Beyond the guilt of not evangelizing

  • David Phillips
  • 1 December 2015

Your group has just finished a study on Acts 8:26-38, the story of Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch. In a single conversation, the latter goes from a stranger to being baptized as a believer. It’s an exciting part of the book of Acts—until the study leader asks the awkward (if obvious) question that comes from the passage.

“So… how has everyone gone talking to their non-Christian friends this week?”

It’s the kind of question that might as well be phrased as “Would you like to stare at the floor for a while and avoid making eye contact with the rest of the group?”

There are few topics more likely to create a sense of guilt in the Christian than personal evangelism. We are surrounded all the time by people who haven’t heard anything about Jesus, people we are talking to about other topics, and yet we say nothing. We could certainly do better.

And yet guilt is not a constructive response. Too easily we can get into the habit of feeling guilty but without any change in our behaviour. Each week, the “How has everyone gone?” question is asked. Each week, we look at the floor.

Guilt can even end up being a somewhat comfortable destination. Eventually, if we give the same response, people are sure to stop asking, aren’t they?

Looking for opportunities to speak a compelling message to a huge group of people may not be realistic for you at the moment. But what is the next step for you to inch forward in sharing your faith this week? 

It depends on your current situation. You might be so fully scheduled that you don’t even speak with someone who isn’t a Christian in a week. In that case, your next step is to pray about where you can have that conversation. Perhaps it’s someone in a shop near where you work or study, or perhaps it’s someone you’re in regular contact with but haven’t had a conversation before.

It doesn’t need to be a conversation where you explain to someone their sin, and how Jesus offers forgiveness. Begin with just showing some kindness and heading towards more of a friendship with them. Organize to meet together, and share a beverage for a longer chat. Ask questions about their history. You may find their life is very different to your own—that’s okay!

As you get to know someone, you’ll develop a better sense of how to pray for them; you might offer to pray for or with them the next time you catch up. Not everyone we meet will be like the Ethiopian eunuch, and ask to be baptized in your first conversation with them, but as you get to spend time with a person, you will get to understand them better, and (hopefully) they will get to know you too.

Being open to having conversations with people can be a lot less threatening than many of the other activities that come to mind when you’re asked how you’re going with talking to non-Christian friends. But as you come to know people better, and keep praying for opportunities to talk to them about Jesus, those opportunities will arise.

Now, if you already know and spend time with one or more non-Christians in a given week, the next step is to pray for opportunities to share your faith with them.

Do you know how to explain your faith in a concise way? Perhaps it’s time to ask your study group leader to run through a simple overview of Christianity, one with a structure you can commit to memory. Plenty of short outlines exist, including Two Ways to Live (available here on GoThereFor).

By making evangelism part of the regular agenda of your small group, and ensuring the people in your group are trained and ready to talk about their faith, you will be in a better place to answer the question of how talking to non-Christian friends about your faith is going.