The main problem I have with evangelism is fear of man. I heartily recommend and have benefited from training and equipping in evangelism, but none of it can make up for being afraid of what people think of me. I’m convinced that it’s not mainly because we feel ill-equipped that we don’t share the gospel; it’s because we’re afraid. We need courage.
In Acts 4 we read that the believers prayed to be enabled to speak God’s word “with great boldness.” They were then filled with the Holy Spirit and “spoke the word of God boldly.” This wasn’t just the apostles; it was various believers whose very ordinariness proves to us that anyone can get the courage required to talk about Jesus and that we can’t use lack of training as an excuse for not having a go. Paul asked the Ephesians to “Pray for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel” (Eph. 6:19). We can’t say that Paul was so different from us, that he was just inherently bold and amazing and so he went about fearlessly preaching the gospel. Here he is asking for prayer for the words to say and for the courage he needed. Paul had the words to say and the courage to say them because he asked for it and God gave it to him.
Before we’re tempted to just sit and wait for courage however, there’s another important principle demonstrated throughout the Bible. Time and time again we see amazing things happen as people step out in faith and obedience. God can and does act without us (think virgin birth, the resurrection), but he really loves to show up when his people take risks in his name. Jesus told his disciples that when they found themselves arrested for their faith they needn’t worry what to say or how to say it because “at that time you will be given what to say.” The Spirit of the Father would speak through them (Matt. 10:19–20). As we exercise faith, God gives us what we need when we need it in order to do what he calls us to do. The Holy Spirit will make us brave and give us the words to say as we step out and open our mouths.
Keith Green once said, “I’d rather people hated me but knew that I tried to save them than have everybody like me.” Read that again. Really, if we actually felt like this then so many more people would hear the good news. I naturally want people to like me, but I’ve come to accept that trouble, opposition, disagreement and persecution are normal in the Christian life. If we’re faithful to share the gospel some people will always be offended. Jesus was upfront about it: “If they persecuted me they will persecute you also” (John 15:20). The writers of the New Testament were too: “Everyone who seeks to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Tim. 3:12). It was no surprise to the early church that they suffered for sharing Christ. While we don’t go around looking for persecution or acting in insensitive ways that could alienate or anger people unnecessarily, we need to accept that some people will not like us sharing the gospel. Then we ask for the courage to do so and open our mouths expecting God to help us in order that many would hear, repent, believe and be saved and enjoy all that the gospel can do in their lives.
Lord Jesus, empower us by your Spirit to be bold to share the gospel, and may we trust you that as we open our mouths you will give us the words to say. Amen.