What's the biggest roadblock in evangelism?
Our church recently finished our first retreat in almost 3 years and it was a wonderful weekend. And one of the highlights of the retreat was the challenge and teaching on evangelism. I know that I was certainly convicted and challenged to share the gospel more. And just to be clear, a biblical assumption that I will have throughout writing this is that all Christians should spread the gospel. For this, I am focusing more on why Christians, probably you, and definitely me, often find it difficult.
As I’ve talked with other Christians, it seems that most of us have a hard time sharing the
gospel and our faith. This reality should and often does lead us to ask why? Just take a minute and think about it, what is the biggest roadblock for Christians in sharing the gospel? I’m going to guess that you likely answered that the biggest roadblock in evangelism is fear. And this is in some ways right. But here’s the scenario that often gives me tension with that answer. Often when I’ve spoken with believers and fear comes up as our big problem, the solution offered typically sounds like this,
“If Jesus is with you (which he is based on Matthew 28:20), then you have no reason to be afraid. You need to just do it and stop being afraid.”
Now, the fact that Jesus is with us and that this helps us with fear is absolutely true. And saying that many of us probably just need to go and get the raw experience of sharing the gospel is likely accurate. But at the end of the day, even with us knowing that and doing that, are we not far too often still afraid?
And yes, part of this does come down to a lack of faith. But what if there is also another heart issue that we often don’t address and therefore remain in fear?
Let’s take a closer look at why we actually fear. Michael Reeves writes,
We fear when we face the prospect of either losing something we love or experiencing
something bad. We even fear when we face the prospect of gaining something
wonderful, when that thing seems to impossibly wonderful to us. Drilling to the bottom
of the matter, the Dutch theologian Wilhelmus a Brakel explained that ‘fear issues forth
from love.’ That is, we fear because we love: we love ourselves and so fear bad things
happening to us; we love our families, our friends, our things and so fear losing them.
So, the reason we are afraid is because we actually love. If we love our status, being liked by our friends, and comfort so much to never want to feel tension, it naturally makes sense then that we would be afraid of losing these things by sharing the gospel.
1 Michael Reeves, Rejoice & Tremble, pg. 27.
2 Proclaiming the good news of Jesus will cause division as Jesus himself says that he will cause division in Luke
But if we really believe that the gospel is good news and that people need to hear it in order to be saved, then telling them about the gospel is more loving than saying nothing. And if we really do love and trust God, then we should joyfully strive to follow his commands. This leads me to a hard question. What do we really love most? Ourselves, our comfort, and our relationships? Or do we love God and other people?
To put it another way, what if our biggest roadblock in evangelism, fear, is really at its core, a lack of love for God and others? We fear evangelism because our hearts love the wrong things. And if this is a proper diagnosis of the problem, then it tells us a lot about the solution of overcoming our fear. We need a greater love for Jesus.
An example of this in the bible is in John chapter 4:1-45 with the woman at the well. If you haven’t read it recently, go read it right now.
We can see that this woman had a lot of relationship issues. A couple of clues to this that John intentionally includes are the time of day she went to draw water and the fact that she was alone. Typically, women would go draw water together at another time in the day. 3 On top of that, she’s also had five husbands and is currently living with a man who is not her husband. It doesn’t take much to see that her relationships with men and women were not what they should be. Her life and her relationships were messy to say the least. But then she encounters Jesus. And what she does after talking with him is she “left her water jar and went away into town and said to the people, ‘come sees a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?’”
Given her status and relationships, I’m sure she could’ve come up with a lot of reasons as to why she shouldn’t go tell people about Jesus. But that didn’t stop her. She actually leaves her water jar behind, the whole reason she was out in the first place! And she goes to tell people. I can’t help but imagine her excitement, her joy, and her wonder as she went and told people about a man who knew all that she had done and yet, still loved her.
Likewise, if I have a similar love and joy for what Jesus has done for me, should that not propel me to tell others?
I naturally do this in other areas of life. I am a huge fan of Real Madrid (Spanish soccer team). And I have enough passion for my team that I’ll go up to just about anyone (even a rival Barcelona fan) and tell them why my team is the best team in the world. In those moments I don’t tend to think or fear all the relationship tensions that may occur.
3 D. A. Carson, The Gospel According to John, pg. 217.
4 John 4:28-29
If I’m going to overcome my fear of sharing the gospel, I need to grow in my love and joy of Christ. And how we do that is by looking at his love for us. That is the message of 1 John 4:7-21, that we love because he first loved us. His love fuels our love. And we can see his love for us is by spending time with him in his word and in prayer.
And also, know your past and present testimony. Take time to reflect on how God has changed your life and how God is changing your life. If I take the time to recognize how God is working in my life it will help me appreciate Him and love him more. Just like how when we consider all of the things our spouse does for us, that produces thankfulness and affection. And if you know your testimony, if you know how God has and is working, then you can tell people about it! Sharing our faith doesn’t always need to be difficult, sometimes we just need to be real and give God the glory he deserves for how he is working. Really at the end of the day we must be devoted to Jesus. If we’re not, we will struggle with evangelism.
To overcome our fear let us love and enjoy Jesus while having the assurance that he is always with us to the end of the age.