Evangelism is at the heart of the gospel. Jesus himself acted as a missionary (but obviously so much more), proclaiming the good news of the Kingdom of God and calling people to repentance. And he commissions every disciple to do the same.
But personal evangelism can be intimidating. When it comes to sharing our faith, there can be so many obstacles. What will people think? Will I offend someone? What if I can’t answer their questions? Am I going to weird someone out?
In order to be effective in evangelism, Christians have to overcome the things that make them stumble in this area.
Obstacle #1: We are not prayerfully seeking opportunity.
In effect, we have not involved God in the process. But God is the only one who can awaken a heart to know him. He is the only one who can impart saving faith. We don’t have that power. We cannot convict people of sin or make them see their need for a savior. Only God can do those things.
When we don’t involve God, or when we fail to see God’s sovereignty over salvation, we put ourselves in a position to fail. We make it about us and our efforts. At the very least, God will save people despite our poor methodology, but efforts that are grounded in the full knowledge of who God is and what he will do will be much more fruitful.
Without prayerfully seeking opportunity to evangelize, we will be hampered in our personal witness. Prayer must always accompany evangelism.
My husband and I challenged each other recently while we were out and about town, praying that God would help us connect with someone as we ran errands. Aaron ended up running into two people he used to work with, and was able to invite one of them to church (even though he said no). The other guy was having car trouble in the Walmart parking lot, and Aaron was able to show his care by offering his help. It is through these kinds of encounters that seeds are planted and God’s love is displayed.
Obstacle #2: We are afraid of unbelievers (or we simply don’t like them).
Ouch. That may sound harsh, but in this divided culture we have to examine our hearts. Social media is evidence alone of the hostility some professing Christians have towards those that are unsaved. And some of that is rooted in fear.
We have to overcome our fear of man in order to be an effective evangelist. And we need to stop stereotyping the unbeliever.
We assume too many negatives: we will offend them, they will want to argue, they will ask the hard questions we don’t know the answers to, and all of them are combative atheists. So we don’t say anything at all, and let the moment of opportunity slip away. The battle is lost before we ever open our mouths.
But the Bible says that “there is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18). If we love as God loves, we will have no room for fear. It will be poured out in active deeds (personal evangelism) towards those who will otherwise perish. The fear problem is connected to a love problem. We don’t want to inconvenience ourselves or be put under pressure for the sake of unbelievers. John Piper says this,
“Brothers and sisters, one of the main reasons why so many professing Christians have little confidence with God and little boldness with men is that their lives are not devoted in love to the salvation of the lost and to the glory of God, but instead are devoted (often by sheer default) to providing earthly security and comfort for themselves and their family.”
It is possible that some of us have not been perfected in God’s love, and that is why we stumble towards those that are outside the church. If we say we love Christ, then we will have his heart for the lost.
Obstacle #3: We have no clear strategy on how to engage with those outside the church.
Without a plan on how to engage unbelievers, it can be difficult to make that connection. We need to be able to have authentic conversations that meet a person on his/her level. Finding commonality is a great place to begin. My husband likes Jeeps, therefore it’s easy to make connections with other Jeep lovers. They can talk Jeeps and life and Jesus. Their commonality leads to conversation, which is the beginning of any relationship.
But sometimes, we have to go above and beyond what we have in common. That can be where it begins, but it’s a very good idea to know some basic apologetics along with answers to some of the main objections and arguments against Christianity today. In other words, know why you believe what you believe, and get ready to make a defense “for the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15). Get to know the main worldviews that you will encounter, and why Christianity is the best answer to life’s tough questions.
While I was in college, I had to be able to engage students and professors on an intellectual level, and share my faith with them in a way that removed as many barriers as possible to belief. I also had to show that I was willing to look at their side of the equation and consider their point of view. It’s the same strategy we see Paul use during his ministry (Acts 17:16-34) and is still being used today. We must make a study of the people we want to reach and engage them through the culture.
Of course, there are many more obstacles that believers will face when it comes to evangelism. Ephesians 6:12 says, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”
There will always be opposition to the gospel being preached. But thank God for this, “So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy” (Romans 9:16). God has graciously involved us in his plan for humanity’s salvation, but it is not dependent on how well we perform. It is dependent on God’s sovereign choice alone, and nothing can stand in his way.
Not even our first clumsy, awkward attempts to tell people about Jesus. People are still being saved when ordinary people (that’s the majority of us) obey. How amazing is that?