There are clear instructions from Jesus in the Gospels to spread the good news. Jesus gave his church a mandate to go and make disciples:
“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you, always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20)
In evangelism, as in everything else we do, we won’t get anywhere - except stuck - if it’s fear that determines our actions.
But why me?
“Christians are like Arctic rivers; frozen from the mouth!” (Wilson Carlile, founder of the Church Army)
Despite all the reasons to share your faith, it is very much easier to understand why people don’t evangelise, rather than why they do. There are all sorts of reasons, usually based on fear; as a result, as someone once said:
“Christianity is one of the best kept secrets in the church.”
Instead, we need to own up to these fears, and confess them. Let us be honest with ourselves and God, and make sure we are getting all the acceptance we need from him.
Does the word “evangelism” strike you with fear and alarm? Do you break out in a sweat? Do you feel a cold draught at the thought of sharing your Christian faith with other people?
Fear is nothing new. It is several thousand years since the following proverb was written: “Fear of other people will prove to be a snare” (Proverbs 29:25). Even then, it was recognized that our biggest fear – of other people – is the one which, more than anything else, causes the feeling of being trapped and stuck, unable to get out.
Nor is it enough glibly to quote that “perfect love casts out fear”. That’s far easier said than done. There have been times when I have felt confused and frustrated at this and many other Bible verses to “fear not”. It would be more true to say that “fear casts out our perfect love”.
Let us take a look at some of these fears. For example, “I don’t know what to say”; “I may not be able to answer their questions”; “I’m afraid I might do more harm than good”.
In fact, the beginning of finding a solution to fear comes with some of the most simple assurances to be found in the Bible. As the apostle Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 2:1:
“As for me, when I came to you it was not with any show of oratory or philosophy, but simply to tell you what God has guaranteed”.
When we study the ministry of Jesus we find that he taught profound truths in very simple ways. Why do so many people think we should do the exact opposite – teach simple truths in profound ways. Jesus said, “Unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3).
My children are always asking questions. But to be scared of them is hardly the answer. If they ask me questions I haven’t got a clue about, I tell them I’ll either think about the question or ask a friend. (It’s amazing how they remind me for the answer. “Dad, you said you’d find out what God does all day – what does he do?” “Dad, can Jesus come for lunch?”)
How to combat fear
The fears of inadequacy, of losing our reputation and of rejection are very real fears. But we must not let them immobilize us. Romans 8:1 says:
“There is now no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus”.
Instead, we need to own up to these fears, and confess them. Let us be honest with ourselves and God, and make sure we are getting all the acceptance we need from him. What we need is to learn how to manage our fears, and subdue them. Then, like the disciples in Acts 4:29-31, we should learn to pray for boldness:
“Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. Stretch out your hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” “After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the Word of God boldly”. (Acts 4:29-31).
Verification – a valuable tool
Is what you fear true? Honestly? You can find out. Later in this article, the first exercise will provide you with an extremely useful process. Its message is based on the unwelcome fact that we often tell ourselves that our fears are true. However, if we verify them, we discover that many things we are afraid of are just plain lies! The truth is often something different altogether.
Indeed, this process of verification may well be one of the most important exercise you will come across in the entire article. Learn to use it frequently. It is the starting block for all the other exercises and it will help you whenever you have a fear about anything. In evangelism, as in everything else we do, we won’t get anywhere – except stuck – if it’s fear that determines our actions.
What are your fears as you consider speaking to your friends? Imagine that I have just asked you to go to your neighbour with the express intention of telling them about Jesus. Use your notebook to put down all your thoughts.
- First, write down the demand: Go to my neighbour and tell them about Jesus.
- Second, listen for the fear. Write down: My mind tells me … and shut your eyes briefly, listening to everything you can hear your mind saying.
- Thirdly, name those fears. Write them down – go on, every one, however silly they may look on paper.
- Verify them, as follows: when you have finished your list of statements, write down against each one T (true), F (false) or D/K (don’t know).
Remember that any statement you hold to be true about the future is actually a “don’t know” – no one knows what will happen in the future until he or she tries it out. (When you don’t know, it’s not a truth, it’s just a don’t know. In fact, as a truth, it’s false).