I’ve never been great at sharing the gospel with others. There have even been times when people have asked me questions about my faith, and I’ve given pathetic answers that I regretted later. Of course, there are answers for that … prayer and study significant among them. But there’s another, more important answer: Trust that God is working in those around me, shaping their ears to hear and their hearts to believe. I was reminded of that this morning when reading my REAP passage from Paul’s first letter to the church at Corinth:
1-2You’ll remember, friends, that when I first came to you to let you in on God’s master stroke, I didn’t try to impress you with polished speeches and the latest philosophy. I deliberately kept it plain and simple: first Jesus and who he is; then Jesus and what he did—Jesus crucified.
3-5I was unsure of how to go about this, and felt totally inadequate—I was scared to death, if you want the truth of it—and so nothing I said could have impressed you or anyone else. But the Message came through anyway. God’s Spirit and God’s power did it, which made it clear that your life of faith is a response to God’s power, not to some fancy mental or emotional footwork by me or anyone else. (1 Corinthians 2:1-5, The Message)
It’s important to study the bible and the doctrine of the church. And it’s important to pray for wisdom and discernment, and for God to give you the right words at the right time. But at the end of the day, nothing that you or I can do or say, no matter how well-studied, eloquent or persuasive, is going to change anyone’s heart – only God can do that. I may still be scared to death of evangelism … but so was Paul, and he did pretty well. May that thought give me the confidence to proclaim what I believe!
About a month ago I shared the gospel (or part of it, at least) with my elderly, and ill, grandmother. And as my wife would tell you, I was literally shaking as I did so. Fear was TOTALLY gripping me. And even later, I doubted whether I’d done enough (“Should I have asked her if was ready to accept Christ right then and there? Didn’t feel right to go there so quickly, but then how much time does she have left?”) . And I also promised to follow up with her by way of phone conversations and sending more reading material (she loves to read) … and still haven’t done it.
I’ve long felt that I’m a poor evangelist for Christ, even knowing that we’re absolutely called to spread the good news (Matthew 28:12: “Therefore GO and make disciples of all nations …”
Here are some of the thoughts I’ve wrestled with (undoubtedly with a helping hand from Satan:
* “You’ll come across as a salesman. No one likes to be sold to. Remember that guy who come up to you in the airport 10 years ago and asked if you knew Jesus? Remember how much that put you off?”
* “Your family and friends back home think you’re a little nutty, you know. The whole born-again stuff and getting baptized again. So why rock the boat? They go to church once in a while. They went to Sunday School as kids. Just let it go.”
* “You haven’t read the whole Bible. You haven’t even memorized much scripture. What if the person you’re evangelizing to comes back with a question that you can’t answer? How helpful is THAT?”
Pitiful excuses, but I’ve let them hold me back.
The passage from Paul encourages me, Greg. The reminder that Paul — Paul, the great missionary to the Gentiles who wrote much of the New Testament, of all people! — was scared to death of evangelism, too, propels me forward.
I have to fight through those feelings of inadequacy and trust that the Holy Spirit will give me the right words at the right time.
Ultimately, I know it comes down to this: Talking about our faith with other Christians provides much needed-fellowship, but sharing the gospel with non-believers is the ONLY way to grow the Kingdom. It’s time to get moving!
Greg – All I can say is that you are not alone. The regret of missed opportunities and horribly phrased answers are part of my walk and I suspect they always will be. It’s when I remember who is walking with me that I can breathe again. He is sovereign and has a plan. All things work to the good for those who believe is what I read somewhere :-).
Love the blog. Keep it up!
B, you are a man after my own heart. I know all of those arguments like the back of my hand, and I let them stop me all the time. Hope that we’ll be able to encourage – and to sharpen (Proverbs 27:17) – one another!
Hey Greg – great site. Love the discussion – I’d say ditto to you and all the responses. I rarely “evangelize” at all it seems due to all the excuses above and more. At the very least a blog and discussion like this reminds me I should and hopefully we can hold each other accountable to do so. We know something that everyone should know and understand, especially those we love, and it owuld be a shame for us to not share it with others.
Frank and Brian: Guys, thanks so much for the encouragement. You’re so right … there are a million reasons NOT to do it, but they’re rarely any good. I’ve lately been focusing on whether my life example is one that looks like Christ’s … and finding myself wanting. But I’m going to keep trying, and I appreciate you keeping me on track.