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Why Is It So Hard to Evangelize to My Friends?

Written By Rachel Raja, Singapore

After a few years of attending campus ministry at my university, I became increasingly gripped by the gospel, and evangelizing to my friends quickly took a front seat in life. I started spending time planning and meeting my non-Christian friends and thinking hard about who in my life could benefit from hearing the gospel. These meetups which resulted in dinners, games or exercising were easy to organize and quite enjoyable for my friends and I.

But often, I’d be on the train home after such a meetup, wondering if I had truly been effective in sharing Christ with my friends.

Why did the actual act of sharing Christ seem so hard? It was far easier to portray myself as a good person who cared about my friends and their lives, and it was far easier to look like a loving Christian, than it was to speak of Jesus. I always secretly wish that my actions could magically lead them to knowing Christ, without ever having to do the hard stuff like explaining the gospel and possibly offending my friend by telling them that they are sinful and need Christ.

I can’t help but wonder why exactly I feel this way when it comes to evangelizing. Here are some reasons I’ve come up with:

 

1. I don’t know why I should evangelize

I’ve always known that evangelism is important, probably because the church that I grew up in taught me that it was central to the Christian life. So, I invited my friends for evangelistic meetings and built deep relationships with them where possible. My friends knew where I was going with this, that I wanted them to hear and believe the message of Jesus Christ. Sometimes they were receptive, sometimes not. And when they were not, I acted like my job was done and resigned myself to the fate that I was not the person to lead them to Christ.

Actually, if I had really sat down and thought about why I was doing what I was doing, I had no concrete answer. I just did it because everyone else was doing it. It seemed the right thing to do, and it seemed like something I could do mindlessly.

Recently, as I was reading Jim Elliot’s diary entries from 1952 in the book The Shadow of the Almighty, I was struck by his fervor for evangelism. He commented that though there were only about 100 people in a particular group of untouched people in South America, Elliot wanted to find a way to them because “we [Christians] have orders of such.”

I think he was right. In Luke 24:46-47, Jesus explained the Scriptures to the disciples and told them that repentance and forgiveness should be proclaimed in His name to all nations. So why do we evangelize? Because the Lord Jesus Himself tells us to.

And why wouldn’t we want to obey Christ? If we have tasted and seen how good the gospel is, and know that we have the special privilege of sharing that good news, wouldn’t we want to share it with everyone and glorify the work of Christ? Perhaps, in looking at what the gospel means for ourselves, sharing the gospel may become more natural and less of a “chore”.

What then happens when we evangelize? In the gospel of Matthew, Jesus foretells the end days, and in Matthew 24:14 specifically, He says that when the gospel of the kingdom is proclaimed to all nations, the end will come, meaning that Jesus will come back!

Every time we evangelize, we realize that it’s that much closer to the day that the Lord Jesus Himself comes back. This is exciting! And it pushes me to share the good news of forgiveness and the glorious news of the Christ that I can spend eternity with—the same eternity described in Revelation 20, where God Himself will be with Christians, will wipe away every tear; death will be no more, and neither will there be mourning, crying or pain.

But even knowing this doesn’t translate to actually doing, sometimes. . .

 

2. I don’t know when is the right time to share the gospel

In my meetups with friends, I usually spend some time warming up and catching up with them first. The moment the first hour mark is up, the whole thing turns into something of a ticking time bomb.

I’m waiting for the perfect moment to slip the gospel in, but we could spend hours talking about something else. When everyone’s having such a good time, I’d be the one ruining the day by bringing up a serious topic. What if I get blank stares? What if they stop inviting me to things?

It’s not uncommon for Christians to feel this way. In fact, because you’ve worked really hard to build a friendship with someone, you are afraid that the gospel could undo all of that.

I’ve always found it easier to ask questions about life and religion when I am in a big group of friends. This could really start with anything or any topic and quickly funnel into the differing views each one in the group might have. When it comes to my turn, I have an opportunity to share what I think and why I think that way. I find that it is helpful to let my friends know from the very start that I am a Christian. This way, they have an avenue for questions, and sometimes, they even ask you what you think as a Christian.

There is also a time for one-on-one sharing. Sometimes I feel that the time is right—when a friend is going through a really hard break-up, when they are fighting depression, or when a friend’s parent has a terminal illness—these are times when my friends are looking for more than just mere company, and are actually pondering life’s bigger questions. But at these opportune times, I’m still fighting in my head what question to ask.

Should I ask a simple question about what the other person believes in? Or how the person is doing spiritually? Some days I end up asking and sharing, though sometimes it goes nowhere (and that’s okay), but other days I choke on my words and stay silent.

On those days where I stay silent, I have to remind myself of something a staff worker at my campus ministry said once. In a bid to encourage students to evangelize, she told us, “What you are doing for [your friend] is a REALLY GOOD thing for them.”

