I was curious about online interest in evangelism. Thankfully, Google Trends tracks and visualizes trends in concepts people are searching for over the course of time. So I logged in, changed the region to the United States, plugged in the word "evangelism," and hit Enter.
The information I got back looked surprisingly good. A score of 100 represents peak interest for that time, and there were many moments when interest was at its peak. In early 2017, the number dipped below 50, which indicates half the interest in the topic when compared to the peak. So for the most part, interest in evangelism seemed pretty steady—but then I noticed this was just for the last 12 months.
When I changed my search criteria to 2004 to the present, another story began to emerge.
Interest in evangelism has been steadily dropping since Google started recording trends. In September 2017, online interest in the topic of evangelism was a quarter of what it was in 2004. Does this diminishment in internet searches for "evangelism" correspond to the gospel getting shared less? Pastor and researcher Ed Stetzer would say yes.
In a 2014 Christianity Today article on the state of evangelism, he said:
"We found that 85% of all believers ages 18-29 agree that they have a responsibility to share the gospel with unbelievers, and that 69% of those same people feel comfortable sharing their faith. However, only 25% of them look for ways to share the gospel and only 27% of them intentionally build friendships with unbelievers in order to do so."
Ultimately, Stetzer found that while most Christians would affirm the importance of sharing the gospel, very few are actually doing so.
Why aren't people sharing their faith?
As Stetzer points out, most Christians agree that they should share their faith. They just don't because they’re nervous or scared that they’re going to mess up.
Here are some of the top reasons people give for not sharing the gospel and some reasons why you shouldn't let those objections stop you:
1. "I'm afraid they'll ask questions I can't answer"
Reading up on apologetics can prepare you to answer some questions, but it isn't going to cover all of them. Eventually you're going to run into someone with a question you don’t know how to answer. And guess what. That's OK!
The Bible tells us to "always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have" (1 Peter 3:15, New International Version). That doesn't mean that you have to have an answer for every objection or hypothetical question. You don't need to know if God can microwave a burrito so hot that he can't eat it. It simply means that you can clearly communicate why you believe Jesus is who He says He is.
And if they have questions that you can answer off the top of your head, that's great! "I don't know" is often a really good answer that lets them know that you're not willing to make stuff up in order to convince them. It also gives you a reason and opportunity to follow up with them again.
2. "I struggle with my own faith"
People aren't attracted to the gospel when it's presented by perfect, flawless people. They're actually drawn to people they feel they can identify with. Don't get caught up on whether your faith is strong enough to share—just step out in the faith that you have.
As we exercise our faith (however small), God is able to do amazing things. And that's what helps to build our faith. So by not sharing your faith because you fear it's not strong enough, you're missing out on an opportunity to see it grow.
3. "I never learned how"
Sharing the gospel is such an important part of faithful Christian living that churches should take a more active role in equipping their congregation to do it. Classes should:
- Reinforce the importance of sharing our faith
- Give responses for commonly asked questions or objections
- Provide opportunities to roleplay sharing faith
- Offer real-life evangelism experience
But if a church doesn't offer classes, studies, or groups for sharing your faith, it doesn't release you from the responsibility for equipping yourself. There’s never been a better time to find resources to help share your faith. There are so many curriculums, books, conferences and videos to help you get started. Check out our own strategies and tools page!
Who knows? You might be the person that helps your church get serious about evangelism training.
4. "I don’t know how to start a conversation"
Knowing how to get a conversation going can be one of the most difficult parts about sharing the gospel. It never feels natural to start a conversation about your faith out of the blue, but transitioning a conversation towards faith can feel awkward and forced, too.
It's really about paying attention to opportunities, and then taking advantage of them when they appear. Too often we drop unsubtle hints hoping that the other person will pick up on them, but they'll usually sidestep those discussions if you give them the chance. The key is to confidently steer the conversation in that direction when the time's right. You’re going to make mistakes; but the more you do it, the easier it gets.
Partnering with God by sharing our faith
"For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him" (John 3:17, NIV).
God left the church with the responsibility and privilege of sharing the message of hope and salvation with the world. If someone were to ask you about Jesus, would you be able to clearly share the gospel message with him? If not, it's time to ask a pastor or friend in the faith to help you understand and articulate your faith.
If you answered yes, then it's time to take the next step and start being the one to initiate those conversations. When you get past the fear and excuses, you’ll be surprised at how fun it is to share your faith.