The last words of the Lord Jesus as he was ascending to heaven give us what is often called as the Great Commission, “18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age”” [Matthew 28:18-20].
Luke in his version of the Great Commission in his gospel records the words of Jesus in this way, “…This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things.” [Luke 24:46-48].
And the same Luke repeats pretty much the same in the opening words of the book of Acts with the additional and important note about the Holy Spirit empowering us for the purposes of evangelism, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” [Acts 1:8].
If the last words of mere human beings are given so much importance, how much more importance should we give to the last words of Jesus the Lord and King of the universe as he was leaving earth? Are they not crystal clear as to the importance of evangelizing the world as his witnesses? Yet, how often we fail in the task of being faithful witnesses! How often we carry the heavy guilt of failing in this command?
Hopefully in this and the next post, by seeing some of the common barriers [or should we say “excuses”] to faithful evangelism, the Holy Spirit would convict us to change our ways and lean on him for overcoming these barriers and thus be motivated to be faithful witnesses of Jesus Christ.
However, before we look at these common barriers, let us look at a simple definition of evangelism: Evangelism is the loving and faithful proclamation of the good news concerning Jesus Christ who died for sins and rose again so that by repenting and trusting in him alone, one could be forgiven of their sins.
So, with that definition at the back of our minds, let’s read on.
1. I AM AFRAID I WILL OFFEND THE PERSON AND THUS LOSE THE RELATIONSHIP.
The gospel message is offensive to those that are in enmity with God. However, we should strive to present the truth in love and not fear the loss of relationships. After all, it is God who gives us the relationship! We need to guard ourselves from placing our relationships with people above our relationship with God.
Matthew 10:37 “Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.”
2. THEY MIGHT TELL ME TO MIND MY OWN BUSINESS.
It is the Christian’s business to be concerned about the spiritual condition of others. Let’s think where we would be if someone thought that our spiritual condition was not his or her business!
Once, when walking down a certain street in Chicago, D. L. Moody stepped up to a man, a perfect stranger to him, and said, “Sir, are you a Christian?” “You mind your own business,” was the reply. Moody promptly replied, “This, Sir is my business.”
2 Corinthians 5:20 “We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.”
3. I DO NOT KNOW WHERE TO START.
We can always start with our own testimony…what Jesus did for us. That is what the ex-demoniac at Gerasenes was told to tell others.
Luke 8:39 “”Return home and tell how much God has done for you.” So the man went away and told all over town how much Jesus had done for him.”
It’s personal and cannot be refuted. And it can have quite an impact if the Spirit chooses to do so!
4. I AM STILL LEARNING THE BIBLE. I DON’T HAVE ALL THE ANSWERS FOR THE QUESTIONS PEOPLE MIGHT ASK.
The ex-demoniac of Gerasenes [Lk 8:26-39] did not know much of the Bible. Yet, he started witnessing immediately after his conversion [Lk 8:39]. We will never have all the answers that an unbeliever might ask. However, that should not stop us from witnessing. It is okay to say, “I don’t know the answer. But, I will find out and get back to you.” Consult someone who can be of spiritual help and get back to that person.
Hudson Taylor told of a Chinese pastor who always instructed new converts to witness as soon as possible. Once, upon meeting a young convert, the pastor inquired, “Brother, how long have you been saved.” The man answered that he had been saved for about three months. “And how many have you won to the Savior?”
“Oh, I’m only a learner,” the convert responded. Shaking his head in disapproval, the pastor said, “Young man, the Lord doesn’t expect you to be a full-fledged preacher, but he does expect you to be a faithful witness. Tell me, when does a candle begin to shine—when it’s already half burned up.”
“No, as soon as it’s lit,” came the reply. “That’s right, so let your light shine right away.”
5. I NEED TO LEARN MORE CREATIVE METHODS IN EVANGELISM. THEN I WILL EVANGELIZE.
Yes, there is always room for improving in our evangelism. However, if we are not faithful in the little that we know concerning evangelism, will we really be faithful if we learn more methods?
Luke 16:10 “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.”
Though the immediate application of this verse may pertain to the stewardship of money, one of the extended applications can apply to evangelism as well.
6. THEY WILL THINK I AM CRAZY AND A RELIGIOUS FANATIC.
The Christian is not of this world, but is one who belongs to another world. So, it is natural for the people of this world to think of Christians as “different.” Remember, it is very likely that in our pre-Christian life, we thought Christians were crazy too!
1 Corinthians 1:18 “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”
1 Corinthians 4:10 “We are fools for Christ.”
7. EVANGELISM IS THE RESPONSIBILITY OF LEADERS IN THE CHURCH.
While inviting unbelievers to a Church service or a special evangelistic outreach to hear the gospel is one method of evangelism, it is not a substitute for personal one-on-one witnessing. The Lord commands each Christian to open his or her mouth to proclaim the good news and this was the pattern of the early believers.
Acts 8:4 “Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went.”
8. I AM NOT AN EXTROVERT. BY NATURE I AM VERY SHY AND AFRAID TO TALK TO PEOPLE.
God has removed the spirit of fear and filled us with power to speak about Him.
Acts 1:8 “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
2 Timothy 1:7-8 “7 For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. 8 So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner. Rather, join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God.”
9. I WILL JUST PRAY FOR THE PERSON INSTEAD OF SPEAKING TO THEM.
While prayer is extremely essential to evangelism, the Lord does command us to open our mouths and tell others about Him.
Luke 24:47 “repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.”
Luke 8:39 “Return home and tell how much God has done for you.” So the man went away and told all over town how much Jesus had done for him.”
We need to open our mouths to the Lord about the lost person [i.e. prayer] and we need to open our mouths to the lost person about the Lord as well [i.e. evangelism]. Neither is a substitute for the other.
10. HE OR SHE SEEMS SO STUBBORN. I DO NOT THINK THEY WILL ACCEPT THE MESSAGE.
God is in the business of breaking hard hearts and replacing them with soft hearts through the proclaimed gospel.
Jeremiah 23:29 “Is not my word like fire,” declares the LORD, “and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces?
Take the apostle Paul as an example. Not only did he resist the gospel, but he also actively put many Christians to death for their faith. Yet, God changed him [1 Tim 1:12-16; Acts 26:9-18]! We can never underestimate what God can do. Our part is to simply present the truth; the results are to be left in God’s hands.
So, there we go. 10 common barriers to evangelism. In the next post, we will see additional barriers to evangelism. In the meantime, may the Lord help us to overcome these barriers and proclaim his gospel faithfully!