I’m presently training a group of high school students at the Unleashed Camp here in Southern California held on the campus of Vanguard University. This camp prepares young people to share and defend their faith, and students spend every afternoon putting what they learn into practice as they share the Gospel with people in the local community. Yesterday was the first day of the camp, and there were many students there who had never participated in evangelism of this nature. I could sense some nervousness in the room. So, I began by asking what caused them to be fearful about sharing the Gospel. Here is what they said:
“I’m afraid I will look or sound stupid.”
“I’m afraid I will forget what to say or I will say the wrong thing.”
“I’m afraid I will get ‘cussed out’ by someone I meet.”
“I’m afraid I won’t know how to start the conversation and it will be awkward.”
“I’m afraid someone will want to fight me!”
These students expressed some of the same fears their older counterparts describe when I teach this material across the country. Our fears are almost always driven by the same underlying concern. Can you see it in the responses the students gave yesterday? These students, courageous and sacrificial enough to give up a week of their summer to participate in this evangelism adventure, exposed the same anxieties most of us have when it comes to evangelism. Their fears were centered myopically in their concern for how they were going to appear to the world around them.
They were afraid about how they might look or what might happen to them. Would they experience something awkward or embarrassing? Would they become uncomfortable? Would they experience some pain? Most of our fear of evangelism is centered on our own desire to be comfortable, and there’s nothing more uncomfortable than being embarrassed or humiliated by our peers. For these young people, it’s bad enough that they might look foolish to strangers, but there’s also the very real possibility that they’ll look foolish to their fellow students!
So my first goal in training yesterday was to simply help these young men and women get comfortable with discomfort by taking their eyes off themselves and placing them firmly on God. I tried to remind them that character is more important than comfort. It’s easy to get caught up in thinking that our worldly image is more important than our heavenly mission. As Christians, we ought to know better:
1 John 2:15-17
Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.
You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.
Sometimes our fears expose what’s really important to us, so they’re a good place to assess and address our priorities. What are you afraid of? What’s keeping you from sharing the Gospel with the people in your life, even the strangers who you meet every day? It might just be that (like me) you’re often more concerned with your own comfort than you are with the cause of Christ. It’s easy to worry more about the world we see than the Kingdom that matters. But we can change all that. We can conquer our fears by simply changing our focus.