June 3, 2009

Hindrances to Evangelism

Evangelism is a central part of faithful Christian living. We are commanded to make disciples of our Lord Jesus Christ (Matt 28:18-20). This necessarily includes clear communication of the gospel which is God's power for salvation to all who believe (Rom 1:16-17). When faced with the opportunity to talk with someone about Jesus, we often shy away. There might be any number of reasons for this, but I think one of the central reasons is fear. We don't share the gospel with people because we are afraid. This is not necessarily unfounded fear either. Just read Acts. The Apostles were threatened with severe punishment for speaking about God's action in Jesus. Declaring the universal claims of the sovereign God is risky business. It will even get you killed in some parts of the world. Most Americans never face that kind of risk when doing the work of evangelism, though. For us, its mainly fear of rejection. What will this person say? How will they receive what I want to say? Will I be seen as a religious fanatic? Will I be looked down upon socially? These are all valid and genuine feelings. But their validity does not mean that we should allow them to hinder our doing what our Lord has expressly commanded us to do. I found myself experiencing these types of feelings just last week. I was having a discussion with a lady when she asked me what denomination I was a part of. I replied that I was United Methodist and felt the nudge of the Holy Spirit to continue the conversation by asking what denomination she belonged to. Here was the opportunity I had longed for. Here was a golden opportunity to get into a discussion on Christianity and the gospel. Immediately, hesitation set in, and I asked myself the kinds of questions outlined above. I sat silently feeling shame that I had not taken the opportunity to talk to this lady about Jesus. Fortunately, God is gracious and provided another opportunity later in the conversation. We went on to have a great discussion about the claims of Christ and the significance of his death and resurrection. She was not a follower of Jesus when I left, but by the grace of God she will be one day. One sows and another reaps.

The thing that I am having to learn, and that all Christians need to learn, is that evangelism is about caring more about others that I do myself (Phil 2:4). Do I care more about my fears and insecurities or the eternal destiny of the person in front of me? Do I care more about my social reputation or about obeying the commands of my Lord? Do I care more about my needs to cater to my fear or about the need of the other for a savior? Evangelism means loving others more than I love myself and not being hindered by fear of what others may think about me.

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