Do you share your faith effectively and frequently? Think about that question for a minute. Does it prompt you to feel guilty, inadequate, or anxious? Many believers feel like failures when it comes to witnessing, despite all the emphasis the evangelical church places on this important subject.
Sometimes, we aren’t ready to share because we feel unequipped. The apostle Peter wrote that Christians should always be “ready to make a defense to everyone who asks [them] to give an account for the hope that is in [them]” (1 Peter 3:15). The more prepared we are to present the evidence of God’s truth, the better God is able to change lives. If you feel unprepared to share what you believe, consider joining a class or reading a book on personal evangelism. Talking about faith is something anyone can learn to do.
Another obstacle to personal evangelism is the time it takes for God to move an unbeliever to saving faith. When I was younger, I wanted to plant the seed of belief, water, fertilize, cultivate, and harvest it all at once! I became frustrated when people didn’t receive Christ the first time they heard the gospel.
Now I understand that it’s “God who causes the growth” (1 Cor. 3:6). My part is to faithfully sow His Word and look for those who are ripe for harvest. In our day of instant results, it’s hard for us to be patient and trust the Lord to work in people’s hearts.
Remember, evangelism is a process. You may be doing a better job than you think. God works through your personality and faithfulness to His principles to draw someone into His Kingdom. It may be in the form of helping a neighbor with yard work, or taking food to a friend after the birth of a child.
Your efforts to reach your neighbors and friends will be fruitless, however, unless you have surrendered to the lordship of Christ. When Jesus is set apart as Lord, He will make your life so appealing to unbelievers that they will ask about the peace and contentment they observe (1 Peter 3:15).
Since evangelism is a process, we shouldn’t feel guilty if we don’t verbally witness to everyone we meet. But at the same time, we are responsible for building bridges to faith for the lost. When the time comes, we are to share verbally what Christ has done in our lives and what He is willing to do in theirs.
The attitude with which we communicate is as important as the words we say. The apostle Peter encouraged the early church to communicate the good news of Jesus Christ with “gentleness and respect”—in other words, with a sensitive and tactful spirit (1 Peter 3:15). The cross is offensive enough without a self-righteous attitude or condemning spirit getting in the way (Gal. 5:11).
As you explain God’s wonderful gift, remember that the process of evangelism may last months or years. The wonderful experience of sharing the message of Jesus with complete strangers and seeing them convert is the exception, not the rule. And even in these rare cases, someone else probably planted the seed.
Because most people don’t come to faith the first time they hear the gospel, you should be prepared for some to reject the message. It’s not unusual to have bad experiences with personal evangelism. Unfortunately, some encounters can be so traumatic and discouraging that you feel like giving up. People are easily offended, or they may feel threatened. Unbelievers may accuse you of being intolerant or “holier than thou.” Or, you may lead someone in a prayer for salvation and then see no real change in his or her life.
There is a price to be paid for being a part of another’s salvation. Some pain and frustration will be involved. But the struggle and disappointments are quickly forgotten when we see those we love birthed into God’s family. There is a joy that can’t be explained.
So, don’t give up on evangelism—that would mean giving up on God. After all, He is the One responsible to save and change lives. He simply wants us to be a part of the process.
Adapted from “Charles Stanley’s Handbook for Christian Living.” 1996.