It’s nearly impossible to consider oneself a Christian and not take the responsibility to share the gospel with others seriously. Still, it is easy to become completely overwhelmed by the thought of of personal evangelism. “What if I mess it up? What if I say something wrong? What if I do more damage than good?”
Take heart. Sharing your faith isn’t as fraught with dangers as you might think, and it doesn’t have to be a cause for anxiety. You can learn to evangelize fearlessly.
1. Don’t try to win an argument.
Peter clearly lays out the best way to share your faith, and that’s to “be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give a reason for the hope you have. But do this with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15).
When you think about it, this is brilliant advice. You have a hope. All you need to do is communicate where your hope lies and why. It shouldn’t have to deteriorate into an argument. If they don’t understand, don’t take it personally. A lot of these discussions devolve out of defensiveness. The poise and respect you show in this discussion will either give credence to your faith or diminish it.
This doesn’t mean that you can’t respectfully disagree and discuss various perspectives. But the minute you feel like it’s slipping into a zero-sum argument, it’s time to disengage. If you properly maintain the relationship, you’ll have more opportunities for discussion.
2. Be wise about how you incorporate Scripture.
There was a time when the Bible was revered in the culture. Whether people followed Christ or not, they were generally familiar with Scripture and held it in some regard. That’s not necessarily the case any longer (especially if you’re sharing the gospel with someone from a less Christianity-dominated culture).
It’s important that you don’t assume everyone shares your view of Scripture’s authority. If your answer to every question is “well, the Bible says,” you risk losing someone’s interest who doesn’t attach any validity to what the Bible says.
That’s not to say that your discussion can’t lay out some reasons why you trust Scripture’s authority. But it may take some time to learn how the Bible came to us and some of the interesting ways that the Bible validates itself.
Scripture is God-breathed and useful in evangelism-but remember that not everyone you evangelize to understands this.
3. Don’t start with a good people/bad people perspective.
When you start with a point of view that “good” people are Christians and “bad” people aren’t, it taints the conversation. The message of the gospel is that “God so loved the world that He sent His one and only Son” (John 3:16), and that’s the best way to share the gospel.
If the individuals you talk to discern that you believe the world is a terrible place full of awful people who could only become valuable if they chose to follow Jesus, they’re going to assume that’s your opinion of them as well. This immediately puts them on the defensive and can derail the entire discussion.
4. Be careful how you treat people’s traditions.
It’s a good rule of thumb to present a positive case for your faith instead of focusing on what’s wrong with someone else’s beliefs, traditions, or perspectives.
Maybe you’ve spent a lot of time learning about the differences between your faith and someone else’s. That’s great! You can use that understanding to communicate the strengths of your position without to needing to attack someone else’s experience.
Paul’s experience in Athens is a good example (Acts 17:16-34). He actually compliments their devotion before he goes into a discussion of what God had done for them in Jesus.
5. Pray for opportunities.
Nothing is more awkward than a clumsy transition from a “normal” conversation into spiritual one. When done poorly or forced, it makes your friends feel like a project and that your faith is the pretense for the entire relationship.
The most important thing you can do is pray for opportunities to share your faith, and the wisdom to recognize them when they appear. Trust that God is more interested in their salvation than you are, and he’ll take your requests for opportunities seriously.
Sharing your faith is about practice.
There’s really no way around it. The first couple of times you step out and share your faith, it’s going to feel really unnatural. You’re going to feel anxious and worried about whether you’re overdoing it or not giving it enough emphasis-and good heavens, how will you handle it if they want to become a Christian?!
The only way to overcome these little fears is to move forward anyway. You’ll find a way of communicating that is comfortable to you, and you’ll learn that navigating all of the “what ifs” isn’t as scary as you imagined.
So pray for those opportunities to share the reason for the hope you have!