You don’t need a special gift to share the gospel.
When I was a college student, I was a new believer. I was passionate about God and his purposes, and I wanted to wholly fulfill his will for my life. I got involved in a wide variety of ministries. As I did all of this, one thing stood out: I had a friend who was constantly leading people to Christ, and I was not.
It wasn’t due to lack of effort. In fact, it seemed at times as though I was working just as hard, and many times harder, than she was. As I compared our approaches, I seemed to be doing the exact same things. But she was regularly experiencing fruitfulness in the area of evangelism, and it seemed as though I was not.
Over time I made meaning of that by telling myself, I must not have the gift of evangelism. Because of that, I’ll use my gifts and skills in ministries that further the gospel, and others will do evangelism.
It seemed harmless enough, possibly even honorable. I served in global leadership with Wycliffe Bible Translators, a ministry that makes it possible for marginalized people to have access to the gospel through Scripture in their own languages. I also worked at a seminary. I sought to use my administrative, leadership, teaching and research skills to help others further God’s gospel purposes.
I have no regrets about serving in those ministries. It was an honor serving in those roles. But, as time went by, I often found myself reflecting on my earlier self-assessment. I began to realize that how I assessed myself is how many people in pews across the nation are thinking, too. They frequently look at evangelists and conclude that they cannot be like them. If they do not have the gift of evangelism, they are in essence off the hook. Hopefully, they look for other avenues to serve in God’s mission, but many opt out altogether.
So, where does that leave leaders who truly desire to equip and mobilize people for gospel proclamation? We have to get underneath why people are not sharing the gospel. That frequently means facilitating a mental shift that can unleash their motivation and engagement. I believe the following areas are critical for making that change.
YOU CAN BE YOURSELF
As seasons came and went over the years, I often encountered evangelists who were quite different from me. I don’t like to debate, but many of them did, always armed with answers to combat erroneous responses to their queries about salvation. I don’t enjoy telling people that what they believe is wrong, yet many of those evangelists were quite comfortable doing so. At times I walked away thinking I could not mirror their behavior, but the deeper truth was many times I did not want to be like them.
If we want all of our people to be engaged in gospel witness that includes some component of proclamation, we need to help them uncover how they can do it in light of their personalities, gifts, communication patterns, passions and interests. If they are encouraged that they can be themselves, they will be far more open to the idea of exploring how they might be effective in sharing their faith in their own contexts.
YOU CAN HONOR YOUR VALUES
Tolerance is a huge value for many people, along with a desire to treat people with respect. Many feel as though evangelism by nature attacks those two values. However, new models of evangelism are emerging that enable people to honor where others are at in their understanding. We need to work more intently at helping people understand how to connect evangelism with their deepest core values rather than seeing it as irreconcilable.
These new models are quite different than ones I learned when I was a young believer. However, many people in our churches are still viewing evangelism through old paradigms. One new method is the B.L.E.S.S. model that David Ferguson developed. This model of evangelism enables people to be the type of person they truly want to be. And, in the midst of that process, evangelism flows naturally.
YOU CAN SUCCEED
People can be taught why they should evangelize, and they can be taught strategies about how to evangelize. However, if they do not believe that they will be successful in the endeavor because they do not have the “gift of evangelism,” they will not act on what you are teaching them about sharing their faith. To shift their mindset, they need stories about how nonevangelists share their faith. How are shy people sharing their faith? How are people who think about good things to say a day or two after a conversation has ended engaging in evangelism? But even more importantly, what does success in evangelism even mean? What does it look like? Is success only when someone comes to faith in Christ? Or are there many additional steps that need to happen before someone comes to faith in Christ, and these also need to be celebrated and encouraged? When people think they can succeed at something, they are far more likely to take risks and begin growing in their evangelistic effectiveness.