Overcoming Fear in Evangelism
by Adam Flaugh
Fear in evangelism is normal. Some of the greatest evangelists I know still get butterflies in their stomach when presenting the Gospel even though they have been doing it for decades. Just because they know what to say and may even be gifted by God to say it, sharing the Gospel is not automatic for them. They too must respond to fear in a godly way in order to overcome internal opposition and open their mouths for the Lord. It is not fear itself that is the problem, but our response to it that makes all the difference. When we are grounded in God’s promises, fear can be something that drives us to dependency on Him. It can be a thorn that causes us to recognize that His grace is sufficient and that power is perfected in weakness (2 Cor. 12:7-10).
Now, we may believe those and other relevant verses, but fear might still be making evangelism a burden for us. If that is the case for you, take courage because God not only provides the power you need, but He also provides a model to follow. Considering the example we see in the Apostle Paul in 1 Thess. 2:1-8 is the main purpose of this article. Let’s read that passage and then take a look at 5 Cs that can help us overcome our fear in evangelism. 1 Thess. 2:1-8 says:
For you yourselves know, brethren, that our coming to you was not in vain, but after we had already suffered and been mistreated in Philippi, as you know, we had the boldness in our God to speak to you the gospel of God amid much opposition. For our exhortation does not come from error or impurity or by way of deceit; but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not as pleasing men, but God who examines our hearts. For we never came with flattering speech, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed—God is witness— nor did we seek glory from men, either from you or from others, even though as apostles of Christ we might have asserted our authority. But we proved to be gentle among you, as a nursing mother tenderly cares for her own children. Having so fond an affection for you, we were well-pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives, because you had become very dear to us.
Overcoming fear in evangelism begins with belonging to God. If we can call God “our God,” (v. 2) then we have access to what we need. Boldness is available through our relationship with Christ and it is on the basis of that relationship that we can overcome our fears.
That truth may sound wonderful (and it is), but actually manifesting it is where it gets difficult for a lot of folks. What are the practical ways that we can work to develop boldness? What can we be doing to truly find God’s power when we are fearful? Consider this list of practical truths from 1 Thess. 2:1-8 that contribute to our boldness:1
1. Develop confidence in our message (v. 2-3). Our boldness finds its source in God and His message. We can be confident because we have the inerrant message. If a lost person does not hear the right message from us, they may hear the wrong message from someone else. If we have enough confidence in the message to rest our eternal destiny on it, then we should have enough confidence in it to share it boldly.
2. Develop conviction that we are God’s messengers (v. 4). God has entrusted us with His message and given us the responsibility to share it with a lost and dying world. Our aim in all of this should be to please Him. This means that what the lost person thinks of me doesn’t matter when compared to what God thinks of me. I should fear man little because I fear God so much.
3. Develop concern for people (v. 5-8). Paul, following the example of Christ, had a heart for those he ministered to. I want to make it a regular part of my prayer life to ask God to help me see lost people how He sees them: “Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd” (Matt. 9:36).
4. Develop consistency in your life (v. 10). Paul appeals to the behavior he exhibited while around the Thessalonian believers in order to verify the truthfulness of his message. He calls them to remember how he treated them and how uprightly he lived his life while he was among them. We too should be able to defend the truthfulness of our message by pointing to a life that is lived consistent with God’s expectations.
Developing these 4C’s: Confidence, Conviction, Concern, and Consistency can help us overcome fear and make evangelism a way of life, but I would like to add a fifth “C” to the list: Contact. In order to evangelize, we must have some form of contact with the lost (1 Cor. 5:9-11). If we do not use these practical truths to help us take the Gospel to those who need it, we have missed the point.
Take some time this week to think about 1 Thess. 2:1-8. Ask yourself: Do I have confidence in God’s message? Do I have conviction that I am God’s messenger? Do I have concern for people? Do I have consistency in my life? Do I reach out to new and existing contacts? When we follow the example of the Apostle Paul, we won’t let fear hinder us, but we will let it drive us to God for the grace and power and boldness we need. Fear in evangelism is normal, but you can overcome it.