I have been leading a ministry called “Dare 2 Share” for the last 20 years or so. During that timeframe, we’ve had the privilege of inspiring and equipping a half-million teenagers to share their faith. We truly believe that, because 85 percent of those who trust in Jesus do so by 18 years of age, a student-led movement of teenagers reaching teenagers with the gospel can transform this nation for Christ.
But, over the course of the last two decades, I’ve also encountered the reality that getting Christian teenagers to consistently share their faith is a challenge … a serious one. Yes, teenagers share the gospel when they’re at our training conferences, but six months later the majority of them are back to their old non-faith sharing habits. Again and again, we have seen that it takes youth leaders to, well, lead their own youth in this area. We can give them the basic faith-sharing tools they need to get started, but youth leaders must use them and continue to use them throughout the year if evangelism is going to be a lifestyle for their teenagers.
What’s true of teenagers is especially true of adults. As difficult as it is to get teenagers to consistently share the gospel, it’s even more of a challenge for adults. I was a church planter and preaching pastor for a decade or so (I was working at Dare 2 Share for much of this time). As a pastor, I saw firsthand that most of the adults in our church struggled to share their faith, and we were a very evangelistic church.
Again and again, I’ve seen in youth ministry that, although most youth leaders believe evangelism should be a priority, it ends up being their least accomplished purpose. They, like many pastors, revert back to purely discipleship-oriented functions. Why? Because it’s safer, less messy and far less intimidating.
Here are five reasons why evangelism is hard (but necessary!).
1. It grates against social norms.
Think about the cringe-factor that comes with the word “proselytize.” That’s the same stigma that comes with word “evangelize.” Evangelism is often viewed (even by some Christians) as intrusive, coercive and crass.
But that stereotype is not biblical evangelism. We should never coerce anybody to convert to Christ, but, in the words of the Apostle Paul, set forth the truth of the gospel plainly (2 Corinthians 4:2.) When someone responds “no,” we should bless them. When they respond “yes,” we should disciple them. When they say “I’m not sure,” we should prayerfully journey with them to help them unpack the message of the Christian faith.
While evangelism grates against social norms it, along with prayer, is the primary tool through which God’s kingdom advances on this earth. In the words of Jesus in Matthew 11:12, “And from the time John the Baptist began preaching until now, the Kingdom of Heaven has been forcefully advancing … .” If we want to see God’s kingdom powerfully advance in our sphere of influence, we must unleash the power of the gospel through evangelism.
2. It leads to awkward moments.
There’s no getting around it … evangelism can be awkward. Sure, there are questions we can use to mitigate the awkwardness. Yes, there are listening skills we can develop to break down the weirdness. But, at the end of the day, asking someone to consider embracing an entirely different belief systems is awkward.
But, as I’ve said before, if there was a “Director of Awkward Moments” in the New Testament, it would be Jesus himself (just ask the rich young ruler). But it is in the crucible of the awkward where minds are changed and souls are saved (just ask the woman at the well).
At our Dare 2 Share student evangelism training conferences, we sell a T-shirt that simply reads “Awkward is Awesome.” The shirt sells pretty well because most teenagers know exactly what it means to be awkward. But they also know that it’s the awkwardness of evangelism that leads to the awesomeness of someone’s spiritual transformation.
We must be willing to get awkward with others for this very reason.