Sometimes sharing the gospel might feel intrusive, disruptive, or uncomfortable for our friends in the moment. But what a Christian has to share is eternally loving for our friends. It is eternally loving, because though it may seem offensive, it is definitely more loving to care for a friend’s life and well-being in eternity than merely their  comfort on this Earth. With the right balances in mind, I am more encouraged to try again.

But when I do share the gospel or my friend warms up to the idea of finding out more, I start to realize that. . .

 

3. I forget who is the One who moves the hearts of men

Sometimes we succeed in having more serious and open conversations with friends who are willing to hear us out. But where do we go from there?

My friends usually smile politely at what I say, and sometimes they probe a little further. Typically, the conversation ends at dinner, and then I stop talking about the subject altogether. I end up going home thinking that I’ve tried, and sometimes even pat myself on the back for it.

In the weeks that follow, I either completely ignore my friend or see very little need for follow-up. This is because trying once and hoping for the best is way easier than asking my friend to come for an evangelistic talk, or to read the Bible with me, or to discuss questions.

Also, follow-ups are hard because often, I meet my friends as I run on empty. I think that my knowledge of the gospel and of the Bible can quickly turn them to Christ. Only sometimes do I even say a quick prayer on public transport, for things to go well. But I never really commit my friends in prayer, either in preparation or post meetups. What a shame, because prayer is truly a privilege given to us by our heavenly Father. It reminds us that this is God’s work, not ours.

 

At the end of the day, if I’m on that train ride thinking of all the things I messed up in my attempts to share the gospel, I’d probably feel the weight of the world on my shoulders. I might feel like I am totally responsible for my friend’s salvation, and that when I fail or my friend doesn’t receive Christ, it’s because I was incompetent or didn’t try hard enough.

But take heart! In John 10:27, Jesus Himself says that His sheep hear His voice and follow Him. In fact, all we have to do is tell people about Him. Jesus is the one in charge of softening people’s hearts and helping them believe.

So yes, evangelism is hard work, but keep at it. Sometimes we learn things that make sharing the gospel easier; but more importantly, we need to remember the privilege we have as God’s people. Christ is using us in His grand plan to eventually unite all things in Him, things in heaven, and things on earth (Ephesians 1: 9-10).

Introverts Can Evangelize Too

Written By Agnes Lee, Singapore

For a long time, I could not imagine myself sharing the gospel.

When I was a new Christian, I did not like telling people that I was a Christian because I was afraid that they would ask me about my faith. Being naturally quiet and reserved, I often did not know how to share when I met people because I did not speak well like an extrovert.

But, perhaps more importantly, I did not know what to share about the gospel. The Bible was just an app on my phone which I opened during church service on Sundays. I hardly knew its contents. Whenever people in church talked about evangelism, I felt inadequate for the task.

I could not really explain why I had come to believe. It was simply the faith of my husband’s family and I felt like I had to follow out of respect for them. I had no personal conviction, and had lots of unanswered questions that I was not humble enough to ask.

But through a series of experiences, God drew me close to Him. And from those experiences, I learned a few things that helped me share my faith with confidence.

 

By Sharing Past Experiences

I first started sharing my faith with my friends during a series of trials in my marriage. These challenges occurred largely because of my own sin, and they brought me to my knees. I realized that my efforts were powerless, that l could only rely on God. It was during this time that I started reading the Bible fervently and began developing a passion for it.

Whenever concerned friends asked about my marriage during that period, I would share—without thinking much about it—how God had strengthened me. It turned out that I was evangelizing without myself knowing it!

Introverts are people of few words, but our past experiences can offer a good starting point for important conversations. We can speak with conviction because it’s our very own story. Our past experiences are in fact, what brought us close to God. When I think of my past experience, I see the truth in Romans 1:16, as it is indeed the power of God that brought me to salvation, and thus I am not ashamed of the gospel, which has freed me from my past sin.

By the Power of His Word

Being introverts, we tend to surround ourselves with fewer friends, but we often build deep relationships. Because of the trust that comes with deep relationships, our friends are willing to share their struggles with us. When we lend them our listening ear and share our thoughts with them, we have the opportunity to bring the Word of God into our conversation.

The Word of God frees us from the bondage of our own sin (John 8:32). During my time of trial, I memorized a lot of scripture that gave me comfort. I came to know the Bible much better than ever before, and now I have the opportunity to share these verses with friends in conversations, to encourage them with the same comfort we receive from Christ (2 Corinthians 1:4). When we share the Word, we allow the power of Christ to work in our friends’ lives too.

“Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ” (Romans 10:17). God is able to remove our friends’ hearts of stone and give them a heart of flesh (Ezekiel 36:26), just as He removed ours in the past and gave us a new heart.

