Public speaking is said to be many people’s number one fear. It should not come as a surprise then that one fear of many evangelical Christians is evangelism: sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ with others, publicly or privately.
This fear manifests itself differently for each person.
Some fear they don’t know enough of the Bible to answer unbelievers’ questions, to give a “defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15).
Others fear that because of their own sin and failures they will be perceived as hypocrites, and people will write them off.
Still others—and this seems to be the biggest one—fear unbelievers’ reactions, such as anger, harsh words, rejection, abandonment, or even physical abuse.
All of these are widely experienced, natural fears. We all have them. However, as God’s chosen ambassadors, we cannot use them as justifiable excuses for not sharing the gospel. We cannot let our fear silence us.
And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)
God gave this Great Commission to all of his followers, not just a select few like the apostles or men like Billy Graham. God calls each of us—you and me—to evangelize, to tell others about the problem of sin, the provision of Jesus Christ the Lord as our Savior, and to call them to repentance and faith in Jesus.
For, God desires that no one “should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (2 Peter 3:9b). His desire is that everyone should have the opportunity to hear the gospel and respond to it. And he graciously deploys his people toward that endeavor.
So how can we overcome our fear, unashamedly open our mouths, and proclaim the great name of Jesus Christ?
How Do We Overcome the Fear of Evangelizing?
Recognize Where Fear Comes From
In the context of evangelism, fear is not from God. “For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control” (2 Timothy 1:7). So, while we may feel like fleeing when the Holy Spirit presents an evangelistic opportunity, we shouldn’t. We are not to fear those who can harm or kill our bodies. For, in the end, they cannot harm or kill our souls, which last for all eternity (Matthew 10:28).
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Recognize that fear is from Satan. It is one of the many tactics he employs to shut us down and shut us up. For, his greatest desire is that everyone should perish and that no one should come to repentance and saving faith in Jesus Christ. He delights when people are “dead in their trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1).
Recognize that your fear of evangelism comes from the Enemy. Let’s not give him the pleasure of silencing us.
Rely on the Holy Spirit
While Satan does wield considerable power, his power has limitations. He is, after all, a created being and a fallen angel (see Ezekiel 28; Isaiah 14). He is neither omniscient (all-knowing), omnipresent (everywhere at once), nor omnipotent (all-powerful).
Praise God that he has greater power than Satan—unlimited power (1 John 4:4). And God dwells in us by the Holy Spirit, who takes up permanent residence in our hearts the moment we appropriate God’s free gift of grace through faith in Jesus Christ and his work on the cross (Ephesians 2:8-9). This is the same Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead, who thus raises us up from spiritual death and breathes new life into our sin-sick souls (Romans 8:11).
Through the Spirit we are emboldened and empowered, like the apostles in the Book of Acts, to speak life-saving words to those who are perishing (Acts 4:31, 13:52; 1 Corinthians 2:4). His power is available to us, 24/7/365. We would be remiss if we did not ask for the Holy Spirit’s help and trust his promise of ever-presence!
Know the Word
Knowing God’s Word is key to overcoming our fear of feeling inadequate or hypocritical as we evangelize. The Word is active, living, convicting, transforming (Hebrews 4:12). As we meditate on it, the Spirit makes our convictions more solid and our behavior more sanctified. Pursuing biblical literacy will form our character and boost our confidence when it comes time to proclaim the life-changing words of Jesus Christ. And the more truth we hide in our hearts, the more truth we have to sow. Toward this end, we should:
- Read the Word: Read the Bible on a regular basis, even if it is for 15-20 minutes a day.
- Study the Word: Delve deeper into understanding the doctrines of Scripture (e.g. justification, sanctification).
- Memorize the Word: Have certain verses memorized (i.e. John 3:16 or Ephesians 2:8-9), so that the Holy Spirit may remind you of them whenever you have an opportunity to witness about Jesus (John 14:26).
Obey the Word
Remember the Great Commission: “Go…make disciples of all nations…baptizing them…teaching …” (Matthew 28:18-20). This commission is not optional; we’re given imperatives. God calls for our obedience; evangelism isn’t something we can choose to avoid.
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But know that this command comes with a wonderful promise: “I am with you always” (Matthew 28:20b). God assures us he will never leave us or forsake us. He is with us always, especially in those moments when we’re sharing his Word with the lost.
Pray About Your Fears
God commands us in Philippians 4:6 to “not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.”
We need to bring everything—including our fears about witnessing—before the “throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16). Witnessing is a “time of need,” just like any other, for God’s mercy and grace, when we need his courage, strength, and power. And God promises in Psalm 34:4 to deliver us from all our fears—including publicly proclaiming his name.
Beloved children of the King, bring your fears and anxieties about sharing the gospel with others to God in prayer. Pray that words might be given to you in opening your mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, that you might declare it boldly as you ought to speak (Ephesians 6:19-20).
While fear is a natural inclination, it need not silence you, and it’s ultimately of the Enemy. When you are fulfilling the Great Commission in obedience to God’s Word, know that you are not alone. God is right there with you, and will bring to mind the Scriptures you hide in your heart. Know you have been given all the power and resources you need to overcome your fear of sharing the good news about Jesus with others: prayer, the living Word, and the Holy Spirit.
Is there someone God is impressing upon your heart with whom you can share the good news this week?