In the past, I’ve gone door-to-door conducting surveys related to faith and the church, gone on mission trips, and even worked at a drop-in centre where we lived out and talked about the gospel. I also have a few books about evangelism on my shelf – Becoming a Contagious Christian by Bill Hybels, Just Walk Across the Room also by Hybels, and my most recent addition, Gospel in Life by Timothy Keller.
But lately, I feel like the Tin Woodman in Wizard of Oz when Dorothy discovered him frozen in place. I’m a little rusty when it comes to sharing my faith. I have a bad case of evangelism guilt.
Evangelism guilt is the sticky burden that covers you like molasses when you know you should be sharing your faith but aren’t. You want to stop reading books or hearing sermons about reaching out so you don’t feel worse. You avoid missionaries and people who work in “full-time ministry” because they make you look bad.
It’s not that I don’t want to share Christ’s incredible love. I believe life with Jesus is better than life without him. I also believe there is a place called hell where some people will go after they die if they reject Christ. God’s first choice is for people to be in relationship with him. As he says, “For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign LORD. Repent and live!” (Ezekiel 18:32). But he respects our free will so much that he will even allow us to be eternally separated from him.
So why haven’t I been sharing my faith? Because I was afraid people wouldn’t like me if I did.
Greasing the joints
What did I do with this paralyzing guilt?
I started by repenting of trying to please people and of protecting my reputation. Then, I asked God to renew my love for my family, friends, and others to whom I am connected. As I prayed and mulled over what it means to be obedient to share my faith, God brought two stories across my path.
An old high school classmate recently contacted my colleague Harry through Facebook. She said he’d been an example of “what a loving and caring Christ-follower could look like.” She remembered his example, and later came to Christ as an adult. In a letter about the situation, Harry said, “I cannot tell you how humbling it was to think that God had used me to make a lasting impact on someone who was just a casual friend and classmate. I was a pretty typical teenager, interested mostly in sports and struggling to make sense of my own faith.”
It was a reminder that God can woo others to himself as I live faithfully for him. But he also spoke to me through a second story.
Through my work with non-profit organizations, I read the testimony of a former Muslim. Mohammad lived in a Toronto apartment building. Every day, a Christian visited, boldly sharing the gospel. Mohammad asked the man, “How come you always come back here in spite of all the cursing, insulting, and abusing?” The man responded, “When you are in love with God, his love doesn’t let you consider others’ hate or mocking.”
“It was there that I became familiar with Christ,” Mohammad said. “And [the man] brought me God’s words.”
This brings to mind Romans 10:14: “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?” Clearly, preaching the gospel with words is as important as living my faith with actions.
I’m thankful for the books I’ve read about evangelism, the Bible studies I’ve participated in, and the sermons I’ve heard. They have helped me become more confident in sharing my own faith story and God’s narrative of redemption through Christ. I like the emphasis in more recent books on pursuing social justice in my community whether it leads to an opportunity to share my faith with words or not. But reading and talking about reaching out is not enough.
The Holy Spirit has been oiling my joints through these stories, Scripture, and teaching. I hope it won’t be long before I’m dancing down the yellow brick road, sharing my faith with ease again.
Lately, I’ve been praying for my friends and family, asking the Father to draw them into a relationship with him – and show me how to be involved. I continue to spend time with them, and pray I will have the courage to speak the truth about God, even if I get rejected. I’m also asking him for a place to make a difference in my city.
Goodbye, evangelism guilt; hello, faith adventure.