When it comes to sharing their faith, many Christians find themselves in a quandary. They know they should tell others about Jesus, but they're afraid to do so. We recently conducted a multigenerational survey on evangelism. When we asked the 1,600+ respondents why they didn't share their faith, fear was the number one response.
Some people were afraid of rejection. Others felt unprepared. Although we received a number of interesting responses, most fell under the umbrella of fear. Many of the anxieties people feel about evangelism are completely legitimate. We shouldn't expect to eliminate our fears completely, but we can learn how to overcome our anxiety.
Here are four ways we can feel our fear and share Jesus anyway:
1. Realize the outcome is not your responsibility
But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3:15).
Christians should be prepared to share why their hope is in Jesus. But that doesn't mean that it's their job to convert the other person. They can't. That’s God's responsibility. Jesus tells us, "No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them" (John 6:44a).
It takes a lot of pressure off of us to realize that God isn't asking us to argue people into the kingdom. All He asks is that we be faithful in discussing what God has done for us. When we leave the results up to the Lord, it relieves us of a lot of the performance anxiety.
2. Familiarize yourself with Scripture
And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:18).
When we think about the Bible's relationship with evangelism, we tend to focus on the verses we need to brush up on if we want to communicate the gospel and provide good arguments. But thinking about it this way increases our performance anxiety. What if we don't get it right? What if we forget that key verse?
The goal of reading Scripture isn't to provide us with ammunition to use in discussions about Jesus. As we familiarize ourselves with Scripture, we are changed. We're learning to love and trust Jesus more. And we're filled with a desire to share the life we've discovered. And you never know—sometimes we discover a passage we were recently reading dovetails perfectly into a discussion.
3. Learn to listen
My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry (James 1:19).
We tend to think of evangelism as something we do with our mouths, but it's something we do with our ears and hearts. When you read through the gospels attuned to how Jesus speaks to people, you quickly discover that He doesn't have many canned speeches prepared. He listens and responds to people's questions and concerns.
One of the reasons that spiritual disciplines are so essential is that they help us stay connected to Jesus and attuned to the Spirit. By truly learning to listen to God and others, we demonstrate compassion. And we can address the most significant issues in people's lives and respond to their deepest needs.
Bestselling Christian author Philip Yancey once said, "No one ever converted to Christianity because they lost the argument." We have to keep this in mind. When it comes to sharing your faith, listening is as essential as speaking.
4. Recognize that the gospel can be divisive
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God's one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed (John 3:16–20).
John tells us that God doesn't want to condemn the world. His desire to be reconciled with humanity led Him to make the ultimate sacrifice. But this love is met with resistance from people who love their way of living and don't want their deeds exposed.
Jesus didn't mince words. The world hated Him, and it would hate his followers, too (John 15:18–27). The opposition Jesus experienced wasn't because He was rude or cruel to others. It was because people had a negative response to the light. And because His followers would be full of that light, they would experience antagonism, too.
Once we accept the fact that darkness is resistant to light, we can stop worrying about it. We don't have to take it personally when people have an adverse reaction. A lot of fear about sharing the gospel comes from our desire to control the outcome. But when we realize their response isn't our responsibility and it's up to God to draw them, we don't have to worry about managing the situation. We're free to simply be salt and light.
Sharing your faith doesn't have to be difficult
Too often, we overthink sharing our faith, and that's what gets us into trouble. We make it into a homework assignment. It should be an outpouring of joy and gratefulness we have as kingdom people. When we recognize that evangelism is more of an invitation than an argument, we're more likely to do it in a way that makes everyone more comfortable.
If you're interested in learning more about sharing your faith, check out We Are All Missionaries. This free curriculum is perfect for small groups and Bible studies interested in talking about the Great Commission. Download it today!