By Matt Queen
Can you remember your scariest evangelism encounter? I remember mine as if it were yesterday.
A Southwestern student and I evangelized house to house, one block east of the campus here in Fort Worth, Texas. A man in the second house we visited received Christ as his Savior and Lord. Joy and excitement filled our hearts.
However, our joy gave way to fear after we arrived at the seventh house on the street.
A group of men had gathered at a truck parked in their driveway at the end of the workday. As they socialized about the day’s events, we approached them, introduced ourselves, and proceeded to tell them we were there to share with them how they could have peace with God through Jesus.
All the men began laughing at us as soon as we announced our intentions. The fear of ridicule had its effect. How could we recover the conversation for Christ?
I knew I had to reassert myself, so looking directly into the eyes of the biggest man of the group, I retorted, “Is that funny?” No sooner than the words left my mouth, my eyes looked down as he sat in the truck bed and I made a frightful discovery — a gun was on his lap. Fear overcame us.
“Funny?” I thought to myself. “You better hope this guy thinks it’s funny.”
Feigning ignorance yet filled with fear, I timidly asked him, pointing to the gun in his lap, “Are you going to shoot me with that?”
“No, man,” he replied, “this is a BB gun.”
As my fear gave way to confidence, I pleaded with him to place the BB gun behind him and to let me tell him about Jesus. He disarmed himself of the gun and I conveyed the Gospel to him.
Doubtless, all believers at some time or another face some fear to evangelize. The apostle Paul’s preaching of the Gospel before his arrival in Corinth was met with persecution and expulsion from Pisidian Antioch (Acts 13:50), mistreatment and the threat of stoning in Iconium (14:5), stoning almost to the point of death in Lystra (14:19), flogging and imprisonment in Philippi (16:22-23), and ridicule in Athens (17:32).
No wonder Paul’s first written correspondence to the Corinthians states that he came to them “in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling” (1 Cor. 2:3).
Isolation was the first fear Paul faced at Corinth, arriving there alone (Acts 18:1). While in Macedonia, Thessalonian Jews who opposed the Gospel began a riot in Berea, forcing Paul to leave immediately by sea for Athens. His abrupt departure temporarily separated him from his close companions, Silas and Timothy (17:13-14), until he was able to send word for them to come as soon as possible (17:15). Paul nevertheless evangelized every Sabbath in the synagogue (18:4). After Silas and Timothy arrived from Macedonia (18:5a) with a gift from the Philippian church (2 Cor. 11:8-9; Phil. 4:15-16), Paul devoted himself to preaching the Word daily (18:5b).
Paul also experienced the fear of rejection. The Corinthian Jews opposed and reviled his preaching that Jesus is the Messiah (18:5-6). Rejected once again by his own people, Paul turned to preach the Gospel to the Gentiles in Corinth (18:6-7,8b).
Despite the belief and baptism of numerous Corinthians, as well as the leader of the synagogue and his family (18:8), Paul feared preaching the Gospel any further. He seriously considered becoming a muted evangelist. In fact, his fear became so overwhelming that the Lord Himself appeared to him in a night vision, saying, “Don’t be afraid, but keep on speaking and don’t be silent” (18:9).
Paul was to continue preaching because Jesus was with him, assuring him, “I am with you, and no one will lay a hand on you to hurt you, because I have many people in this city” (18:10).
When you feel alone either because no one evangelizes with you or because unbelievers reject you and the Gospel you preach, remember the comforting words of the Lord to Paul, “I am with you.” The presence of Jesus will help you overcome your fear of evangelizing; therefore, “Don’t be afraid, but keep on speaking and don’t be silent.”
Matt Queen occupies the L.R. Scarborough Chair of Evangelism at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. This article is adapted from Day 24 of “And You Will Be My Witnesses: 31 Devotionals to Encourage a Spirit of Everyday Evangelism,” edited by Matt Queen and Alex Sibley and published by Seminary Hill Press.