To introverts like me, it’s an intimidating word. It conjures up expectations of going out into the busy streets, trying to strike up conversations with random strangers. I start thinking about how I’m going to have to memorize an elaborate gospel presentation and rehearse all the right answers to every possible objection to the faith.
Or maybe the word “evangelism” dredges up memories of awkward encounters spurred on by a religious guilt complex. Sure, your intentions were noble, but the execution left much to be desired! You tried your best, but after fumbling through the “Four Spiritual Laws” and handing them a tract you just wanted to go crawl into a hole until Jesus comes back. No? Just me? Oh, okay.
Now don’t get me wrong, there are definitely people who are gifted at sharing the gospel with total strangers. And if that’s your thing, more power to you! But what about shy folks like me, who cringe at the thought of busy streets, let alone having to talk to people in them? How can we be more effective at sharing our faith in Jesus? And perhaps most importantly, how do we do it without coming across as forced and awkward?
Because I really do believe evangelism is important. The good news of Jesus is worth sharing, and we’re called to “go and make disciples” (Matthew 28:19-20). And I also believe that even shy Christians can and should seek the empowerment of the Holy Spirit to evangelize boldly.
However, evangelism isn’t a “one size fits all” activity. Nowhere in the Bible does it say that we have to become like pushy salespeople to share our faith. In fact, quite the opposite.
Always Ready to Share
Consider this instruction from the apostle Peter: believers should “set Christ apart as Lord in your hearts and always be ready to give an answer to anyone who asks about the hope you possess. Yet do it with courtesy and respect…” (1 Peter 3:15-16, NET).
Peter’s counsel comes in a context of encouragement to Christians living and working alongside of unbelieving neighbors who are always observing their lives. He says that believers should live in such a way that our hope in Christ becomes a regular part of our conversations; that non-believers can’t help but wonder why we have such a different perspective on things.
Then, Peter says, we should always be ready to explain our faith. But, he adds, we must do so in a humble and respectful way. No browbeating; no condescension; no manipulation. Just a reasonable and courteous explanation.
For those who naturally gravitate toward a more confrontational form of evangelism, this is an important reminder that the goal is to make Jesus attractive to the non-believer, not to win an argument or manipulate someone into converting.
In essence, what Peter encourages is a model of evangelism that is more focused on conversations, on dialogue, and on relationships. It’s about cultivating a lifestyle where we live out our faith in Christ and simply share about what we ourselves are genuinely experiencing. And we should share it in a winsome way with those who are curious.
This isn’t to say that there’s not a time and place for things like street evangelism or formal apologetics (consider Peter’s own ministry in Acts 2-4, or the apostle Paul’s ministry). But in general, sharing Jesus with others should be a natural part of life – as natural as introducing someone to your spouse or best friend.
And this happens best in the context of relationships.
Doing Conversational Evangelism
With that said, here are a few bits of practical advice I would give when it comes to sharing your faith:
Everyone loves having a captive audience, but few enjoy being one! Too often the assumption is that evangelism should be a monologue, when in reality people will be much more receptive to what you have to say if they feel that you also care about what they have to say.
A friendly conversation helps you to build trust, whereas if you do all the talking it can feel more like a sales pitch. If that happens, it’s only natural for the other person to feel more skeptical or be on the defensive. As Randy Newman writes in Bringing the Gospel Home, “our message needs to sound like good news, not just true facts. . . . we should share our testimony with wonder rather than pride” (pg. 68).
So don’t just talk at people. Ask them questions. Get to know them. Earn the right to be heard.
And actually listen. I’ve found that oftentimes it’s when I really listen to others and ask them questions about their lives that I begin to notice where they already have a spiritual hunger that only Jesus can fill. Try to pick up on the ways in which God is already drawing that person to himself. Pay attention to the spiritual questions they’re really asking, and then find ways to connect them to the good news of Jesus.
2) Share your story, not just someone else’s.
When doing evangelism, it’s often tempting to want to merely recommend a Christian book to a non-believer or tell them to go look up a sermon or podcast. Sometimes that can be helpful, but more often than not they simply won’t be interested or they won’t take the time to look up what you recommended. Or if they are interested, chances are they’ll have already done their own research and settled their opinion.
What people will typically be more impacted by is your story. What difference has Jesus made in your life? That was Peter’s point in the passage we looked at above – you need to be treasuring Christ in your heart so that you can be ready to share about your hope (not just someone else’s). You can’t share what you aren’t already experiencing for yourself.
Sharing your story invites transparency. It can help ease the level of defensiveness in the conversation. And even if nonbelievers are skeptical, they can at least appreciate that you’re being genuine. When people see that you’ve experienced something real, it makes a lingering impact.
3) Invite them to see for themselves.
I love the account in John 1:43-51, where the very first followers of Jesus began spreading the buzz about him. Philip, one of those followers, couldn’t wait to tell his friend Nathaniel that the promised Messiah had finally arrived. When Nathaniel shot back some skepticism, Philip didn’t launch into a sophisticated presentation; he simply said, “Come and see for yourself!”
Philip realized what a lot of would-be evangelists don’t, and that’s that evangelism is all about introducing people to Jesus. It should be less like talking people into buying a car and more like introducing them to your dearest friend.
And that can happen in a number of ways. As I said above, it could be by sharing your testimony. Or it could mean inviting a non-believer to meet with you each week as you study one of the Gospels together. Or it could mean inviting them to church or to your small group with you. Tailor the invitation so that it works most naturally for the level of relationship you have with that person.
Remember What It’s All About
At the end of the day, sharing your faith is not about your effectiveness at converting as many people as possible (although leading tons of people to Jesus is definitely the dream goal!). Instead, like everything in the Christian life, evangelism is simply about being faithful.
Being faithful to share the hope that you have. Being faithful not to keep your love for Jesus to yourself. Being faithful to love people and to listen to them and to share in a way they can receive.
And last but certainly not least, being faithful to pray for them! Pray that God would open their hearts to the truth and love of Christ. And trust God for the results.
The good news of Jesus is worth sharing, and that means it’s worth sharing well.
Share it in the way God has gifted you to share.
And share it in the confidence that ultimately salvation belongs to the Lord, not to our feeble efforts. Simply be faithful to share what you have, and leave the rest to Jesus.
And that’s this introvert’s simple advice on evangelism. It’s definitely an area I’m still growing in, so if you’d like to share your own advice please leave a comment! And let me know if you found this reflection helpful! Also, if you missed it be sure to check out some of my favorite quotes on evangelism in my previous post.