When Christians think about sharing their faith, they tend to focus on the words they'll say. They want to be prepared to communicate the gospel accurately, and they want to respond to questions and objections thoughtfully.
But many Christians quickly discover that knowing what to share doesn't prepare you to know when to share.
In our multigenerational survey on evangelism, we asked more than 1,600 Christians about sharing their faith. When it came to things that prevented Christians from telling others about Jesus, 17 percent of respondents said they didn't have opportunities.
You make opportunities; you don't find them
Most Christian testimonies focus on that one conversation or event when the light came on, and God's forgiving presence became a reality. But what often gets missed is the myriad of other discussions and influences that led up to the moment. This can give us a false sense of what witnessing looks like.
A lot of people are waiting for ideal circumstances where everything is perfect. There are no distractions. The recipient is excited about what you have to tell them. And they receive it with enthusiastic joy. And while those moments do happen, they're few and far between. Most of the time, we have to press through some awkwardness or resistance.
Typically, Christians have to learn how to talk about Jesus. They become good listeners. They develop an ability to test the waters. They acquire the necessary skills to guide a conversation in a way that doesn't feel contrived or forced. Ultimately, they learn to create opportunities.
There's only one way to learn
You can read all the French culinary textbooks and cookbooks you want. But if you don't spend time in the kitchen, you'll never be a chef. You have to burn a few bisques. You have to figure out why your soufflé won’t rise. You don't learn to cook by merely acquiring information. You learn by trying.
Like cooking, sharing your faith is a skill that you learn through trial and error. If you're not willing to do it poorly, you'll never get good at it. This means being willing to put your foot in your mouth or field questions you don’t know how to answer. It could even mean having someone make you look foolish.
But when you begin stepping out of your comfort zone, you'll get better at creating opportunities to share your faith—and at negotiating high stakes conversations.
God's at work—even if you don’t see it
Most salespeople will tell you that for every sale they make, they have multiple conversations. They have to deal with a lot of rejection. And while evangelism isn't the same as sales, in this way, they're similar. Not every conversation is going to convince someone to follow Jesus. In fact, convincing someone to follow Jesus isn't even why we share our faith.
God graciously allows us to partner with Him in growing the kingdom of God. As we share the reasons for the hope we have (1 Peter 3:15), God uses those testimonies to mold and influence people's hearts.
Jesus tells us, "No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day" (John 6:44). It's God who is doing the work of changing hearts. This should encourage us for two reasons:
- It takes the pressure off of us to have the perfect presentation or arguments. We simply need to be available to share our hearts and experiences.
- It means that no matter how the discussion goes, God uses it in a cumulative attempt to woo this individual to Himself. So even if the person doesn't immediately respond, God is still using your conversation (along with run-ins with other Christians) to draw them closer.
Every conversation is an opportunity
The minute we recognize that we’re God's partners, we're free from a lot of the stress we associate with sharing our faith. We don't have to figure out if we can shoehorn a 25-minute gospel presentation into a particular conversation. Instead, we look for opportunities to tell them about the hope we have (1 Peter 3:15).
We can learn to listen to the stories of others and share our own experiences. As we do, we discover how to determine the receptivity and openness of our audience. One tentative step leads to another, and before we know it, we're sharing how Jesus's crucifixion and resurrection paved the way for reconciliation with our Father.
But this only happens when we realize that every conversation is a potential opportunity to share God's goodness and love. It might not be the right moment to walk someone through the Four Spiritual Laws, but as we begin talking openly about our faith, we learn to recognize occasions to take the conversation to the next level.
If you're looking to learn more about personal evangelism, check out our free resource We Are All Missionaries. This curriculum is perfect for small groups, youth groups, Bible studies, or even self-study and will help you understand your part in fulfilling the Great Commission.