I remember one time sitting at a Starbucks, reading my Bible. Every time I read my Bible there, I try to get a good gauge of my surroundings, to see if I might be able to strike up a conversation about the gospel. This time was no different. I was reading Jeremiah, and wondering if the guy across from me might be open to hear the truth of the gospel. After a half hour of reading, I was able to strike up a conversation with the guy. We talked about a lot, and he was a nice enough guy–but for some reason, I couldn’t muster up the guts to mention the gospel (ugh). After talking for about 15 minutes, I had to leave…and I left, feeling defeated, cowardly, and useless for the name and fame of Christ. Why couldn’t I simply open my mouth, and mention something about the gospel? Why couldn’t I just say…something…anything. I hope I’m not the only one that chickens out when sharing (or attempting to share) the gospel.
Why does our evangelism fall short, though? As I meditated and prayed about this, I came to a few conclusions about my own short-comings, and why our evangelism as followers of Christ might fall short:
1) When we shrink to share the gospel, we minimize Jesus’ rule over all the nations and his right to receive glory and honor among all peoples:
There are several texts, both in the Old and New Testament, that describe Christ as the rightful King over the entire universe who deserves glory and honor because of his kingship. Take these verses for example:
Psalm 2:7-8 — “I will tell of the decree: The LORD (God the Father) said to me (Jesus), “You are my Son; today I have begotten you. Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession”
Colossians 1:15-16 — “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible, and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities–all things were created through him and for him”
Colossians 2:14-15 — “This (our sin) he (God) set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him (Christ)”
Philippians 2:8-11 — “And being found in human form, he (Christ) humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every other name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father”
The point of all of these texts is that Jesus, being the God-man, who has defeated sin, Satan, and death, is the rightful King and Victor over the entire cosmos. He alone has defeated sin and death, and in him alone is life forevermore.
And it is because of this that he alone deserves glory, worship, and homage. And, Jesus rightly demands worship. Every nation must hear about King Jesus. Every people group must know about how Christ is the rightful King over the entire globe.
And among the nations and people groups, this includes my fellow Starbucks drinker sitting across from me. He is among the nations of the earth that must hear about the glory and victory of Jesus Christ. He is among the peoples that Jesus rightfully deserves honor and glory from.
Jesus deserves this glory. Jesus deserves this honor. And who am I to shrink back in fear? I tell you, the issue is that I don’t truly realize the glory that is being robbed when I don’t declare that Jesus, being humble and taking on the form of a servant, took on your sin and died. I don’t realize the glory being robbed when I don’t declare that Jesus, though being dead and in the grave, rose again to new life, and now reigns in glory and power, and calls all men to himself. My fear is a Christological issue–I don’t truly understand the power and glory that Jesus has right now, and the honor and worship that he absolutely deserves right now.
2) Our evangelism falls short because we don’t appreciate the horror of hell that awaits a person, should they not repent and believe upon Christ:
This issue should really not have to be explained. But at that Starbucks, when I walked away without sharing the utter glory and honor due to Christ for his cross-shaped victory over sin and death, I put this man at risk of dying and going to hell. I should be broken over this. I should mourn over this…and yet, I don’t have this perspective most of the time. I have my temporal needs set in front me before I share the truth of the gospel–comfort, safety, ease. I do not recall to mind verses like Revelation 20:7-15 that speak of a punishment reserved for the ungodly in which they will be “tormented day and night forever”.
This torment coming to those who refuse to accept Christ should grip us with fear, and should eclipse our fear of rejection in evangelism. So what if they don’t accept what we say? Is it better that we say nothing? Absolutely not! We need perspective of the horror that awaits the ungodly at the end of age. This type of perspective should give us an urgency in sharing the gospel. Why walk away without sharing the gospel, when this man could die and go to hell today? This alone should make all Christians weep. It should make us all share the gospel with every chance we get. This is why our evangelism falls short.
3) We don’t share the gospel because we feel too much responsibility to convince others to believe
Now what I mean by this statement is this: Rather than trusting that God will awaken faith and new life in those with whom we share the gospel, we believe it to be solely our responsibility to convince others to accept Jesus.
I have shared the gospel many times (most times, in fact), only to leave the conversation shut down and rejected. They simply wouldn’t believe anything about the gospel. What’s more, the gospel, and even the concept of God, was foolishness to them. And so, I walked away defeated, sure that I had failed.
But when we feel so defeated after having been rejected, we miss a central point of the gospel: God is the one who creates new life, not us. God is the one that produces fruit, not us. Paul says this emphatically in his epistle to the Corinthians:
1 Corinthians 1:30 — “And because of Him (God) you are in Christ Jesus”. (Notice here, Paul is sure to point out that he wasn’t the one that saved them–God did.)
1 Corinthians 3:5-7 — “What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth”
We proclaim Christ crucified and risen, but we are only instruments–only God can give the growth. Practically, this means so many wonderfully freeing things about the evangelist.
First, it means that even though we may walk away from a gospel conversation having made no apparent progress, God may be making measures of wonderful progress within that person’s heart. There is truly no telling what God used in that conversation to bring a person closer to himself.
Second, this means that prayer and child-like dependence are more effective than the actual conversation itself! Why? Conversation, and the foolishness of the gospel is only the means to bringing a person to Christ–God is truly the one who does it. And so prayer before and after we share the gospel is infinitely integral and important to success. We truly have no idea what God can do when we walk in obedience and simply open our mouths about the truth of Christ and his cross.
Our evangelism often falls short because we put the weight of the world on our shoulders. We think that if this person doesn’t accept Christ here and now, well, then we’ve failed. I guess it’s hopeless–well, no, it’s not.
This simple fact that God brings about the fruit should give us confidence, assurance, and rest in the fact that God will do what he wants with the conversation. We are simply instruments in his hands.
4) Our evangelism falls short because we’ve forgotten the immense grace we’ve been given in Christ
This last point is so important. What I mean here is that evangelism should always be in the context of our own experience of God’s saving grace. If we don’t know and cherish the grace given us in Christ Jesus, how can we share that with others? Christ said that whatever comes from a person’s mouth has first been in their heart (Mt 15:18). One thing that this means is that if you aren’t sharing the gospel, it is safe to assume that you aren’t thinking about the gospel. If the gospel is ever-present in your heart and mind, it should naturally come out in your conversations with everyone, including non-Christians. Peter also says that someone who lacks qualities of godliness (which includes gospel-witness) has forgotten their own experience of God’s grace (2 Pet 1:3-11).
If gospel-grace does not spill from our lips, it is safe to say that we have forgotten the grace given to us in Christ. Before sharing the gospel, it is an incredibly fruitful and helpful thing to meditate on the sin that you were redeemed from. Where were you when God rescued you from your Pharaoh of sin and death (Rom 6)? The same grace he has given you, he longs to give to others–and he loves to give that grace through you.
Don’t let you evangelism fall short. Remember that Jesus deserves glory from among the nations. Remember that humanity stands at the edge of hell and torment. Remember that God can and will work through you to produce the fruit of faith. And, most importantly, remember that you too have received grace.