A few months ago, I wrote the following:
I don’t know about you, but I am an excellent excuse-maker. For example, I am a master at convincing myself why I don’t need to exercise, or why I need another bowl of ice cream, or why I need to watch “this” sporting event, even if I am up late. My personal excuses, in these ways and others, are (to me!) water-tight, air-locked, drop-the-mic conclusive. To be persuaded otherwise, it would take an incredible proof or motivation ……. or just my wife giving me that “look” (and you married guys know what I am saying).
As I have thought more about it, done more ministry, and spent time in the Word, I have discovered that Christians are just as good at making excuses for not doing what God has called His people to do. Evangelism, I believe, is one of those areas in which many Christians are masters of excuses.
Of course, every true follower of Christ believes evangelism is important, even vital. And of course, every believer in Jesus Christ wants to actively present the gospel with the various unbelievers God has placed in their life. But too often, when confronted with an obvious situation to share the good news of salvation from sin, they find myself, more often than they care to admit, making excuses for why they cannot or should not engage in evangelism.
Today, let me expose these excuses (actually, lies) that you might have lead yourself to believe.
I don’t know enough
This one I think is the main excuse we choose to use to convince ourselves that evangelism is not necessary in the moment. “What if they start asking questions I cannot answer? What if they bring up that passage of Scripture that I don’t know anything about? What if they talk about ancient manuscripts and science and logic and other religions? I just don’t know enough to answer those questions.”
I think this is a logical fear, especially in the age in which we live where apologetics is widespread (for better or worse). We think that if we cannot be as smart as Ravi Zacharias and James White, or bold as Ray Comfort and Todd Friel, then we should not engage in evangelism. “Let the big dogs do it. I will just send them money. After all, Romans 10:14-15!”
The problem with this thinking is (1) Jesus gave the command to all His disciples to evangelize (Matt 29:18-20; 2 Cor 5:20; 1 Pet 3:15) and (2) you better tell the Samaritan woman in John 4 that she did it wrong.
In John 4, Jesus intentionally seeks out a Samaritan woman. She was despised by the Jews because she was a Samaritan and she was despised by the Samaritans because she was immoral. She was not despised by Jesus. Jesus offered her eternal life—living water—and she accepted, and then immediately “28 left her waterpot, and went into the city and said to the men, 29 ‘Come, see a man who told me all the things that I have done; this is not the Christ, is it?’” This is not a very good invitation. Where’s are the tracts? Where is the debate about sin? Where is the introduction to get people to their need for spiritual life? No way will this woman’s evangelism be effective ……. until you read v. 29 & 39: “They went out of the city, and were coming to Him … From that city many of the Samaritans believe in Him.”
This woman had only be saved for a few minutes and she knew all that she needed to know for evangelism. Jesus had told her to “come” (4:16) and that is exactly what she told the people of the city: “come!” She didn’t have anything cleaver to say. She hadn’t spent 2-years in evangelism class. She knew Jesus’ words and she simply used those.
If you are saved, you certainly know enough. If you didn’t know enough, then you wouldn’t be saved. You know the gospel, which is why you are saved. So take those words, take Jesus’ words of salvation to others. If you don’t know the answers to their “smart” questions, then tell them you don’t know the answer to that question, but you do know the One who does have the answers.
Simply: you know to take them to Jesus, to take them to His words, to take them to Him. That is exactly what the Samaritan woman did and the people came. And their conversion is encouraging for all of us: “42 and they were saying to the woman, ‘It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves and know that this One is indeed the Savior of the world.’”
I’ve done evangelism and I never see fruit.
Ah, the excuse of discouragement. I get it. We look at the example in John 4 with the Samaritans and want that same reaction every time we tell people about the gospel. Let me help you lose this excuse.
First, remember John 1:11 – Jesus “came to His own [the Jews], and those who were His own did not receive Him.” In other words, not everyone Jesus spoke to about the gospel received it, like Nicodemus in John 3. So, Jesus’ evangelism was not very effective if the standard is John 4.
Second, you have the wrong perspective. While the woman is away doing evangelism, Jesus points to the fields around him and says to His disciples, “35 Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, and then comes the harvest’? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look on the fields, that they are white for harvest.36 Already he who reaps is receiving wages and is gathering fruit for life eternal; so that he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together.37 For in this case the saying is true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’”
What is Jesus meaning? Simply: it does not matter if you are the planter of the gospel seed or the harvester of it. When a person repents and places their faith in Christ, the planter and the harvester both rejoice because the planted seed did exactly what it was supposed to do. So, whether a person responds to your presentation of the gospel with a stiff neck like Nicodemus or if they come to faith like the Samaritan woman does matter; their reaction is not yours to control. What you are to be doing is planting and (by God’s grace) harvesting. Both actions bring joy. Find this joy in Jesus’ perspective.
Next time I write, I will free you of more excuses. Until then, may God free you from your own excuses and motivate you to spread the gospel in our homes, schools, work, and neighborhoods. May we trust God with the harvest and plant in people the call to “come to Jesus!”