Help! I’m terrified of evangelism!

Help! I’m terrified of evangelism!

Many Christians are terrified of evangelism. It is the kind of thing we know we should be doing but we don’t get around to, like flossing or exercise. It is easy to come up with all kinds of excuses not to tell other people about Jesus. Maybe they will reject me or be mean to me. Maybe I don’t know enough to answer their questions. Maybe I am a bad example of what a Christian should be. Maybe I am simply not gifted in this area and should leave it to the people who are. It is easier to just try to be a nice person and hope someone comes up and asks us how they can be saved.

Let’s be honest with ourselves. If something is truly important to us, we will find a way to do it. We find time to speak to those we love. We find time to work and do hobbies. Interestingly, one reason the church in places like China is growing, despite laws against evangelism, is that Christians won’t stop talking about Jesus despite the cost. Those of us who live in the free West can speak to anyone about anything, yet so often we don’t make good use of that freedom.

We are surrounded by evangelists for other things all the time. Vegan activists preach at us about their message, trying to change our behaviours. That friend we have that loves a particular football team won’t stop talking about them, even though we don’t care for football. And, of course, that work colleague who loves all Apple products is always telling us how good they are and how they make their life easier. These people feel no shame in talking about their passions; Christians should naturally be happy to speak about Jesus.

How might we start actually talking to people about Jesus, rather than simply thinking it is a good idea that someone should do? Here are a few suggestions: 

  1. We need to be convinced that evangelism matters. Using the compelling logic of Romans 10, how can people believe in something they have never heard? If people are saved by trusting in Jesus, they need to know about Him. And that will happen by someone telling them. It is not an optional extra, like trying to sell someone a product they don’t really need.
  1. Understand that you don’t need to know everything. The best evangelists are passionate new Christians who don’t know all that much. The Samaritan woman’s testimony to her village was “come see a man who told me all that I ever did. Could this be the Christ?” (John 4:29). The gospel message isn’t overly complicated at its core. Just getting people thinking about Jesus is great!
  1. Evangelism is not only for pastors or gifted evangelists. The Bible tells us of people like Phillip who clearly had great gifts in this area, but also about people who preached the word as they scattered through the world (Acts 8:4). The truth is that your pastor probably won’t have the chance to speak to your friends and family members and might not be listened to if they did. These people know you and trust you and are far more likely to listen to things that matter to you.
  1. The result is not up to you. That’s really freeing in the end. God controls the response to the gospel, but He wants us to be involved in delivering the message. That’s no excuse to be sloppy or uncaring about how we speak! It does mean that we do what we can, knowing God loves to bless such work.
  1. The worst result is not as bad as you think. In my mind, I always thought that people would get angry with me if I tried to speak to them about Jesus. They would reject me and shame me. The reality has not been like that. Sure, there are many polite “no thank yous” and some less-than-subtle changes of subject. But there have been people genuinely interested, people with questions, and some really useful conversations in unusual places like airplanes and golf courses. Our minds do tend to make us think the result will be worse than it really will be.

Don’t overthink evangelism. You don’t need to come to every interaction with a non-Christian with a checklist of items to include in the conversation. But don’t censor yourself. Talk about the church service you attended on the weekend. Pray for help from God for courage and clarity. Mention something you have been thinking about from Bible study. Thank God for the weather. Let your faith be seen by others, and you will find opportunities to talk about the One who matters most.