we want to transmit the gospel message to, but this, in reality is only one of many possible approaches. In the numerous gospel presenting moments in the New testament, there are sliding scales of ‘relationship’ where people have shared/preached the gospel with another in limited engagements. In other words, they preached the gospel or evangelized a person or people that they’ve never met before, and in a short amount of time.
The obstacles to Evangelism/Discipleship in most of our everyday lives are numerous. Evangelism requires proximity and opportunity. For most, proximity is minimized, and opportunities are few. This is not an excuse, just a statement of reality. Evangelism requires motion. It requires walking a path. It requires mission. Granted, the Spirit goes before us, but sometimes we are the ones the Spirit uses to go before others.
Evangelism that is more focused on transmitting the gospel in a life transforming way, and less concerned with the “winning of a souls,” better represents a holistic & biblical approach. Five-minute methodologies are broken in their conception. They assume that a rote and reduced gospel can elicit a decision and thereby “save” a person. Granted, we all stumble and fumble about trying to get to where we want to be evangelistically speaking. Of course it’s easier when there is an existing relationship or when there is some “history” that exists between persons, but this can also serve as an impediment or an excuse to minister the gospel in that God-Directed Moment.
When Jesus sent out the 70 two by two in Luke 10, it’s highly unlikely that the people being evangelized were already known to them. Jesus knew well that transitioning from greetings to preaching the gospel of the Kingdom was and could be awkward. He said to “speak peace” over the house. It was a cultural greeting that precipitated certain responses. If the greeting was received and offered back, then Jesus told them to stay in the house and continue there until their welcome was worn out, so to speak.
We’re dealing with two aspects of evangelism here:
1. Bringing the gospel to those who are known among us.
2. Bringing the Gospel to where it’s not known.
It is my contention that both are always in play. There is an intentional going out, and an intentional working within in. No, we are not all evangelists. But none of us are exempt from preaching to gospel to all of creation. (Mark 16:15) None of us are exempt from Making Disciples of all nations. (Matthew 28:18,19,20) It always comes back to that first awkward moment. Being SALT & LIGHT in our current circumstances (Matthew 5:13-16), being Ambassadors (Proverbs 13:17), and being witnesses (Acts 1:8) can all be done without going to a place different from where we are.
As to the second, bringing the gospel to where it’s not known, it’s never quite that “natural,” but neither is it artificial. As strangers and aliens, we are compelled to go to strange places where we are not known and initiate a process of injecting the gospel. Injections are seldom, if ever, pleasant. Some would refer to this as “forcing” the gospel, or foisting it upon people. But, like the 70, they weren’t invited either. We have spoken peace over households, met physical needs, played games, and more, but the most common introduction, and the most effective for us, is simply saying “We come with a message from God. Do you want to hear it?” That’s it! It sounds crazy, but the results have been astounding.
I propose that the #1 reason why nearly 90% of Christians have never shared this faith, and even fewer have claimed to “make a disciple,” is because of that fear ridden and awkward moment. I’ve felt it. I still do at times, and I’m NOT an evangelist. Some may claim that this sort of unnatural preaching or proclamation is reserved for the Ephesians 4 “Evangelist.” (Ephesians 4:11) But, I think that conclusion is biblically unwarranted. It’s time to get over that fear, discomfort, anxiety. If you can’t, then deal with the ‘pain’ of being a living sacrifice. (Romans 12:1) Perhaps it’s true that most of this fear is caused by the lack of relationship, but I don’t think it’s relationship with other people. I think it’s an unfamiliarity with the King and the Gospel of the Kingdom. A few Questions:
How have you gotten past those awkward and fearful gospel presenting moments?
Are you sharing the gospel with people regularly? If not why not?
What do you think is the #1 reason why Christians don’t share their faith?