I am going to tell you a very, very, scary Jesus story. It is one of the scariest stories about Him.
One day Jesus was out walking along the shore of the Sea of Galilee. He came upon two brothers who were at work as commercial fishermen. Their names were Peter and Andrew. Jesus called out to them and said, “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men and women.” They left what they were doing and followed Jesus. (Mark 1:16-20 ESV)
Why is this story so scary? Because the clear implication of the story is that every follower of Jesus is called to be a “fisher of men and women.” Whether in a big way or in a small way, the triune God wants to use every ordinary Christian in evangelism. Frankly, for most Canadian Christians, this is very, very, scary.
If you are one of the blessed few who finds talking about Jesus to any and all non-Christians easy and natural, give thanks to the Triune God, keep sharing about Jesus, and please pray for the rest of us! For all who find this scary, then from one scaredy-cat to another, consider these ten hopefully helpful thoughts.
First, be honest before God that for you to tell another person about Jesus is very scary.
Don’t wait until you are strong and godly enough to pray about this. Begin where you really are. Remember the Gospel! Jesus knew you were a sinner and He died for you. He died for you with a far better knowledge of your sins than you have. His death upon the cross for you covers all of your sin, from the moment of your conception to the moment of your death. The Lord already knows that you do not like what Jesus said, and find the idea of evangelism scary. Honest prayer is real prayer. Dishonest prayer is not real prayer, but play acting for yourself or those listening in.
Come before Him honestly and pour out the scenarios that play out in your head and cause you much anxiety and guilt. If you do not know what to ask for, tell Him that, and then say something like, “Into Your hands I commend all that I am and all that I do.”
Second, in prayer, be honest before God that you think the whole “fishers of men and women” idea is wrong because you do not know enough.
If the first prayer point is addressing your overall anxiety, this one addresses your competency. What if they bring up the problem of evil? What if they bring up an LGBQT+ issue? What if they bring up evolution and the Bible? The devil can quickly fill your mind with a dozen questions you do not think you can handle. Begin with honest prayer about this.
Remember who has issued this command. It is Jesus. He knows your ignorance and knowledge and competency way better than you do. Meditate upon the story of Jesus at the wedding feast in Cana. (John 2:1-12). We all know that filling a stone water jar and carrying it a few meters does not make water turn into wine. Jesus makes the water into wine, all He asked is for the servants to do what He said. They did, and Jesus performed the miracle. Likewise, He is asking you to share about Him, as incompetent as you are. Trust that He can and will do the miracle.
Third, if you do not feel worthy to tell someone about Jesus, bring this to the Lord.
Imagine that the Lord gives you a natural opportunity to say something about your walk with Jesus to a coworker or neighbour. Instantly you think, “I cannot say something to them. They know me! They are nicer, kinder, smarter and more successful than I am. There is no way that I can tell them about Jesus.” Once again, you need to remember the Gospel. The Lord did not “weigh your merits” and decide you were worthy of salvation. Remember that He pardoned your offences, and clothed you with His righteousness when He made you right with God. This fundamental truth is true of everyone you will ever meet – even the best.
They are only made right with the Triune God by Jesus’ finished work upon the cross. Your co-worker’s “merits,” no matter how great, are not remotely enough – they need forgiveness and they need His righteousness imputed to them. In Spurgeon’s words, you are one beggar telling another beggar where to find the gift of the bread of life.
Fourth, in your prayer and in your life, embrace the impossibility!
The fact is that there is a large element of truth to your emotions and doubts. Humanly speaking, it is completely impossible that your words will lead another person to become a Christian. Only the Triune God can do that work. Stop thinking you can. Embrace the truth you cannot – in the context of embracing the truth that the Triune God is still bringing people into a saving faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. The work is His, and all the glory should be His.
Fifth, begin by praying for people by name.
Lots of small groups pray for sick people and never pray that someone will come to a saving faith in Jesus. Same with church services and your church board meetings.