 

By Leaving the Outcome to God

Ephesians 2:8-9 says that it is by grace that we have been saved, not by our good works. There is nothing we can do to earn our own salvation and the salvation of others.

I once shared my faith with a non-believer at a funeral, and she told me that God’s Word was very comforting. I even gave her a bible. But a week later, she told me that she was not ready to accept Christ, because her family was against it. As much as I would have liked to share more with her about Christ, the door was shut, as she no longer responded to my calls.

It was disappointing, but I had to remind myself that evangelism is not done on our own strength. 1 Corinthians 2:4-5 also affirms that it is not our own persuasive words of human wisdom that bring a person to faith but the power of God. It is God’s faithfulness and His power that calls us back to Him when we are still far off. It is by purely by grace that we are saved, and it is the same grace that saves others.

Although there will be times where—though we have sowed in love to bring someone to Christ—our efforts seem to have failed, we need to remember that God’s patience is perfect. He had been patient with us, and we need to be patient as well. No seed is sown in vain, as we never know how God might be growing the seeds we have planted (1 Corinthians 3:6).

Introverts are called to evangelize too!

As introverts, we don’t often take the initiative to stand up and declare our convictions. So when we do so in boldness, non-believers are bound to be surprised; Christ’s name is all the more glorified and His power all the more displayed.

In the past, whenever someone asked me to share a testimony, I would always direct the request to another person. But towards the end of a Bible class I was taking last year, we all had the opportunity to share a testimony. Somehow, I felt prompted to share, and so I stood up before all my classmates and teachers. I trembled as I took the microphone. But as soon as I fixed my sight on God’s faithfulness, words flowed out of my mouth. At the end of it, I was amazed at my own boldness and the power of God that gave me the confidence. Someone else also told me that she was encouraged by my sharing.

In Christ, we are new creations (2 Corinthians 5:17), and this newness sets us on fire to proclaim God’s Word and His faithfulness. We no longer conform to our old selves, but allow the power of God to work through us for His glory. Non-believers need to see this as the evidence of God’s power.

When we fix our thoughts on how God has worked in our lives, it becomes easy to share the gospel. When we anchor our joy in the Lord, He shapes our desires, and we will then be able to evangelize without much intentional effort. We can proudly say that we are not ashamed of the gospel, nor will we feel inadequate to share!

Oh Dear, Am I Ashamed of the Gospel?

It’s that season of the year again. My church calls it the “evangelism season”.

My Pastor tells us to rise up in evangelistic fervor, saying that it’s the best time to invite friends and family to church. I scroll through the list of contacts in my phone. Who could I possibly invite to church this time? They all know the Easter story. I mean, almost all my friends attended the same Methodist school for a decade, what else could I possibly tell them?

I feel even worse during youth group. They tell us we can use social media to spread the gospel to our friends. Hand-written verses backed by lovely photography. Post titles like “Have you ever felt lost and alone?” Quotes by popular Christian authors saying “Don’t waste your life.” I shrink deeper into my seat. I’ve heard friends complain about people’s lives not living up to their inspirational social media feed. It’s not authentic, they say. I certainly didn’t want others saying the same of me.

When I share my reservations with my group leader, she quickly concludes, “You are ashamed of the gospel.”

How did she come to that conclusion?

I think back on my own conversion. It had nothing to do with the above-mentioned methods. While I had attended dozens of Holy Week services and came across hundreds of Christianese social media posts, such inspirational portrayals of the Gospel were not what convinced me of the truth.

On the contrary, it was the very real flaws of Bible characters and Christians around me that convicted me of the reality of the gospel message. If God could declare a liar like Abraham to be righteous, and an adulterer like David to be a man after His own heart. If God could bring salvation to that once vulgar and obnoxious senior in high school, or bring that ex-drug dealer to tears at His altar. If God would bother with sinners like these, then perhaps He wanted me as well. I wanted in.

Don’t get me wrong. I certainly do not want to undermine special church services or social media outreach methods. I’ve seen people greatly encouraged by the message shared through these methods. But they didn’t work for me. And maybe they don’t work for you. What I’m saying is, we are not any less of a Christian for not using these methods.

So how do I evangelize?

I don’t. At least not in the way my church seems to want me to. Instead, I have people over to our home for meals every now and then. I keep close and regular contact with my non-Christian friends. Like everyone else, I attend their weddings, parent’s funerals, and kid’s birthday parties. I let them share their struggles, and they hear mine. And when they ask me how I get by difficult times, I tell them honestly that I draw strength from my hope in Christ. When they have to go for scary operations or their children fall sick, and ask me if I can pray to my God on their behalf, I do it gladly, but on the condition that they allow me to pray with them.

