Most believers desire to share their faith with others. But one common obstacle to personal evangelism is the time it takes for God to move an unbeliever to saving faith. I really struggled with this when I was younger. I would become frustrated if people didn’t automatically receive Christ the first time they heard the gospel.
Through the years, I have grown to understand that God will “cause the growth” (1 Cor. 3:7). My part is to faithfully sow His Word and look for those who are ripe for harvest. Sharing the good news with complete strangers is a wonderful experience. But conversion on the spot is often the exception, not the rule. And even in these rare cases, someone else probably planted the seed.
Evangelism is a process. So you may be doing a better job sharing your faith than you realize. God works through your personality and faithfulness to draw others into His kingdom. This may come in the form of helping your neighbor with yard work or taking food to friends after their child’s birth.
Seeing evangelism as a process relieves some of the pressure. Don’t feel guilty if you do not witness verbally to everyone. But at the same time, you’re responsible for building meaningful bridges to the lost. When opportunities arise, be willing to share with others how Christ has worked in your life and what He’s willing to do in theirs.
It's not unusual to have some bad experiences with personal evangelism. Unbelievers sometimes feel offended or threatened. Others may accuse you of excessive piety. Or you may lead someone in a prayer for salvation and see no change in that person’s life.
Jesus said, “Whenever a woman is in labor she has pain, because her hour has come; but when she gives birth to the child, she no longer remembers the anguish because of the joy that a child has been born into the world” (John 16:21). In other words, the reward of having a new baby is worth the pain. The same is true of evangelism. Like physical birth, spiritual birth is not without its risks. Participating in a person’s conversion is no easy undertaking. Some pain and disappointment might be involved. But the struggles and frustration are quickly forgotten when we see those we love born into God’s family. There is a joy that can’t be explained.
So don’t give up on evangelism. The Father is the one responsible to change lives. But He gives us the privilege of participating in the process.
Here’s an example that illustrates how evangelism can work. A believer named Brian took a job at a large corporation. From the beginning, his goal was to reach his work associates for Christ. Brian wanted to move slowly and wisely, so he began praying for each of them by name. He asked God to give him an opportunity to know every person and a chance to share the gospel.
One afternoon, Phil—who worked next to Brian—mentioned the desire to get to know his neighbors better without becoming a nuisance. Brian explained that the Bible talked about irritating those who live near us if we spend too much time with them. His coworker was amazed. Brian went on to show him Proverbs 25:17 and other relevant passages. At that point, Phil was open to receiving some recorded sermons on the family.
Phil listened to the messages and was hungry for more. This was the first time he had ever seen any connection between the Bible and real life. Over a period of six months, Phil’s appetite for spiritual things increased. His family joined Brian’s for several non-threatening church-sponsored events. He began to realize that “becoming a Christian” meant having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Just six months after that conversation about neighbors, Phil trusted Christ as his Savior.
If you, too, would like the thrilling experience of seeing others become part of God’s family, begin by making a list of unbelieving family and friends. As you pray for them, God will give you a heartfelt burden for their salvation. This concern will likely make you more motivated to live a godly life and alert to opportunities for sharing the gospel.
Will you always get instant results? No. A person’s conversion can take six minutes, six months, six years, or six decades. We never know how long the process will take, but it’s worth the wait.
Adapted from “Charles Stanley’s Handbook for Christian Living,” 1996.