Lots of people have stopped praying that people they know will come to a saving faith in Jesus. Even when starting to pray evangelistically, people slip into euphemisms – it is as if you do not want to seem crass or uncultured or fundamentalist.
Fortunately, the Lord is not hampered by our lack of prayer! I do not say this to excuse your hesitancy, and mine! A key first step in being a “fisher of men and women” is that you pray for your loved ones, neighbours, and co-workers. Be bold and clear, pray, “Lord, please bring “X” to a saving faith in Jesus Christ.”
Sixth, think simple and natural.
God uses you as you are. “Evangelism” is a big and scary word. So is “apologetics.” Think instead of sharing or bearing witness. Let people know you go to church or your small group. Don’t be embarrassed to say that you pray about matters or that you read the Bible. Let people know that you do this because you are growing in your trust in Jesus as Saviour and Lord.
If someone shares with you about a problem that they are facing, be a good listening ear, “weeping with those who weep and rejoicing with those who rejoice” (Romans 12:15 ESV), but then ask if you can pray for them in your private prayer times. You do not have to be able to explain the doctrine of divine sovereignty to offer to pray for an issue facing your non-Christian friend.
When listening to a conversation about the (sorry) state of the world, consider saying something simple like this, “I do not know how I would make it through life if I did not have a trust that I can bring everything to Jesus in prayer, and that He will never leave me or abandon me.”
Here is the thing. Most times, there is no immediate follow up to your comment. The other person does not immediately ask to know more. But in the wise words of Greg Koukl, you never know when your simple words have become like a pebble in the other person’s shoe – something that they keep feeling, and keep thinking about. This “pebble in the shoe” then provokes a longer conversation with you, or some other Christian. Ask the Lord for opportunities to put a pebble in someone’s shoe.
Seventh, remember that it is not about winning arguments, but telling one person about another Person, who would like to meet them.
In fact, you need to die to all tendencies to want to win every argument that comes up. Once your sharing has become an argument, you have already lost. It is now egos using minds to win. If your sharing turns into an argument, it is better to stop and even let the other person have the “final” word.
If you do not think of this at the time, then the next day, humble yourself like a little child, and apologize for arguing. I am not saying that you should stop growing in your ability to gently and winsomely defend and commend the faith – you should and you can by His grace.
I am saying that the Lord has not called you to argue or to win every argument by your cleverness. As with the end of the Book of Job, the Lord can overwhelm every argument and every person if He chooses to. He desires to use you to gently, winsomely, clearly, and humbly proclaim Him – and He will “win” the person.
Eighth, use the Bible when you can.
Memorize a couple of good Bible texts like John 3:16; Romans 3:23-24; Ephesians 2:8-10; Matthew 11:28-30; 1 Timothy 1:15; 1 John 2:2. If memorizing is hard, make a note in your notes section, or put some bookmarks in the Bible that you have on your phone, and read the text. Remember that the Lord uses His word written!
Ninth, pray for opportunities.
Ask the Lord to give you an opportunity every day to bear witness to Jesus. Confess to Him that you can be clueless, and miss the opportunity. So ask Him for help to recognize when He is providing you an opportunity.
Tenth, remember that you are not alone.
If you are not part of a good local church where the gospel is preached and the Bible is believed, then find one and make it your church home. If you share about Jesus and the other person raises an issue that you cannot handle, do not be afraid to say, “That is a really good question, and I confess that I do not know how to answer it. Can I bring along a friend to meet you at a coffee shop? I will buy the coffee and pastry – and you can raise these issues with him (or her)? I think you will like this person, and I think they will have a good conversation with you about these matters.”
Then contact someone in your local church that you think can handle the question well. Finally, you have Jesus with you. Meditate upon how He sends you out, but does not send you out alone. He will be with you, and other disciples will be with you, in fulfilling His great commission.
He said to the apostles as a group, “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 28:19-20).