3 Things that Scared this Missionary about Evangelism
Evangelism... What comes to mind when you hear this word? For some of you, it’s a late-night TV program at a megachurch in another city. Maybe it’s gathering blankets, coats, and food and taking them to the homeless. Or perhaps it’s a group of missionaries playing games and passing out candy to shoeless orphans with huge, toothy smiles. When it comes to evangelism, I wonder if we sometimes overcomplicate it. The heart of evangelism is sharing the love of God--sharing His heart. And while it may manifest itself differently in different contexts and cultures, loving people is always at the center of it. Events and mission trips are wonderful, but evangelism could also be as simple as holding “free hug” signs at the park and offering to pray for people as they pass by. It’s walking by someone, seeing their downcast expression, and taking the time to talk with them. Offering a word of hope and encouragement. That’s really what a lot of evangelism is--simply noticing people.
That is what I have come to learn in my eleven months as a missionary in Ardeo’s first church plant in Brazil. As Christ followers, we are all called to be evangelists, whether our mission field is 4,600 miles away from home or right next door. Because of this, I wanted to take a few minutes and talk about what I think are some common fears that hold us back from sharing our faith and how we can overcome them.
1.) They are going to reject me. How is the person going to react? What if they say no? What if they get angry? This was definitely my biggest fear when we first started to do evangelism. Honestly, the best way to overcome this is to just get out there and do it. As with anything else--sports, playing an instrument, learning Portuguese, sharing your faith--the more you do it, the more comfortable you start to feel and it becomes more natural. And as you walk in obedience to what God has told you to do, you yourself begin to change. As my teammate, TJ, says, “When you begin to see others the way God sees them--that they are His treasures, the most valuable thing in the world to Him--it changes your own thoughts and attitude towards them.” Suddenly the fear of a “no” or a snappy remark seems so trivial in the grand scheme of things. We have the chance to bring hope, healing, and restoration to someone’s life. Let’s not be held back by a fear of rejection!
2.) We are not really making a difference. The “nothing happened” fear. I first experienced this when I was in Ecuador for Ardeo Global’s 40 Day Experience back in 2016. We were in Manta for a week and on our first or second night there we met a guy about our age named Job. Our group quickly became friends with him and he started to accompany us as we did evangelism in elementary and high schools and our nightly devotions on the beach. He saw and experienced so many things and even came early the morning we left to say goodbye. Even then, he still was not ready to surrender his life to Christ himself. As the bus pulled away, I was devastated. But, God had a reminder for me. It’s not my job to save anyone. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 3:6-7 (NIV), “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.” The journey to faith is a process. Just because someone isn’t ready to commit doesn’t mean we didn’t do a good job or should stop trying. Quite the opposite. Our job is to be ready and available to share, but the saving? Leave it to God. He’s the One who makes things grow.
3.) We don’t know enough. Too many times we talk ourselves out of sharing even before we are faced with an opportunity because we say to ourselves, “I just don’t know enough.” We worry that someone will try to debate us or that they’ll have a question we don’t know how to answer. Guess what? We don’t have to have all the answers. You know that saying, “God doesn’t call the qualified. He qualifies the called”? It may be cliche, but it’s true. If we have a willing heart, God will be able to use us far more than someone who “has all the answers.” That’s the type of God He is. The God who chooses the foolish things to shame the wise, the weak things to shame the strong, and whose power is made perfect in our weakness. He doesn’t need us to have all the answers (and quite frankly, neither do people). He just needs us to be obedient.
This is what God has been teaching me the past several months. I’m not sure what I will be doing after these two and a half years, if God will call me to stay, go somewhere else, or return home. One thing I do know, however, is that the lessons He is teaching me here will follow me wherever I go and that the things that I am doing here in Anápolis, Brazil, I can do just as easily at home. I don’t know why it took moving 4,600 miles away to realize this! I can notice (and by notice I mean talk to, encourage, help) hurting people at the supermarket here or at Walmart. I can offer to pray for someone at Park Ipiranga or the park where we hold our family reunions. I can share my testimony and the things God has done in my life wherever I am. It doesn’t have to be complicated friends. It just needs to come from a sincere heart, one that’s ready to love God and His treasures.
I hope that these things I’ve been learning about evangelism spark in you some inner conversation about your own fears. Do you have any fears surrounding evangelism? What are the stories that you tell yourself? Comment below, we’d love to hear your heart!
About the Author:
Olivia is a 40/40 Church Planter in the city of Anápolis, Brazil. She, along with her team, are the first church plant team that Ardeo Global has ever sent to Brazil!