Research regularly reveals that public speaking is the foremost phobia. Some surveys even show that people are less afraid of dying! When it comes to the Christian life, sharing the gospel may be the chief fear. Many are scared of how others may respond; or worse, they dread not knowing what to say. Our culture’s emphasis on tolerance doesn’t help. The old saying seems true — “You can talk about anything. Just don’t talk about religion and politics!”
Despite the terror that’s often associated with telling others about Jesus, I believe the issue doesn’t have to be so fear-invoking. Christ has commanded us to be witnesses, and He’s promised to be with us (see Acts 1:8). His Scriptures are chock-full of admonitions to “fear not” (see Isaiah 41:10). Let me give four tips that can take some of the fright out of witnessing.
Some think they have to be someone they’re not in order to share the gospel. I’ve seen this with my own eyes. A well meaning friend once struck up a gospel conversation with another college student. As he did, his demeanor was transformed, and he used a tone of voice I’d never heard. It was as if he had been transformed into a religious gameshow host before my very eyes. I know my friend meant well, but I felt he was being unnatural for the purpose of trying to impress. Don’t do that. Do what Paul did. He determined to never use worldly gimmicks or methods when presenting the gospel (see 1 Corinthians 2:1-5). Just be yourself. You’ll feel a whole lot less pressure, and you’ll likely be more effective.
It’s also important to show that you are normal. This happens best when you find a real-world avenue for connecting with the other person. You can talk about sports, family, work, health concerns, retirement, kids, or grandkids. Remember, God has always used real flesh and blood people to spread His good news. You don’t have to be so spiritual that you can’t talk about everyday things. In fact, conversations about earthly things are often good segues to heavenly topics. Paul knew this was true. That’s why he determined “to become all things to all people,” so that he might reach more for Christ (see 1 Corinthians 9:19-23).
People don’t automatically understand gospel concepts. They need someone to guide them. Think about Philip’s witnessing encounter with the Ethiopian official. He patiently showed the man scriptures, and asked questions to make sure he understood (see Acts 8:30-37). Being a good witness requires something similar from you. Take your time. Give space, and don’t pressure. Be helpful. Do your best to answer questions and provide resources. God will bless your humble efforts.
No one can lead another to conversion without the help of the Holy Spirit. This is actually a good thing. The pressure is off of you. The gospel itself contains intrinsic power to change lives (see Romans 1:16). It’s not your responsibility to save anyone. You simply have an obligation to show and share the love of Christ. When you witness, keep a calm confidence in Christ’s power to convert.
Dr. Patrick Latham