Evangelism and How Not to Pray

The rush and thrill of evangelism is a pleasure which far too few Christians avail themselves.

Nonetheless, Jesus was emphatic: his followers were to go and preach the Good News as a witness in all the inhabited earth. And despite the best of intentions, who can say sharing the message of Christ--his sacrificial death and his coming Kingdom--is a hallmark of their spiritual walk?

Evangelism has been my heart’s cry since I was a kid. What I have found is that while most Christians want to evangelize, they end up psyching themselves out before the words can even escape their mouths. Therefore, I suggest that before working on our evangelism strategy, we work on our pre-evangelism strategy, which
is prayer.

The kind of help for which we ask our Heavenly Father is important as it reveals our underlying assumptions about what evangelism is and what we think we really need to be successful evangelizers. This is why I want to mention four things we should stop praying for, as it relates to evangelism, and four requests we might start implementing instead.

Firstly, stop praying for opportunities to evangelize and start praying for the courage to act on the opportunities God has already given you. This was a game-changer for me. From the onset, asking for opportunities takes the responsibility off us to act and puts it on God as we wait around for highly tailored heaven-sent divine “appointments.” However, any time we rub shoulders with another living breathing person who does not know the gospel is an opportunity to share it! For the vast majority of us, we are swimming in opportunities in our jobs, in our families, at the grocery store, at the gas pump, in the library, at the restaurant, on public transit, the salon, the mailbox, and many more. If reading that sentence makes you anxious, wondering how you could ever share the gospel with a stranger at the gas station, it’s not because we lack the opportunity to do so, but because we lack the courage.

In speaking of the lasting and surpassing glory of the gospel, the Apostle Paul proclaims, “Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold” (2 Corinthians 3:12 NIV).

Pray that God would inject courage into your heart to be bold in sharing the news of His Son with the lost world around us, even when your nerves would have you stay silent.

Secondly, stop praying for the “right moment” and start praying for discretion to act wisely in the moments you have been given.

During my teen years in a youth soccer league, I remember God making it clear to me that I was to share the gospel with one of my teammates. Immediately, I panicked. I had never before received such a clear directive from God or just approached someone out of the blue to talk to them about Jesus! I decided I would wait until the next practice to approach my teammate, that way I could rehearse broaching the subject more naturally. However, the following week I didn’t see him, and, after asking some of the guys, I learned he had broken a bone and was out for the rest of the season.

I never saw him again.

The “right moment” to share the gospel is whatever moment you have because you may not get another moment less clunky, less awkward, more ideal, or more cinematic. As Paul says, “Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season” (2 Tim 4:2 NIV).

Thirdly, stop praying for eloquence and start praying for a character that speaks louder and more effectively than any fancy way with words. Again, we read from Paul in 1 Corinthians 2:1-2 NIV: “...When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” The irony about this statement is that we know from the writings of Paul that he was a learned and intelligent man who, at the very least, had a way with the written word. Yet, he knew better than to rely on any talent of speaking, writing, or scholarly erudition, instead he allowed the focus of his message to rest solely on the living reality of the crucified and risen Christ. It was Paul’s knowledge of Christ, a transforming knowledge that went beyond mere data collection, that would help him to arrest the affections of his audience.

During my three-month ministry internship in Mexico eight years ago, I was constantly frustrated by my limited Spanish. I had so many things I wanted to say to the non-Christian youth at the children’s home where I was serving, but the language barrier proved steep. However, when the life I lived among the young people met the little Spanish I knew, they listened, not because I was a smooth talker (or a perfect Christian-far from it), but because, if nothing else, they could see my sincerity of heart. Whether you are a confident public speaker or someone who can’t order food at a restaurant without sweating, we ought to pray our character and sincere desire to be obedient to Christ make up for any shortcomings of speech on our part.

Finally, stop praying for passion for evangelism and start praying for passion for God. Evangelism is not an end, but the means to an end, that men and women would come to know and love God and Christ Jesus. If we have passion, love, and devotion for God, this will draw us naturally into a more passionate, regular, and earnest proclamation of the gospel. We don’t tell people just to tell people. We tell people because what else can a person who has experienced the love of Jesus do but tell of it?

Whether it is Christ’s love for us or our love for Christ, we are compelled to speak and to keep speaking these wonderful words of life.

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