I am not a hunter. But I have been told that when hunting deer one needs to be very quiet, careful about body odor, and have maximum coverage. Strange. For, I can barrel down the interstate at 70 MPH at night and nearly run over a buck that wants to stand in the road and stare into my headlights. For some reason, paralysis comes to this hyper-cautious beast when placed in this situation.
This reality in nature reminds me of how often we can know what Jesus has called us to do, but freeze when it comes to the thought of sharing our faith. We’re okay in a classroom discussing personal evangelism, but put us in the headlights of the unbeliever and we get silence and fear.
In this post, I want to mention three fears that often paralyze us and keep us from personal evangelism. With each, I will offer counsel to assist in witnessing.
1. The Fear of Being the Master of Ignorance
What if someone asks a question I cannot answer?
Uhhh . . . Well. . . . You know. . .
We do not like this experience. We think we will make Jesus look bad because we do not know the answer to the question related to the polytheistic practices of the Hittites, or the age of the earth, or whether Jesus descend into hell. We feel that if we reveal ignorance, then God will lose face.
God is omniscient; we are not. Share what you have experienced (John 4:39). He is Lord over our answers and our silence.
If someone asks a question you cannot answer, then simply say, “I do not know. Let me try to find an answer for you, and let’s talk again.” This provides another opportunity to share the gospel and reveals honesty, humility, sincerity, respect, and care.
2. The Fear of Being the Master of Mistakes
What if I make a mistake and lead someone astray?
Once I had a friend who wanted to follow Jesus. I knew the gospel message. I knew that I needed to call her to repentance and faith (Acts 20:21). But I feared making a mistake. It can’t be that easy. I know I will interfere with God. So, I drove her across town to meet with my pastor. What did he do? He shared the gospel and challenged her to repent and place faith in Jesus.
It is really that simple; so, don’t fear mistakes. Keep in mind:
- The likelihood for error is low. Unless we tell someone that he or she does not need Jesus, or we refuse to share the gospel, then it is highly unlikely we will make a mistake.
- Remember the first believers. We have more knowledge about Jesus and life than many of the first-century believers. We have the Bible. See what the Lord did with them and take courage!
- Remember God’s love. The Lord loves the unbeliever more than we do; He works through our limitations.
- Worry is sin. Let’s confess it, remembering that the Lord is at hand, and He grants us peace (Phil 4:5-7).
3. The Fear of Being the Master Offender
What if I upset someone? And what better way to invite Awkward and Anger to the party than to talk about religion.
We should not attempt to make people angry with our attitudes, words, and actions. While there may be times of tense exchanges (Luke 13:1-5) and persecution (see Paul’s missionary journeys), in general a “soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Prov 15:1). In addition to manifesting love, Peter would also exhort us to bear witness with gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3:15).
Not everyone responds to the gospel in the same way. Paul wrote, “For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life” (2 Cor 2:15-16). There is an “offense of the cross” (Gal 5:11). Our message to some is “a stumbling block,” and to others “folly” (1 Cor 1:23). People feel guilty when the conviction of the Spirit is present (John 16:8) and sometimes take out their frustrations on the messenger (see Acts 7).
We have to accept the fact that some people will be offended and upset by our witness. We must make sure that we do not cower in fear and cease to share the good news. We must repent of the sin that keeps us from obedience and call on the Lord to help us, remembering that He has given us a spirit “not of fear but of power and love and self-control” (2 Tim 1:7).
The way to overcome the fears that seem to paralyze our witness is to give them to the Master, seek encouragement from the Word and other believers, and be intentional in our sharing. Pour out our hearts to Him (Psalm 62:8) and know that as we go, He is with us with all authority (Matt 28:18-20). Knowing the fear of God we persuade others (2 Cor 5:11). We are children of the King and ambassadors for Him (2 Cor 5:20). We love Him and obey His commands (1 John 2:4-6).