Several of my friends have come to Christ, and at least two families have come to attend my own church as well. Not only that, but God has used my attempts at openness and graciousness to soften the hearts of people who had been openly hostile to Christianity, and He has allowed me to build meaningful, growing relationships with people who believe differently than I do, so that the gospel may be shared, and perhaps one day accepted.

 The power of the gospel goes beyond pretty Bible verses or famous quotes. Its reach is far greater than any charismatic preacher and marketing gimmick. The power of God is magnified through our weaknesses and vulnerabilities, and I am certainly not ashamed to boast about them.

In sharing my life with those around me, I share my fears of being a mother or my struggles with youth ministry. In the reality and flaws of my life, may others see the glorious work of God.

Eight Lessons to Learn From the Life of Billy Graham (1918-2018)

Written By Sheridan Voysey

A college dropout farm boy from North Carolina finds faith, starts to preach, begins travelling the world, meets dictators, becomes a confidante to presidents, becomes a media entrepreneur, catalyses dozens of global ministries, and ends his days as the most influential and best-loved evangelist in history.

Such is the Billy Graham story.

After years of ill health, Billy Graham has died at the age of 99. Books have been written about his life and legacy. Whole countries and generations of Christian leaders have been shaped by his work. After reading his autobiography Just As I Am at a key moment in my own life, I jotted down these 8 lessons to take on board. They are eight of just so many more that could be listed.

What will you take away from Billy Graham’s life? Share your lessons in the comments below.

 

1. Stay True to Your Calling

Billy Graham turned down a lucrative television hosting contract. He turned down Lyndon Johnson’s offer to run for the US presidency. For a short time he was the president of a Christian college until he realised it was a diverting him from his real calling: sharing the good news of Jesus to the world. There are many good things we could be doing. When God puts his finger on what that specifically is for us, do it.

 

2. Take Calculated Risks

Graham accepted an historic opportunity to preach in the Soviet Union, with all the propaganda hazards it entailed. He preached in closed countries and other dangerous places. But he was no cowboy. Each opportunity was weighed carefully, prayerfully and with much consultation. And some opportunities were refused. Combine bold risk with great wisdom.

 

3. Be Innovative With Media

The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association explored the use of radio, TV and film long before others even contemplated the idea. Graham founded or helped found quality, reputable publications like Christianity Today. Excellence was always a key value in what he produced.

 

4. Handle Criticism Graciously But Firmly

Graham was publically denounced by both fundamentalists and liberals alike. He would contact his detractors privately through letter, and on the rare occassions he responded publically he was gracious and fair. He didn’t hit back or demonise. But he was firm when needed. When fundamentalist preacher Bob Jones attacked his work Graham wrote a series of letters, hoping to reconcile, the final one making it clear he would need to break contact should Jones continue his hostility. That’s what happened. Be gracious with critics. And be firm when necessary.

 

5. Expect Betrayal if You Dabble in Politics

 His friend Richard Nixon secretly taped their private conversations. Enough said.

 

6. Be Politically Prophetic But Astute

Graham was an early opponent of racial segregation. He judged the emerging Religious Right movement in America to be an unhealthy politico-religious mix (something many fellow evangelicals today could reflect on). Graham said he wasn’t always astute when it came to politics – sometimes he didn’t remain bipartisan. But he spoke out on many things that mattered. This is a hard one to get right, but we can learn from someone who both succeeded and made mistakes here.

 

7. Be Generous While Maintaining Your Convictions

Did you ever hear Billy Graham demonize another religion? Did you ever hear him waver from his belief that salvation comes through Christ alone? Graham was generous to other faiths while maintaining his convictions. Let’s do the same.

 

8. Pursue Integrity

 The Modesto Manifesto is now famous. In it, Graham and his team outlined the key temptations they knew they would face, along with strategies to stand strong. They would commit themselves to sexual integrity, honesty in their reporting, maintain close links with churches rather than operate alone, and handle finances transparently. The manifesto helped Graham avoid the moral failure so many other successful evangelists have fallen to.

Billy Graham was honest about his missteps, especially his not being around enough for his family. Others could list further weaknesses. But we can learn a lot from this faithful man. Today’s pressures are really age-old perils in new guises. Heroes like Billy Graham can show us how to face them, and propel us to exploit our own opportunities.

Well done Mr Graham.

***

Someday you will read or hear that Billy Graham is dead. Don’t you believe a word of it. I shall be more alive than I am now. I will just have changed my address. I will have gone into the presence of God. —Billy Graham

 

 

Sheridan Voysey is a writer, speaker and broadcaster. His latest book is Resilient: Your Invitation to a Jesus-Shaped Life, and his free ebook Five Practices For a Resilient Life is available here. This post was originally published on his blog.