What is wrong with me?
I see a tendency in my own heart to not share the Gospel at all times. Yes, I am an evangelist and an Open Air Preacher. However, I struggle to overcome certain obstacles to evangelism. In particular, the wall of fear of man and my idol of reputation. I don’t want this article to enter me into club of frustration that some Open Air Preachers experience when talking to the average pastor and church goer. I write this neither to have the church member shut me down straight out of the gate, nor the pastor. I do, nevertheless, want to be transparent about the struggle I have at times and I know the pastor and the church member surely have the same struggle.
This article will be the first in a series of three. This article will focus on the two elephants in the room. The fear of man and the idol of reputation rooted in a lack of love for God and love for your neighbor. The second article will cover how the evangelist must approach the pastor and church member rightly – too many times we have done this wrongly. The third article will focus on the way ahead that will begin to reform the way all of us look at open air evangelism and its benefit to the church, culture, and world.
The Idol of Reputation
Yes. I struggle with the fear of man and sometimes I struggle with the idol of reputation. What does fear of man mean anyway? It refers to being so flooded with fear that you either do not share the Gospel or start but get cold feet and never turn a conversation to the spiritual. Just this week, I was talking with my new neighbor and asked about his spiritual background. In the course of the conversation, I got cold feet and did not share the Gospel. Why did I get cold feet?
Honestly, I have asked myself that question several times. My kids were around and I didn’t want them to see their father get in a long, drawn out discussion about religion again. But, that is not why I stopped sharing.
I have known Brian for four or five weeks. We met over questions about a garage door opener he was installing. We’ve talked about what he does for a living. We’ve talked about where he grew up, and about his family back in New York. When I invited him to church, he has shared with me why it is that he is not very religious. Some people would pat me on the back and give me an “atta boy”. But there’s a problem. I have not shared the Gospel with him.
Some people would say “They have to know that you care before they care what you know”. I disagree with that statement, though it does buy me more time to forget about the glaringly obvious fact I did not share the Gospel with Brian. Here is my diagnosis of the problem. The more I get to know Brian and his little boy and his wife, the more the fear builds that I will lose my good reputation with him if I share the Gospel. That is what made my mouth stay closed as I asked him what his religious background was.
“The majority of Christians believe that the more you get to know an unbeliever, the easier it will become to share. I believe this is a lie. I think the opposite is true, and that it actually makes it harder to share. “
The majority of Christians believe that the more you get to know an unbeliever, the easier it will become to share. I believe this is a lie. I think the opposite is true, and that it actually makes it harder to share. Based on the statistics and the way our culture looks, I don’t think I am the only one that has ever dealt with the problem of not have the courage to share the Gospel. Ask yourself the question, “When was the last time you shared the Gospel with your neighbor?” “Ouch!” I know. I don’t mean doing kind acts for your neighbor, but sharing the Gospel. God is creator, your neighbor is sinful, Jesus came to die for the sins of all who believe, and they must respond while there is still time.
What is the solution? We need to share the Gospel so often that we get used to it the resistance that sharing it brings. 1 John 15:18 tells us “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you.” Turn the problem on its head. We must set our minds to talking about Jesus the first time we meet new neighbors. Share the Gospel with them right away. That way the air is cleared and you know where they stand and they know where you stand. Then, start living out the Gospel and sharing more as the doors open again.
By sharing with patience and love, you won’t be shoving it down their throat every time you see them. That would be plain weird. You are, however, going to share and invite them to church. All they can do is turn you down. This is truly loving your neighbor. “And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:30-31
I don’t want to make the answer over simplistic but here it is again. Sharing the Gospel is what takes away your idol of reputation. When you are sharing the Gospel, you don’t care about your reputation. You are loving your neighbor and glorifying God more than reputation. You are loving them more when you share the Gospel with them than you do when you are mowing their lawn every time it needs it. Although they may really appreciate that, none of the goods works speak the words of life that bring a person from the kingdom of darkness in the kingdom of light.
The Fear Factor
Fear is the handmaiden to the idol of reputation. Fear has to do with the consequences that come from sharing the Gospel. For example, you may fear that they are going to start talking about our family behind your back with the other neighbors. They are going to avoid you when you go outside. They are not going to let their kids play with yours. I share these things because I know people are thinking down these lines. Where is the fear placed in this scenario? It is placed squarely on the person you should be sharing with rather than on the God that you serve. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.1 John 4:18
Fear of man, to the Christian, is like kryptonite to Superman. It paralyzes the Christ follower to the point that they are inactive. Notice what overcomes fear in the reference from 1 John – Love. In context, this verse is dealing with the love of God freeing us from fear of His judgment! This is the love that should motivate us to share.
We should want others to receive this amazing grace of love. Holding this back is holding back life itself- eternal life! We have to really believe the Bible when it shows clearly, in every book, that God is saving those who belong to Him. This takes the pressure off of you. You turn into an ambassador simply being faithful with the message. So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth. 1 Cor 3:7
The Power of Prayer
“When is the last time you have fervently prayed for your neighbor and the Gospel that you are going to share to transform his relationship with God?”
When is the last time you have fervently prayed for your neighbor and the Gospel that you are going to share to transform his relationship with God? I know I am going over the ABC’s of Christianity, but people are missing the fundamentals of our faith. Who you are on your knees will determine your effectiveness for the Kingdom. The church says we want to see people saved, but are we doing our part in praying and sharing to see that happen? When I point the finger, friend, I have three pointed back at me.
Let’s examine our priorities and acknowledge our sinful tendencies. After examination and acknowledgement, come to the Lord with repentant contrite hearts and ask for the strength to share and live the Gospel. That is the secret to the Christian’s success in the Kingdom. The idol of reputation and fear of man is an evangelism-killing cocktail. I share this all the time and I will continue until I take my last breathe. If you share the Gospel people are going to get saved. Why? Because the power is in the message not the messenger. If you don’t share the Gospel no one will ever get saved on your watch. Why? Quite simply, you have refused to open your mouth to be used.
Go share the Gospel to see a life transformed! Let your actions show that we really believe what we say we believe. Remember, the Gospel spoken is powerful and the Gospel kept in our hearts is powerless to convert a soul. After reading this, your natural sinful tendency will be to continue with a loveless heart towards your neighbor. Only you can change that by sharing the Gospel. I think many have deceived themselves that is okay to live beside someone and not to share Jesus with them. That is a lie!
If someone was in a burning building would you not want to pull them out before the whole building collapsed? Yes, you would. Your neighbor is no different. He does not know when he is going to die and you can’t look into the future to tell him. Do you really believe the Bible? If you do you would let the truth of it move you to obedience. I know this makes you feel uncomfortable – it makes me feel uncomfortable and I am the one writing it. Truth is supposed to push us, and challenge us, and make us more like Christ. If it doesn’t, it would not be truth. So let’s let go of the fear of man, quit making our reputation an idol, and pray the Lord of the harvest would change those sins in us. Go share the Gospel to see a life transformed.