When I was in seminary, I didn’t share my faith much. Most of the time I was pretty nervous about it. Part of this was a horrible misconception about evangelism, and part was the reality that I had not grown comfortable with who I was in Christ.
There were plenty of others like me in seminary, but most were embarrassed to admit their struggles with sharing their faith. I certainly was.
I had some negative experiences sharing my faith early on. When I was in college, I almost got creamed by a guy twice my size at a beach evangelism project. He was really irate with me. Another time, I was late to choir practice one week at church because I was sharing my faith with a teenager I felt was ready to believe, and the minister of music ripped me a new one. I mean he really chewed me out. How dare I be late to choir practice to lead someone to Christ?
These negative experiences kind of rattled me, and did not fuel my eagerness.
Fears have to be faced to be overcome. We’re called to bear witness to Christ regardless of our gifts or our fears.
Here are a few suggestions from a non-expert evangelist:
Learn a concise method for presenting the gospel. There are dozens you could use. I like the simplicity of the Roman Road, combined with the fantastic opening and closing questions in Share Jesus Without Fear. Pick one that feels natural, and memorize it.
Count Conversations, Not Conversions. Part of my horrible misconception of evangelism was that if I didn’t actually lead someone “over the line” I was failing. Oh, how wrong I was. Most people need multiple exposures to the gospel in different ways before they commit. Any conversation in which any aspect of the gospel comes up can be a helpful step closer.
Go for relationships. Drive-by evangelism has its uses, but I have seen much more consistent success where there is significant relationship established first.
The Celtic Way of Evangelism: How Christianity Can Reach the West…Again by George Hunter is a great book that contrasts the Roman and Celtic models of evangelism
- We find you and present the gospel to you.
- You accept the gospel.
- Then we welcome you into community
- Welcome you into the community.
- You observe the gospel in word and deed.
- You find yourself believing.
Community should come first. If you love people first, then they’ll be interested in what you have to say. If you insist they convert before you accept them… well, good luck with that.
Spend time with people far from God. This is a challenge in a residential seminary environment especially, because you’re cocooned. Get outside of the seminary bubble. Go to unrespectable places and meet some people far from God. Find a way to be a regular in their lives.
This is a big deal, because local church ministry tends to keep us surrounded and busy with other believers. Develop the habit of getting out of the Christian ghetto now.
Get good at sharing your testimony concisely. Bill Hybels in Just Walk Across the Room, recommends that your testimony-summary last less than a minute. He argues that if you give people just a taste of it, it allows them room to ask more questions if they are interested. In any event, you should be able to share how Christ has changed your life in under three minutes. Otherwise, you’re just talking too much, and people will only listen to be polite.
Watch the lofty language. Especially in seminary, where you’re learning all these fancy terms, the temptation is to talk way over people’s heads. Don’t.
Practice. For practice, go to large youth evangelism events and volunteer as a counselor. The more conversations you have with people who are coming to Christ, the more discerning and skillful you’ll become at helping people make the transition.
Pray for the lost. Make prayer for the lost part of your daily time with God. Develop a list of five to ten people who are not believers, who you have regular contact with, and pray regularly for them.
(With contributions from Jordan at SSG.com Research.)