How do I overcome my fear of evangelism?
Fear forces us to depend on the Lord, and in that case, fear can be a very helpful thing.
In terms of dealing with fear and evangelism, I think the starting point is to realize that not all fear is bad. Fear reminds us of the significance of the task of sharing the gospel. It’s not something we should take lightly, and it also forces us to depend on the Lord, and in that case, fear can be a very helpful thing. But most of the time when people talk about fear and evangelism, they’re talking about a fear that keeps them from sharing.
Three common fears that I’ve observed. The first is not knowing enough. They’re afraid they’re going to be asked a question that they can’t answer, and I tell people, you don’t need to be afraid of that. That will happen. I have two Master’s degrees and a PhD in theology and my own kids ask me questions that I couldn’t answer. I would just stand up tall and clear my throat and say, “Go ask your mother.” It’s okay to say, “I don’t know the answer,” to a question or, “Let me research that and get back to you.”
A second common source of fear, people are afraid of the fear of failure. They’re afraid that they might do more harm than good, but whenever I hear someone share that they’re afraid they’ll do more harm than good, I always think, “That’s not your problem.” They’re a sensitive person. They’re not going to come across like a bull in a china shop. It’s the person that never gives sensitivity a second thought that may come across as aggressive, but when someone says, “I’m afraid I’ll do more harm than good, that’s not their problem. They don’t need sensitivity, they may need boldness.
I love Dr. Bill Bright’s definition of evangelism. He said, “Successful witnessing is sharing the good news of Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit and leaving the results up to God. We can’t change anyone’s heart. Successful witnessing is when we share the good news.
I guess the greatest source of fear, if people were really honest, is fear of rejection. They’re afraid, “What will this person think about me if I identify with Christ? I think of the rulers that John talked about in John 12. Many of the rulers believed in Jesus, but because of the Pharisees were not confessing him lest they be cast out of the temple. And then in John 12:43, he gives this epitaph, For they love the approval of men more than the approval of God.
We have to confront that our fear of rejection is really loving the approval of men more than the approval of God. We need to love those who don’t know Christ more than we love ourselves. In Acts 4, we see that the disciples were afraid. They’d been threatened, and they were afraid, and so what did they do? They prayed for boldness. I believe that’s a prayer that God delights to answer. When we’re afraid, we simply acknowledge that and say, God I’m afraid, I’m scared right now. Would you fill me with boldness? That’s a prayer that God loves to answer. Someone described it in this way. Fear knocked at the door, faith answered, and there was no one there.