My yard is littered with awful yellow weed-flowers. Yes, dandelions. As a kid it was great fun to pluck a fuzzy white one, hold it up and blow. This scattered the fluff into the air, eventually landing again in the grass. At the time, I had no idea I was spreading this wild invasive weed to disturb the carefully manicured grass. Now as a homeowner and the resident gardener, each weekend I toil to pluck up this weed that seems to spread regardless of what I do to stop it.
Dandelions multiply and spread by nature, much like the gospel. Consider for a moment how news of Jesus spread wherever he went (Mark 1.21–28″>Mark 1:21–28, Mark 1.40–45″>40–45; Mark 5.1–20″>5:1–20). Despite Jesus’ best efforts to temper the excitement, his fame and healings spread far and wide. It was like the ripe dandelion scattering into the wind, taking root wherever it flies. The gospel travels like that, from person to person, family to family and community to community.
The word of God takes off like this, with a life of its own, in the story of Acts:
• “But the word of God increased and multiplied.” (Acts 12:24)
• “And the word of the Lord was spreading throughout the whole region.” (Acts 13:49)
• “So the word of the Lord continued to increase and prevail mightily.” (Acts 19:20)
So if the word of God—the good news of Jesus Christ—inherently possesses the power to increase and multiply through the work of the Holy Spirit, then why is evangelism so difficult? Why don’t we share the gospel more than we do? We need to ask if we are a fresh wind that causes the seed of the good news to spread, or instead, obstacles that keep it from moving further and faster. Unfortunately, many of us are more wall than breeze. But why?
Four Obstacles to Evangelism
1. Lack of Gospel Knowledge
How many times have you heard the gospel in a sermon, book or conversation? If you’ve been a Christian, even for a short time, you have likely heard the gospel hundreds of times. Yet, many of us still struggle to articulate the truths of the gospel in a simple, coherent and intelligible way. Could you share the essential message of the gospel in 60 seconds, right now?
Some of us just don’t care that much about lost people. We wouldn’t ever say it, but our priorities and lives reveal it. We make no time in our busy schedules to interact and engage with those who don’t know Christ. We have long stopped praying for lost people in our neighborhoods and workplaces. We have no non-Christian friends, and barely any ties. Lost people are a low priority. For instance, when was the last time you invited someone into your home who did not know Christ?
What will others think of me? What if they don’t like me or my family? Some are paralyzed by the thought of being disliked, marginalized, laughed at or openly mocked. We’re afraid we’ll lose business or get passed up for that promotion. What if they stop inviting my kids to the birthday parties? What if talking about Christ makes seeing my neighbors awkward? What if they lump me together with Ned Flanders or the Westboro Baptist Church-cult?
4. Lack of Compassion
We lack compassion for the lost. We have long forgotten what it was like to live without hope, lost and apart from Christ. We rarely consider that those who do not obey Christ “will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord” (2 Thessalonians 1:9 is utterly foreign to us: “I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers.”
We Overcome Obstacles Together, Not Alone
If making disciples is our mission (Matt 28.18–20″>Matthew 28:18–20), how can followers of Christ overcome these obstacles to be conduits of grace to the lost? One of the primary ways we can overcome our lack of gospel knowledge, apathy, fear and lack of compassion is by gathering together with fellow believers to remember and cultivate our core calling and convictions.
We are people who have died to ourselves and live for Christ (Galatians 2:20). Some of those good works will be giving verbal testimony to the grace of God in our lives and proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ to the lost.
Within the context of Christian community, another believer can speak and remind us of the very truths we need to hear. Dietrich Bonhoeffer put it this way:
We speak to one another on the basis of the help we both need. We admonish one another to go the way that Christ bids us to go. We warn one another against the disobedience that is our common destruction. We are gentle and we are severe with one another, for we know both God’s kindness and God’s severity. (Life Together, 106)
All Christians need fellow believers to help them grow in their understanding of the gospel. We all need others in our lives who spur us on to a greater compassion and zeal to love the lost by sharing the good news of Jesus willingly, winsomely and boldly. Here are four ways this can work itself out in a community.
Four Steps to Sharing More
1. Pray Together for the Lost
As Christians are gathered together in small groups or missional communities, we ought to make it a priority to pray for the lost in addition to our normal prayer concerns. In Acts 4.23–31″>Acts 4:23–31, after Peter and John are released from prison, the disciples gather to pray for God to give them boldness to speak his word. If the early church needed to pray for greater evangelistic zeal and boldness, how much more do we need to pray similarly in our gatherings?
One simple way to consistently do this in a Bible study or small group setting is to conclude your study with this question: What truths did we learn about God and who can we share this with in our spheres of influence? This can naturally transition to praying for those who need to know Christ in our lives. As we pray for God to work in the lives of our lost friends, apathy is transformed to an eagerness and readiness to engage others for the sake of Christ.