Let's face it. As Christians, we all know, by now, that we are supposed to share our faith. Most of us have heard countless sermons on the importance of evangelizing. But . . . most of us don't take the time to do it. Or we do, but not nearly as much as we should. So what's the problem? Why don't Christians share the good news of the gospel message?
Looking at my own life, my own disobedience in this area, I've found five reasons we aren't more vocal about telling others what we ourselves believe:
1) We don't share our faith because we don't realize we have a mission. The command to follow Christ as a disciple, as an ambassador, as a proclaimer of the good news is just that . . . a command. And yet if we were honest, most of the time we treat our mission in this world as something that is optional. We look at the calling of a Christian, to die to ourselves, to take up the cross, as something we should do, if we have time. We don't take our mission seriously. Or we think that perhaps this mission was given only to a select few specialists, such as the pastor or the missionary. This is why the world hardly notices a difference between God's people and the rest of the world. We are so preoccupied with our own well-being, our own survival or success, that we blow off the mission of God.
2) We don't share our faith because we misunderstand our mission. Even if we want to obey the sending mission of God, we often fail because we misunderstand the mission. Let me explain. I think much of the fear that keeps Christians from sharing the good news of the gospel with their friends and neighbors and coworkers stems from a confusion of two things: method and message. Sometimes we confuse the method with the message. So to evangelize means to dump the entire book of Romans on an unsuspecting mall clerk or it means reciting a memorized spiel of the steps to salvation. But while methods are good--they change with the audience. Paul knew this and so he didn't necessarily try out the same method on every people group. When we do this, when we put so much confidence in a few Christianese phrases and memorized, out-of-context verses, we end up sounding like a salesman for something we don't really want to sell. I think much of the fear would go away if we, instead, relied on the Holy Spirit to guide us in each interaction, if we resisted impatience, and worked to build long-term relationships that can one day lead to conversion. What if we were so in love with the gospel message, if we never lost our awe and wonder, if we made it a lifetime study? Perhaps that passion would so fill our souls that it would leak out into every single sphere of life and thus . . . the good news would be less of a canned pitch and more of a lifestyle. The gospel is good news, after all.
3) We don't share our faith because we misunderstand the Holy Spirit's mission. Many evangelistic methods, while good and helpful and fruitful, put an emphasis on "closing the deal." We mistakenly think that it is the cleverness of our methods that turns a soul from death to life. But it is the Holy Spirit who does the work of regeneration in a heart, it is God who saves people, not mere men. Our job is to articulate, to share, to proclaim and then we must trust the Spirit to do the work we cannot do. I want to be careful here, because part of our mission is to persuade to exhort, to call people to repentance and faith. Yet it is God who saves, always. Every time. Releasing ourselves from the pressure to "close the deal" and "make the sale" allows us to be faithful. It releases us from the humanistic thinking that wrongly puts confidence in a method. It often takes several contacts in a person's life before the Spirit helps them understand the message of the Gospel. Sometimes you may be the person present when someone trusts Christ and in doing so, you see the harvest of many years of careful work by others. And at times it may be that your first conversation with an unbeliever is just the mustard seed that the Spirit implants in their heart, a seed that others will water and see brought to full flower.
4) We don't share our faith because we misunderstand what it means to be a friend of the world. There is a certain tension in Scripture. On the one hand we are called to be different from the world. We are called to live above the world. We are citizens of another kingdom. Christians should live and think and act differently than nonChristians. And yet, we are called to go into the world and make disciples of Jesus. We are to bring the gospel to the farthest reaches of the planet. Sometimes we put such an emphasis on our difference that we intentionally avoid unbelievers. But while we are called to live differently, we are also called to live among the lost of the world. If we are really on mission in our communities, if our commission from the Lord is to spread the fame of his name among all peoples, we need to start making intentional connections. It's hard to share Christ with people we don't actually know. It's hard to love people from a distance. As our culture becomes more and more post-Christian, it will become even more important for Christians to develop intentional relationships with unbelievers. It's pretty difficult to obey the Great Commission if we are never actually exposed to people who don't know Jesus.
5) We don't share our faith because we are ashamed of our identity. Christians should be wise to articulate the gospel in the way that most suits their audience. But even if we perfectly "get out of the way" of the gospel, there is a point where the cross of Christ becomes a point of conflict. Some will embrace the message of salvation and others will reject it. And sometimes our refusal to evangelize is tied to our desire to be liked by the people who may not like Jesus. We don't want to be social martyrs. We don't want to be uncool. We don't want to lose friendships and alienate important people. So we stay silent. But the call of the gospel is the call to come and die, the call to give up our prestige, our desire to be affirmed by the world. We shouldn't be obnoxious jerks. We should be kind, loving, gracious, giving, generous. But we can sometimes do all these things and still be considered a backwards bigot, simply for loving Jesus. It's a question of what we value. Do we value the limitless grace of the gospel that brought us from the enslavement of sin to the arms of the Father or do we value our own fleeting approval by world system? The way to get motivated to share the good news is not by guilt or manipulation, but by plunging once again into the heart of the very gospel itself.