This article was originally posted in the FECB blog on January 22, 2013
We mean well. We really want our friends to know Jesus. But too often we approach them with wrong ideas in our heads. If we really want to be effective witnesses, we should be aware of five common myths about evangelism.
Myth #1: There are two kinds of people: them and us. It's a mistake to see everyone as being on one side of the fence or the other. That's not the appropriate metaphor. There's no fence. There's a road, and we're all walking on it. For sure, there's a point in every person's journey when they choose to follow Jesus. But it's only a step along the path. The road continues. None of us has arrived until we get to heaven, and we're all learning as we go. The people we want to share Jesus with are just fellow travelers. Realizing this opens up a whole new way of seeing others, and it will change the way we reach out to them.
Myth #2: We need to "fix" people's mistaken ideas about God. We don't need to fix anything. Every person's journey takes time, and the road often meanders. People travel toward the Truth along various byways, and some of them begin far away. But if a person is truly seeking God, whatever path they are on will eventually lead to Jesus. God is not worried. He has plans to set things right eventually. Sometimes we need to relax, and simply walk beside them, being a sounding board for their misconceptions.
Myth #3: The Bible is outdated. I know. We don't really believe this. But there's a part of us that's been conditioned to think it is. We're afraid to use Scripture because we think people won't understand, or that they'll be offended. But there is power in quoting the Bible. Its words have won souls for over 2000 years. Yes, we need to use language carefully, thinking about how their minds and hearts will receive them, but we should not avoid the use of biblical stories or language. God knew what He was doing when He spoke about sin and judgment, and His metaphors are universal ones. They will communicate in every cultural milieu, in every society, in every age.
Myth #4: We need to make it easy for people to come to Christ. I honestly don't know where we get this idea. Jesus made it difficult. He didn't say to Nicodemus, "You need to change your theology slightly so you can enter the Kingdom of God." He said, "You need to give up everything you have become and start over again." That's not easy. Jesus told the rich young ruler to sell all he had and give the money to the poor, knowing full well it was the hardest thing he could ask of the poor boy.
Entering the Kingdom is hard. Yes, there are blessings that more than compensate, but the path to those blessings is not easy. The amazing thing is that people will rise to this challenge. Jesus knew what He was doing. We need to follow his example.
Myth #5: We have to be able to give people answers. Answers are important at some point, for sure. But Jesus did not evangelize by giving answers. He did it by asking questions. "Who do you say that I am?" "Which of them was neighbor?" "Why do you call me good?" When people ask, "How can there be evil if there's a good God?" We can say, "How can there be good if there's not?" When people say God's judgment is too harsh, we can say, "What would you have a good God do about evil then?" Questions are kindling thrown on the smoldering embers of belief. Answers are good, and we can share them. But we need to wait until the fire begins to burn well before we add the logs.
The good thing about dispelling these myths is that it makes our task a lot easier. Salvation is God's job. We don't have to do anything but make ourselves restfully available to Him, and be instantly obedient when He gives us something to do or say. And sometimes we just need to get out of His way.