One of the most tragic realities of the lives of most Christians today is the lack of sharing one’s faith personally in evangelism with lost people we know and meet. Here is some real help on this struggle. This article connects well to my short 6-minute video on The Most Important Journey That Every Person Must Take. Be blessed by the encouragement below!
[Much what follows below was originally written in an article by Stephen Kneale and posted here: https://stephenkneale.com/2020/10/28/whats-the-big-problem-with-our-evangelism/ For this re-posting here on my TheMostImportantJourney.com website, however— I have edited Kneale’s excellent original article by adding the content near the end of the article on the need for Skills, as well as overlaying onto the content the Belief-Skill-Value-Habit metric and the color graphic on this — as well as the 3-D man illustrations placed throughout the article.]
Ask any evangelists and they will tell you that the church at large is not really making evangelism the priority they should. Speak to any evangelistically-minded pastor, most will tell you that their church members aren’t as active in evangelism as they could be. Speak to the average evangelical who affirms the general principle that we ought to be about the business of evangelism and you will probably find someone who feels guilty because they realize that they are not doing much, if any, amount of evangelism is their daily life.
Given that we all seem to agree we’re not doing enough evangelism, you would think the solution to that problem is relatively easy. Essentially, just get on and do some. Go and tell some people the gospel and start doing what you currently don’t feel you are doing enough. Simple.
But people are rarely so straightforward. Just telling people to get on and do something doesn’t really deal with the root problem. If we all agree that evangelism is something we should be doing more of (this is our belief), but we ultimately aren’t doing it, it suggests the problem isn’t one of needing to be convinced that it is an important thing to do.
Some would argue that the issue is time. I don’t doubt, for some, this is a factor. But I’m not convinced it’s the main issue. As one of my church members was fond of saying, “We all have the same 24-hours in the day as everyone else. It’s not a lack of time, but how you choose to spend it.” It’s hard to deny that. It is the case, however, that people will have different responsibilities that may make it easier or harder to navigate the time issues.
But the time issue is often overplayed. Let’s put it this way, we all seem to find the time to do those things we deem important enough. But, again, if we all (largely) accept that evangelism is important (this is our belief), then why aren’t we finding or making the time to do it?
In my experience, the issue tends to come down to ‘the fear of man.’ I think most of us are scared. I don’t think that it is much of a coincidence that some of the people I have seen most effective in evangelism are those who evidently – and not just in this arena – do not care whether people think they are weird or strange. They just aren’t bothered about such things—and so they quite naturally talk about Jesus, caring not one bit about whether people think they’re strange or not.
But most of us do worry about that sort of thing. We don’t want people to think we’re weird. We certainly would prefer that people not be judging us for what we believe. We are worried about what people will say if we start talking to them about Jesus, and that gets even worse when we mention things like sin and Hell. Furthermore, we worry we might get asked some really awkward questions, or that we’ll get branded as bigots, or that we’ll end up looking foolish. We often struggle with our assessment of what ‘the culture’ believes and know that we will be voicing views and opinions that don’t line up. But as Glen Scrivener said:
Perhaps you’re excusing yourself from fruitful outreach simply
because you’re afraid of a projected image of what “the culture”
believes. But you’re not called to love “the culture” as a concept.
You’re called to love your neighbor. So why not turn to your neighbor
and start the conversation?
I am convinced this is the biggest barrier to our evangelism. It isn’t that we don’t believe evangelism is important; we know it is. It isn’t that we don’t have the time to do it; we make the time for what we think is important. It’s that we are scared of how it will be received and how we will look in front of others.
The problem with fear is that it is not easily overcome. If it is irrational, it is difficult to respond to with rational arguments. You can’t reason with irrationality. So, what are we to do?
I remember a friend of mine, who worked for many years with an evangelistic organization, admitting that he got scared as well. He then said, “It doesn’t go away the older you get. You think it is the sort of thing that you will grow out of with time, but it never goes away entirely. The only way to even come close to getting over it is to go and tell people about Jesus—and see that, very rarely, does anything bad happen.” Now, obviously, every new conversation is a fresh opportunity for rejection, but as you begin to realize that not much happens when people say they don’t want to talk, the fear of rejection – while it may always be there to some degree – does lessen.
But I think simply talking about the importance of evangelism will not, in most cases, do anything toward getting the people in our churches—who all agree in principle about its importance—to launch into a lifestyle of evangelism themselves.
Such comments fail to address the root issue. We need to find ways to be less scared of rejection and less worried about initiating those conversations. It is similar to my children learning to swim; the only way to make progress in swimming as a beginner—is to get into the water. The only way to get used to evangelism, and to see that it isn’t as scary as one might think it is—is to do it. And the primary need is to begin by doing it with others first—and then striking out on our own as we grow in confidence.
Let’s be honest, to share the gospel with somebody—you only need to know what the gospel is and have a mouth to speak it. We aren’t failing to engage a consistent lifestyle of evangelism because we don’t have the physical abilities to do so, or because we don’t see the importance of doing it, or because we don’t have the time. It is fear that seems to make us reluctant. Therefore, we would go a long way toward getting more believers involved in evangelism if we focused our attention on helping them to overcome their fear.
[Dan Smythe’s additional comments on BELIEF-SKILL-VALUE-HABIT]:
I believe that Stephen Kneale’s article above, which starts with the issue of belief, is excellent! However, there are three other issues that need to be given attention. Paramount among them is that of skill-development. This, along with the other two additional issues (value-development and habit-development), can be seen most clearly by considering the following vital insights from the model of training that is employed by The Timothy Initiative:
With these four factors in mind, I believe that not only must the issue of ‘the fear of man’ be overcome and replaced by a godly reverence for the Lord and a deep burden for the lost (as dealt with very well above) – but the issues of missing skills – and thus uncultivated values – as well as absent habits must also be dealt with in a loving and patient and accountable manner.
This is the beauty of the process of The Timothy Initiative’s disciple making training. All four factors are given attention and dealt with equally – and the results are demonstrating around the world that the Lord’s favor rests mightily upon a movement where this is the case.
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