I think that when many Christians consider evangelism, they start to break out in a cold sweat. “What will I say? What will they think of me? I don’t know what to say or how!” Evangelism is akin to public speaking in many Christians’ minds: high up on the fear list. I don’t say this to condemn or even criticise; I just think that it’s important to recognise that many people feel that way so that we can encourage them.
The most encouraging words, in my opinion, come from Jesus himself: “do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.” (Matthew 10:19-20).
The Apostle Paul said this about his own evangelistic style: “And my message and my preaching were very plain. Rather than using clever and persuasive speeches, I relied only on the power of the Holy Spirit.” (1 Corinthians 2:4)
When many people think of the Holy Spirit, they consider first the gifts and manifestations of the Spirit, which is all well and good, but I would like to bring to our attention Jesus’ parting words to the disciples about the role of the Holy Spirit: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)
I’ve been reading through the book of Acts searching for clues about how to carry out our ministry and learn from the apostles. Time and time again I’ve been impressed and inspired about how the apostles’ lives were shaped by the power of the Spirit; the confused and unreliable disciples we read of in the four Gospels are now faith filled men of God, not because they suddenly “got it”, but because they had received the power of the Holy Spirit that Jesus had promised them.
In my opinion, the disciples didn’t receive that power because they got up really early in the morning every day to pray, or because they lived spectacular, holy lives, it was because they were open to it, painfully conscious of their own weaknesses.
That’s why I don’t think that it’s a bad thing or something to be ashamed of that we find evangelism scary. We mustn’t hide that or put on a brave face and share the Gospel with secretly trembling hands. We need to confess our fears and weaknesses to God and ask him humbly to fill us with his Holy Spirit, so that we can share the saving message of Christ with power.