Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Overcoming The Fear Of Sharing The Gospel

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If you have spent any length of time in an evangelical church, you've probably been encouraged to share the Gospel with as many people as possible. You are told that this is your responsibility as a Christian, to make disciples. But I know that many Christians have a fear of sharing.  The church has tried to overcome this through training programs. I've been a Christian long enough to have gone through several from Evangelism Explosion to F.A.I.T.H. I've memorized the Roman Road and used various methods on evangelistic outings here and in other countries.   

I came to the conclusion long ago that a programmed approach to sharing the Gospel is not the most effective way to lead someone to Christ. It may be the fastest way to touch the most people, but I don't think that it has the lasting impact that relationship evangelism has. It may also be the reason many Christians have an aversion to sharing the Gospel, being uncomfortable using this sterile approach which is more like a salesman trying to reach some numerical goal instead of a deep concern for an individual. 

Most pastors would agree that developing relationships and sharing with a circle of friends and neighbors is the most effective way to spread the Gospel. We build trust and a relationship before we talk about faith. We find common ground and discuss a variety of topics and begin to get below the surface conversation.  However, there comes a time in the relationship when we need to move into the intimate discussion about faith. This is often the most difficult part and where we fail.  How do I make a smooth transition from one topic to the Gospel? 

If you've ever been through an evangelism training course you've been taught to ask certain questions. A popular question is, "after you die, you stand before God, and God asks you why He should let you enter heaven, what would be your answer?"  That question may get to the theological position of the one you are questioning but it also puts them on the defensive. It assumes that the one asking the question has all the answers.  It is far from being the most effective way and may as easily shut down the conversation or turn someone away from faith.  

Here is a natural, relational approach with some suggestions and better questions to ask to open up a discussion about faith that can lead to sharing the Gospel.  

Start by sharing a frustration or problem that you have.  For someone to be more forthcoming about their problems, you often have to initiate by becoming more vulnerable. After sharing, if your friend still is not willing to open up about his or her life, you may ask a question like this.  
What keeps you awake at night?  
What do you struggle with the most?  
What brings you the most stress at this time of your life?

When someone begins to share a problem, we can respond with how we rely upon our faith in Christ to help us deal with problems in our life. So our testimony now becomes a part of the discussion. However, don't be too eager to talk. Take time to listen and probe about your friend's issues. 

Once you have shared on a deeper level about your own issues and how you handle them, then you can explore more about their faith. You've now opened the door to a faith discussion, and how your friend responds helps determine your next step. If you sense an openness, then you may want to ask questions such as:  
How do you cope with your problem?
What part does faith play in helping you with your stress or anxiety?  

The answer to these questions should help you to begin to discover what your friend believes about God and Jesus.  If you still are not sure what your friend believes, you may want to be a little more direct.  You can talk about your faith growing up, why you believe, or your conversion experience.  This leads to questions like:
Did you grow up going to church?  
What did your parents believe?  
Does faith play any role in your life?

If you find that your friend does not have a relationship with Christ, or their relationship with Jesus is not where they wished it was, the next question may be the key to helping someone take the a step to becoming a follower of Christ.

This question gets to the root of the issue and is one that Jesus addressed with the rich young ruler. In Luke 18:18 we read about Jesus' encounter with the rich ruler and the ruler's question to Jesus, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?"  Jesus doesn't answer directly but probes to determine the one thing that keeps the young ruler from a relationship with Jesus, and that is the ruler's love of money. 

This is a great question! 
What do you think is the greatest thing that prevents you from having a relationship with Jesus Christ?  

This question can be for the searcher who is struggling to make the decision to follow Christ or it could be for the believer who desires more in their relationship with God. Jesus knew what it was for the young ruler and he identified it for him. For us, we don't have that power so we must ask and probe to help one discover for themselves what the barrier might be to a life of full devotion to Jesus Christ. 

Once identified, then you can begin to suggest ways to overcome the obstacle that prevents them from believing. A common response is, "I don't feel worthy or good enough" or "I need to get my life in order first."  This can lead to a discussion about God's grace and what the Bible says we need to have a relationship with Jesus.  Now you are sharing the Gospel!  

Don't be afraid to share.  The key is asking good questions that bring about deeper discussion, intense listening, and the willingness to transition to sharing your faith and the Gospel. 

What is it that keeps you from having the relationship that Jesus desires to have with you?
What are some questions that you use in the process of sharing the Gospel?

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