What is your latest excuse…I mean “reason,” for not sharing the gospel with those around you?

“I don’t have the spiritual gift of an evangelist.”

“I don’t know how to answer all of the questions raised about Christianity.”

“I am afraid of being rejected or seen as weird.”

“I’m an introvert.”

“I am living the gospel[1] in front of them instead of forcefully shoving it down their throats.”

“I’ve been building a relationship with them and earning their trust for 27 years and I am just waiting for the right moment to share my faith.”

Some of these are legitimate reasons why someone might be nervous about sharing the gospel with those around them. Some of them are just lame excuses or cowardice dressed up in spiritual sounding language. But the reality is that none of these things should keep us from obeying the Great Commission and intentionally making disciples. Behind all of these excuses is an overestimating of the importance of our role and power in evangelism and the underestimating of the power of God’s Word and God’s Spirit to save people, even through our weak and feeble efforts.

This became evident to me a couple years ago when I was presented with an opportunity to obey the Great Commission and share the gospel with a new friend. I met this new friend, Chris, at the gym we both worked out at. We were around the same age, had similar aged kids, and started to talk and get to know each other more and more as time went on. Chris did not grow up in church, did not attend a church, and, although he desired to live by good morals, he did not claim to be a Christian. At the invitation of another person, Chris and his family attended our church on a Sunday when I was preaching. I saw Chris the week after that and asked him, “What did you think of the church service?” He responded by saying they enjoyed it and hoped to come back soon. Our friendship continued to grow and a few months later I had the privilege of sharing the gospel with Chris and inviting Him to trust in Jesus. A few weeks after that I baptized Chris on a Sunday morning as he publicly declared his faith in Jesus and commitment to following Him for the rest of his life.

So, what happened? How did Chris go from someone who didn’t know or follow Jesus to someone whose life was radically changed by the gospel? Was it because I am such a gifted evangelist? Hardly. Was it because I am so extroverted and magnetic that Chris couldn’t resist my invitation to trust in Christ. That’s laughable. Was it because I had all of the answers to Chris’ questions about the Christian faith. Nope. Instead I learned through my experience with Chris that the two most important things in evangelism are: 1) Relationship and 2) Reliance on God and His Word.

1. Evangelism in a relational context

The first thing I did when I met Chris was try to be a friend. I did not view Chris as an “evangelism project” or get to know him simply so I could try and “convert” him. No, I just tried to get to know him as a human being, as a friend. So, we talked, we worked out together, we started to occasionally grab coffee and chat, Chris even took me hunting with him. We became friends, and it was in that context, eventually realizing he was not a Christian, that I began to pray and seek opportunities to share the gospel with him. Evangelism is most effective in relationships. Now, that does not mean God can’t or doesn’t save people through street corner evangelism, door to door sharing, or someone approaching a stranger in public and sharing Christ. But I think one prominent model we see in Scripture, especially in the life of Jesus, is being with people, building friendship, trusting God, and striving to make disciples in the midst of that. Robert Coleman, in his classic book, The Master Plan of Evangelism, points out Jesus’ method of relational disciple-making, saying:

“(Jesus) ate with them, slept with them, and talked with them for the most part of his entire active ministry. They walked together along the lonely roads; they visited together in crowded cities; they sailed and fished together on the Sea of Galilee; they prayed together in the deserts and in the mountains; and they worshiped together in the synagogues and in the temple….Without any fanfare and unnoticed by the world, Jesus was saying that he had been training men to be his witnesses after he had gone, and his method of doing it was simply being ‘with them.’”[2]

I think one prominent model we see in Scripture, especially in the life of Jesus, is being with people, building friendship, trusting God, and striving to make disciples in the midst of that. Click To Tweet

2. Relying on God’s Word in evangelism

The other thing I did with Chris, and this is by far the most important thing in evangelism, is I relied on God, His Word and His Spirit, to save Chris. Many of us don’t evangelize because we think we don’t have what it takes to convince anyone that the gospel is true. Well, the truth is that we don’t have what it takes! We cannot convince anyone of the truth of the gospel or convert anyone to faith in Jesus. Rather than this being discouraging, it should be liberating! The pressure to save is not on us because God alone saves. Our role in evangelism is to simply present Jesus to people and leave the “heavy lifting” up to God’s Spirit. So that’s what I did with Chris.

One day I worked up the courage to ask Chris if he would ever want to meet up and read the Bible together. I was definitely nervous and wondered if he would think I was weird or that he would say no and I would lose the opportunity to build on the relationship we’d developed. But to my surprise, he said yes! So we began to meet once a week with the goal of slowly working through the Gospel of Mark together. Was I scared that he might ask questions I didn’t have answers to? Of course. Was I nervous that he wouldn’t enjoy it and would not want to come back? Without a doubt. But I resolved to trust God and trust His Word. I believed that the gospel is the power of salvation to everyone who believes (Romans 1:16). I trusted that God’s Word aways accomplishes what it sets out to accomplish (Isaiah 55:10-11). I was convinced that faith comes by hearing the word of Christ (Romans 10:17). So we met and started to read the Bible together. Chris asked a lot of questions, and I did my best to answer them or point him to resources that would answer them. We read and discussed what we were seeing Jesus say and do.

A few weeks into meeting together Chris looked at me one day and asked, “So what does Jesus want me to do? Does He want me to try and live better?” I became nervous with excitement as the Lord lobbed a fastball right down the middle, an opportunity to share the good news of Jesus and what He has done to save me, and to save Chris. I did my best to lay out the gospel of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection and that what Jesus demands of us is not to try and live better but to repent of sin and trust in Him alone. After I was done I asked Chris, “Does that makes sense? What do you think about that?” After a few moments he answered, “I think that’s amazing. I’m in!” A few weeks later Chris was baptized and has since been attending church and growing in His faith.

I share this story to show that our effectiveness in evangelism is not dependent upon our gifting, experience, knowledge, or passion. Instead, we are simply called to love people and present Jesus to people and watch God save by the power of His Word and His Spirit. I did nothing special with Chris. I developed a friendship and we started to read the Bible together, and God made a dead person come to life.

Let me ask you again: What is your latest excuse for not sharing the gospel with those around you?

Let me encourage you: Stop making excuses, build friendships, and show people the Word (Jesus) in the Word (Scripture) and watch God do what only He can do.

[1] Whatever that means

[2] Coleman, Robert E.. The Master Plan of Evangelism. Grand Rapids: Revell, 1972. 37-38.