Why do so many believers find talking about Jesus so hard? Part of the reason comes from the very way we church leader types have taught people to share Christ. Let me say how grateful I am for so many who have taught me so much about telling the good news. At the same time, I’ve observed some unintended consequences of the way we have often packaged our evangelism training. Here are four main reasons:
First, most believers do not consider themselves public speakers.
Evangelism training often focuses more on learning a one-size-fits-all presentation to deliver than on the gospel message and on the people with whom we share. This approach makes people who are not naturally public speakers more than a little bit nervous. According to Gallup, public speaking is the second greatest fears of adults. Giving a set gospel presentation represents a form of public speaking more than an everyday conversation. This is a reason we’ve had so many people go through some form of evangelism training but never actually develop a lifestyle of witnessing.
Second, most of the people who teach evangelism training tend to be aggressive,
Type-A folks(raising my hand, guilty as charged) who share Christ passionately and genuinely want others to as well. But most people aren’t wired like that, so it can be intimidating. Imagine you finally decided to get in shape physically. You go to a gym and hire a personal trainer, and out walks a guy who looks like Arnold Schwarzenegger’s muscle-bound big brother. I would feel pretty defeated looking at myself in the mirror and then looking at that, wouldn’t you? That’s the way a lot of people who don’t have a lot of witnessing experience feel.
Third, at times evangelism training makes us more self-conscious than self-confident.
I’ve met too many Christians who tell me some version of this: “I met the Lord, and started telling others how he changed my life. Then, I took evangelism training, and suddenly began to wonder if I was doing it all wrong. So, I became more apprehensive than bold.” That’s not what is intended in witness training, and it’s not what we are going for here. That may not be your story, but it’s one I’ve heard far too many times.
A fourth reason is less about training and more about the Christian subculture we have created today.
This has lead the vast majority of Christians to spend most of our time around saved people with little interaction with lost people. We live in Christian bubbles, which means we go to movies with believers, have parties with believers, and do pretty much everything in our discretionary time with believers. In our mastery of fellowship with the saints we’ve lost a burden for a friendship with sinners. But Jesus was known as a friend of sinners (Luke 7).
Whatever the reason, it’s time church leaders help believers grow in confidence in sharing Christ in their everyday lives, the way they were born to do it. That’s why I wrote the Sharing Jesus book. I’m not going to try to make you the next Billy Graham or Apostle Paul, but to help you become the person God made you to be, to become the person God created you to be, and to be like the host of believers in Scripture and history who tell the real story behind the spread of the gospel of Jesus around the world. Folks like those unnamed guys in Acts 11:19-23 who planted the gospel deeply in Antioch, the fourth largest city of the Roman Empire. People like those Michael Green described in his book Evangelism in the Early Church: “In contrast to the present day, when Christianity is highly intellectualized and dispensed by professional clergy to a constituency increasingly confined to the middle class, in the early days the faith was spontaneously spread by informal evangelists, and had its greatest appeal among the working classes.”
These “informal evangelists” were normal people just like you (I’m talking about you) God used to evangelize the Roman Empire. You can do this in your everyday life, as well!
[Adapted from my book Sharing Jesus Without Freaking Out (B&H Academic, 2017)].
Alvin L. “Doc” Reid serves as Senior Professor of Evangelism and Student Ministry at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina, where he has been since 1995. He is also the founding Bailey Smith Chair of Evangelism. Alvin and his wife Michelle have two married children: Joshua and his wife Jacqueline, and Hannah and her husband Corey. Hannah and Corey recently welcomed Doc’s first grandchild, Lincoln James. He also serves as Pastor to Young Professionals at Richland Creek Community Church. Alvin travels extensively speaking and has authored a number of books. His most recent is Sharing Jesus Without Freaking Out (B&H Academic).