• Scott Watkins

I Used to Think Evangelism Was Hard

God loves people, and he showed his love by sending Jesus to die in our place. Christians have a responsibility to spread this message.

What emotions does that last sentence provoke in you? Guilt because you haven’t done enough? Frustration because your best efforts fall short? Or maybe anxiety, from confusion and uncertainty. If so, you aren’t alone.

Many people find sharing their faith difficult.

For most of my life, I have felt inadequate for this task. I don’t have the prototypical, extroverted evangelist personality. I avoid asking strangers for directions, so giving them directions to heaven via a three-step process and repeat-after-me prayer is a good bit outside my comfort zone.

Whether you relate to my challenges or have different ones, I want to encourage you. Don’t write off evangelism as not for you. God isn’t asking for something from you that he hasn’t equipped you to do. Whatever God requires from you he also provides for you.

My problem with evangelism was I had the wrong image of what sharing my faith meant. I listened to plenty of sermons that emphasized teaching me the right words for a ‘witnessing’ encounter. The ABC’s of salvation, the Romans Road, the Four Spiritual Laws. Somehow, in my mind sharing the gospel meant saying the right words to someone. It wasn’t until I came to realize a simple truth about evangelism that things changed for me.

That simple truth is this: Loving others is the first step to effectively sharing the gospel. It is what identifies us as Jesus’ disciples. (John 13:34-35)

This has significant implications. If evangelizing is skillfully saying all of the right words, then only strong communicators and the socially gifted will make effective evangelists. But if sharing the gospel starts by loving others, every Christian can be an evangelist. I can be an evangelist. You can be an evangelist.

The gospel is the best news anyone could hear. But people who have never experienced unmerited, unconditional love are skeptical. No one considers the gospel good news if they don’t believe God really loves them. If God’s love is real, where is the evidence for it?

The answer is in Christians who have experienced it themselves.

Christians evidence this love when they sacrifice for others. They model God’s love when they give up their comfort so someone else can be comfortable. They put flesh and bone on love and bring it to life. God then uses those sacrificial acts to produce faith in unbelievers.

When we love with the love God has given us, we plant the seed of the gospel.

Here is how that often looks for me. I meet someone overwhelmed by life, and I listen to them. No interrupting with unsolicited advice or trying to solve problems. I just let them talk. Empathizing with them, feeling what they feel and assuring them I will be there as long as they need me. I give the gift of time and attention.

Sacrificing this way is how I give and receive love, so this method suits me. Not everyone is the same. How you show love may be different, but to be effective it should be natural to you. Do you have a knack for knowing what others need before they express it? Do you love to give? Do you enjoy showing hospitality? Maybe you have a passion for teaching or preaching. The important thing is that love is being given. Not a weak ‘love with words but not action’ love, but a genuine ‘I will sacrifice my well-being for you’ love.

This doesn’t mean that compassion is always evangelistic, or that words are unimportant. People everywhere are compassionate every day, and the gospel has nothing to do with it. But, showing love through the power of God and for his glory, makes Christian action a concrete embodiment of the gospel. And as I live this love first gospel, my hesitancy to speak the gospel diminishes. Occasions to share my faith occur naturally and from genuine love for people.