by Alvin Reid
“I prayed for a waitress last night for the first time. She was shocked. She came to my table three times to thank me. Great!”
This is from an email I received from a layman at a church where I taught attendees to share Jesus with others. He went on to tell me about leading a young man to Christ as well the same week.
I’ve spoken in well over 2,000 churches, and more times than not I’ve spoken on the subject that actually freaks out most Christians –– witnessing.
I’m more convinced than ever of this fact: most believers actively involved in a local church love Jesus and want to serve him. They don’t want to disobey the Great Commission. But most feel unsatisfied or ill equipped to share Christ with confidence. Why don’t believers share Jesus? Here are four reasons.
First, most believers do not consider themselves public speakers, but a lot of training in evangelism focuses on learning a specific presentation and giving it with precision.
According to Gallup, public speaking is the second greatest fears of adults (second to the fear of snakes, by the way, although a more recent survey had public speaking virtually tied with a fear of heights as second). Giving a set gospel presentation represents a form of public speaking more than an everyday conversation. This is a reason we’ve had so many people learn a plan to share Christ but never actually develop a lifestyle of witnessing.
Second, most of the folks who teach evangelism training tend to be aggressive, Type-A folks (raising my hand, guilty as charged) who share Christ passionately and genuinely want others to as well.
But most people aren’t wired like that, so it can be intimidating. Imagine you finally decided to get in shape. You go to a gym and hire a personal trainer, and out walks a guy who looks like Arnold Schwarzenegger’s muscle-bound big brother. I would feel pretty defeated looking at myself in the mirror and then looking at that, wouldn’t you? If you are an introvert, you don’t have to become someone other than who God made you to share Christ effectively.
Third, I’ve met too many Christians who tell me some version of this: “I met the Lord, and started telling others how he changed my life. Then, I took evangelism training, and suddenly began to wonder if I was doing it all wrong. So, I became more apprehensive than bold.”
That’s not what is intended in witness training, and it’s not we are going for here. That may not be your story, but it’s one I’ve heard far too many times.
A fourth reason I meet a lot of believers who struggle with witnessing has nothing to do with any kind of training, but with the Christian subculture we have created today which leads the vast majority of Christians to spend most of our time around saved people with little interaction with lost people.
We live in Christian bubbles, which means we go to movies with believers, have parties with believers, and do pretty much everything in our discretionary time with believers. In our mastery of fellowship with the saints we’ve lost a burden for a friendship with sinners. But Jesus was known as a friend of sinners (Luke 7).
God created you for his glory to advance his gospel with the gifts, talents, and opportunities he gave you. You can share Christ, the way he created you to do it!
Alvin L. Reid (@alvinreid) is senior professor of evangelism and student ministry and Bailey Smith chair of evangelism at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is author of As You Go: Creating a Missional Culture of Gospel-Centered Students. He loves encouraging the younger generation to live for Jesus. Learn more: www.alvinreid.com