Last week during his Sunday sermon, our pastor related a story that I will repeat here.
Two men worked for a construction company over a period of fifteen years. Each day, they took their lunch pails out to a quiet place and conversed about the job, their families, their hobbies, favorite movies and books.
One day, the first man told the other. “I went to church on Sunday. There I learned about Jesus. I heard about how He was God’s son, and He came to this world in human form.”
His companion nodded his head.
“I heard about how He died on a cross for my sins.”
“Yes,” his coworker responded.
“And then I learned that He rose from the dead and that we can have eternal life if we believe in Him and acknowledge that He is the son of God.”
The first man was silent for a long moment. Finally, he turned to his friend. “You don’t believe any of it is true, do you?”
The second man raised his eyebrows and stared at his cohort in shock. “Of course I do. Why would you say that?”
“We’ve been friends for fifteen years. If you knew these things, why did you never share them with me in all that time?”
OBSTACLES TO SHARING THE GOSPEL
The assumption that others already know the Good News
I have a friend who did not become a close friend until she joined my church. Prior to that, she was a friend I interacted with mainly because our kids were involved in the same sports activities growing up. It wasn’t until recent years that I learned she had never had any exposure to church, God, or Jesus as a child. For years, she wandered in the darkness of ignorance about the gospel.
Fear of ridicule
I talked to someone recently about a book I had read that defends creationism. The immediate response was that science can refute everything written in that book! It saddens me to see what lengths people will go to in order to try to disprove what is written in the Bible. It seems society has a hard time accepting the limitless power of God. Yet, the Bible continues to be the bestselling nonfiction publication of all time.
Doubt that we know enough about the Bible to validate our statements
I am overwhelmed by my lack of knowledge of the Bible. I’m in the process of reading it through (the Bible in a year calendar I’m following has taken me over three!) for probably at least the fourth or fifth time. Yet, I am surprised by what I don’t remember reading before, or have failed to retain. If someone had asked me what the gospel of Matthew starts with, I would have responded, “The birth of Jesus.” Wrong! Matthew 1:1-17 cites the genealogy of Jesus. Mark didn’t record Christ’s birth at all.
Lack of self-confidence that God can use us
I’ve attended more than one meeting in the work setting, in my church, and in other venues where I knew a certain person or group was not being appropriately represented. Yet, I held back from expressing my opinion because I believed I was not adequately equipped to voice an opinion I knew was right. It’s so tempting to let God speak through someone more worthy, because I’m just not.
Impatience that we don’t see results right away
An extended family member was raised with a firm belief in God, regular church attendance, and a mom who role modeled the Christian life. She strayed into heavy drug use, served more than one sentence in jail, and drifted in and out of superficial relationships that produced children she could not responsibly nurture for years. Family members gave up on believing she would ever get her life together. Today, well into her forties, she is in a stable relationship, attends church regularly, and leads a womens’ Bible study.
And the word of the Lord spread throughout all the region.
OVERCOMING THESE OBSTACLES
Explore a faith base
Friends and acquaintances share stories, jokes, information about family, Facebook posts, news about products, and favorite books, movies, or restaurants. It’s not that difficult to slip in a question during a conversation about where a person worships, if they worship, and why or why not, without coming across as preachy or judgmental. We may be surprised to discover some of the people we think we know the best have never heard the message of Jesus Christ.
Overcome our fear of ridicule
There are many places the scriptures can be shared. I have a friend who posts a Bible verse on Facebook every single day. I don’t share every one, but if the verse she posts on that day strikes a particular chord with me, I will add a short comment of my own and repost it. Twitter abounds with scripture verses that can be easily retweeted. A Bible verse chosen and hand written by the giver is a thoughtful extra touch when added to a greeting card. Sharing the verses that have brought us through times of adversity can bring comfort to others during their struggles.
Have faith in what we know
We don’t have to be an expert on every Bible verse, but we do need to know why we believe what we believe. We are responsible to share our story and give a personal account of God’s power and the redemptive renewal Jesus’ death and resurrection has worked in our lives. If questioned about issues we don’t have answers for, we should not be ashamed to admit we don’t know. Invite the other person to participate in a Bible study where the answers can be sought together.
We are worthy
God calls us to stand up for the weak, the oppressed, the hurting, the broken. He didn’t stipulate a criterion that we have to meet as far as education, occupation, age, gender, level of intelligence or personal appearance. We need to listen to what God is telling us in our hearts and trust that He will provide the words when we’re in an uncomfortable situation.
Don’t underestimate our influence
We are called to model Jesus Christ in all aspects of our daily lives. We may not visibly see changes brought about by our actions and attitudes toward others, but that’s not for us to determine. It is our responsibility to plant the seeds of the gospel. Only God can change hearts and lives. The world functions on God’s timetable, not ours. Never underestimate the impact a kind word, unselfish act, or expression of love may have on another person years later.
What suggestions do you have to overcome obstacles to sharing the gospel?