Overcome Your Evangelism Fears: “I don’t know what to say”

Have you experienced that awkward moment when you have a chance to share your faith and you are paralyzed by fear?

I’ll bet you have.

People have all sorts of fears when it comes to personal evangelism.  Here are 20 evangelism fears that I run into regularly.

At the top of list in my anecdotal research is this one item:

I don’t know what to say.


How “I don’t know what to say” stops us cold

1.  We don’t know all the apologetics.

If you have seen the recent 2014 movie “God is not Dead,” you see a college student in an extreme situation (even if it is hyperbolic exaggeration) where he has to defend his faith in Christ against an atheistic college professor who threatens to flunk him because he is a Christ follower.

In a quick plot development, the student is challenged to present evidence for the existence of God and to do so in front of the class.

I think many Christians would go silent under such pressure.

2.  We don’t have the exact words.

This faulty logic stops us dead in our tracks.

I’ve talked with too many scared evangelists that have an idea that the right words said in the right order will produce the right outcome.

This logic assigns some power to words and some power to our eloquence.

It places 100% of the evangelism conversation on the right use of the right words in the right order, as if our words alone result in the renovation of the human heart.

Faith sharing conversations are not formulaic, but we are obsessed with formulas.

There is no right order to words.

There are no “magic” words of persuasion.

There are no “formulas” to perfect evangelism.

3.  We don’t have a story filled life of following Jesus.

Tragically, if we are not maintaining our relationship with Christ, we’ll miss out on God’s work in our life.

We’ll not be able to see how God is transforming us.

We’ll not see how God is leading us.

We’ll not see what God is teaching us.

We’ll not see how God is using us.

In fact, without nurturing a private devotional life around following Jesus, our exeperience of our faith goes cold.

We have nothing to say about the relevance of following Jesus to modern life.

You can conquer this fear: “I don’t know what to say.”

Most of the faith related evangelism conversations in the ordinary course of my life happen at random moments rather than planned moments.

If I lived in the fear of not knowing what to say, I would miss all these moments.

We must surrender the idea that properly ordered words or every correct answer to every conceivable objection will lead someone to faith.

Rather, we need to have the confidence of Paul as seen in 1 Corinthians 2:4-5 (NIV)

My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.

4 Practices to break through the fear: “I don’t know what to say”

In my own personal evangelism experience, the 4 practices below have helped me overcome the fear of “I don’t know what to say.”

These practices seem like they prepare me for most of the surprise evangelistic conversations that I have (like this one).  You can be ready to share your faith at any moment.

1.  Have current God at work stories, or stories of what God is doing in your life now.

Are you able to tell current stories of God’s activity in your life?

Are you nurturing your devotional life so that God teaches you from his Word?

Are you spending time with Him so that you cultivate the sensitivity to see His Hand at work in your life?

You’ve got to have personal experience with God through Jesus Christ. You’ve got to be growing in that.

Let me give you an example.

Recently, I walked with my friend.  One of the discussion items that came up was the current topic of my small group – how do we live out our faith in the “fear of the Lord?”

After all, Proverbs 1:7 says

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.

That opened up nearly an hour long two way conversation that dwelt in themes like:

  • How to develop a relationship with God
  • What about the people who have never heard the gospel?
  • “All religions are true” and why that does not make any sense.
  • How sin affects each person no matter how good they think they are.
  • How Jesus reconciled us to God so that we might have a relationship with Him.
  • How many good works does one have to do to secure the blessing of God and earn a spot in heaven.

2.  Know your own testimony of how you became a follower of Jesus.

Take the time to explore the richness of your own journey to Jesus.

There were significant moments and key events that helped you own your own faith, or see your need to ask God for the forgivess of sin.

Regularly reviewing and then sharing your testimony will often remind you of the preciousness of Jesus.

You’ll find opportunities to explain why you became a follower of Jesus (like I did while sitting by the poolside)

One challenge to shortening a personal testimony is to get at this core question:

What difference has Jesus made in your life?

Here is a free 7 question download you can use to help plan out your testimony

3.  Master a gospel outline.

I recently read Trevin Wax’s book, Counterfeit Gospels.  (Read my review of Counterfeit Gospels)

It’s a good theological study on various different gospel versions that are out there.

