In evangelism, God has given us the message we need to share with unbelievers. The whole Bible tells the story of creation, mankind’s fall into sin, and the provision of a Savior through Jesus Christ. But the Scriptures do not only give the words necessary for unbelievers to know the content of the gospel. The Bible also gives the words necessary to encourage Christians to evangelize, especially when it comes to overcoming fears.
Here then are three common fears and how the Bible encourages us to overcome them.
I do not know what to say. I am not prepared to do evangelism. In response to the fear of not knowing what to say, the Bible tell us to get prepared! 1 Peter 3:15 says, “But sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence.” If you are not sure how to share your faith, you can get training by more experienced people. Ask your pastor, elders, or more mature believers in your congregation for help.
However, do not make evangelism overcomplicated. The Scriptures give us wonderful, crystallized summaries of the gospel that you should be able to state and explain. When I was a new Christian in college, I was excited to share my new faith in Christ with others. So I memorized some gospel summary verses, along with short explanations of them, such as the following:
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16).
For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6:23).
For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures (1 Corinthians 15:3-4).
I feel alone, unconvincing, and powerless when I think of evangelizing.This fear is healthy to have, for it is reminding you that you must rely on the Holy Spirit in evangelism. The Great Commission to disciple the nations ends with this promise: “Behold, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Through His Spirit, Jesus is with you wherever you go. You should pray then for His presence to be made further known to you and His boldness to be given to you. The early church, when threatened in their evangelistic efforts, prayed and were filled with boldness (Acts 4:31).
In evangelism, you should also rely on other believers in seeking the Spirit of God. Ask them to pray for you if you are entering a diffcult evangelistic situation where you have to go alone. However, most of the time, you should go with others or take other believers with you when possible. I do not know why they called him the Lone Ranger – he had Tonto with him all the time. In the same way, the Biblical pattern of evangelism does not encourage a “Lone Ranger” approach, but spreading the gospel in pairs or groups of believers.
Then, having shared Christ with others, you must also rely on the Spirit further still to produce the desired results. Being Reformed means that we know that men and women are dead in their sins and that they cannot be converted through human strength. We have come to believe the truth of Titus 3:5 for ourselves. “He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit.” Consequently, we have to believe it for others as well and trust the Holy Spirit to convert.
I might get mocked, upset people, or create conflict. Yes, you may. Rejection, ridicule, and anger come with the territory in evangelism. Yet we know we are told not to fear even the most violent of reactions against the gospel. Matthew 10:28 says, “Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.”
Jesus here tells you how you overcome fear. It is with fear! You fight the fear of man with the fear of the Lord. Paul said it this way in 2 Corinthians 5:11, “Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others.” Knowing the fear of the Lord is regarding His glory so greatly, and being convinced so fully that He is worthy of all others honoring Him, that I can do no other than tell them about Him.
Whatever your heart is filled with, what you are excited and enthused over, what you have an abundance of, what you spend time valuing, that is what will spill over into others’ lives. For example, this past weekend I tracked a deer through the woods for over two hours with a friend of mine that he had shot but not brought down. (Unfortunately, we ultimately lost the trail and the deer escaped.) I find myself telling everyone I meet about it. The excitement and fun I had caused me to want to share that story with many others.
You do this all the time as well, be it with sports, hobbies, a video on social media, a song you love, things you find on sale, etc. You gladly tell others about the good deal you secured or a remarkable play by someone on the winning team. Rarely in those moments do we worry about others’ reactions. Living in western Pennsylvania, it is difficult to imagine a Pittsburgh Steeler’s fan caring very much when he celebrates a victory if a Cleveland Brown’s fan gets upset. Similarly, when you are excited about Jesus and His victory over sin and death, you will tell others and not fear their reaction.
So here’s the question for you. What fear is keeping you from telling others about Jesus? If you prepare what to say, seek and rely upon the Spirit’s presence and power, and fill your heart with the Lord, you will find you cannot but tell others about Him. For remember that evangelism is telling others the good news!
Barry York, Seminary President