He reminds us that we need to know not only the gospel announcement, but the whole story.

My advice here is to find one of the gospel scripts and master it.

Be prepared to share your faith by mastering ahead of time a version of the gospel story.

What version of the gospel story have you mastered?

I develop this further in this article: How to use a gospel script, along with links to various gospel scripts.

4.  Ask for a pause to do some apologetic research when needed.

When it comes to apologetics and reasoning, it is perfectly find to graciously ask for a pause in the conversation so that you can go and do some reading.

I’ve done that before.  I learn more about my own faith when I take the time to do the research needed to develop reasonable answer.  The Christian student in “God is not Dead” took the time to investigate and respond to the professor’s challenge and objections.

Rather than obsess and stop over what I don’t know, I’d rather step into an evangelistic conversation and find the answer later.

Sometimes, apologetic objections have a spiritual thirst (read this story) underneath them.  It is more important to deal with the spiritual thirst than the actual objection.

Other times, apologetic objections are part of a centuries old debate that you will not solve.  While it’s important to have a reason and know the reason for your faith in Christ, some objections remain unsolvable for now.

Get comfortable with that.

Don’t let your inability to answer every possible question stop you from sharing your faith in a conversational manner.

Evangelistic Conversations Are Fun Filled Adventures.

As you talk about your own relationship with Christ with spiritually thirsty people, you will re-discover an element of joy that may have been lost because your devotional life has gone stale.

Evangelistic conversations will  renew in a desire to pray for his discovery of Jesus.

Your devotional life perks up once again when get out there and talk with people.

Sometimes, I want to refresh some reading of books on answering objections or evangelistic conversations, such as God Behaving Badly, or Tactics.

Order an Evangelism Training from me

I offer a virtual seminar on personal evangelism training.  You can use this as an evangelism training event for your team.

It is travel free, and you can offer it on any night that you choose.  If you want this workshop in Spanish, I can do that too.

Read more about how to get your own evangelism training seminar from me.

The Sinners Prayer for the Person with a Christian Background

Fourteen months ago, my friend and I first got acquainted.  We have spent much time together during those 14 months getting to know one another.

When I first mentioned that I was a follower of Christ, the defensive wall went up.   He didn’t want to talk about spiritual things.

But as I continue to mention Christ my ordinary conversations, he has softened his hostility and moved to curiosity. [Read more…]

How I Handle “Jesus was a Good Teacher”

I have a friend who doesn’t believe in having a personal relationship God, but does believe that Jesus was a good teacher.

My friend, like many people who are not followers of Jesus, hold this view:

  • Jesus was a good teacher.
  • His principles are worth following.
  • He taught was other religions taught.
  • He was a wise leader whose teachings have changed the world.

My friend hasn’t surrendered his life to God, doesn’t follow Jesus as a Christian.

My friend wants to be a good person.  My friend tries to absorb ethical truth from every perspective in order to be a good person.  My friend doesn’t want to be a religious fool.

My friend is an agnostic who wants to grow spiritually, but not yet ready to commit to any one religion or God.  Rather than hold a position of an atheist who declares “God doesn’t exist,” my friend would hold the position of an agnostic who says “I don’t know.”

My friend has a level of spiritual thirst that has moved beyond intellectual curiosity.  This person wants to learn and apply so that personal growth might happen.

Thus, we are having regular conversation about Jesus, about the nature of God, and what it means to be a follower of Jesus.  My friend is on a journey towards Jesus and I get the joy of helping my friend discover grace.

I hope you encounter such people on a regular basis and pray for such conversations regularly.

My Friend is on a Spiritual Journey

We have developed a good rapport from being friends and spending time together.

He has moved from a defensive resistance to my Christian faith to an acceptance that my faith is part of my life.

He has moved from that acceptance to a place of curiosity as he sees how I am living out my faith in front of him, while not being overly aggressive at saying he must believe like me.

I’m living out the phases of the spiritual conversation journey that my friend Don Everts describes in his book (I once was lost):

  1. Distrust to trust – trusting a Christian
  2. Complacent to Curious – the shift of spiritual thirst.
  3. Closed to change to open to change – hardest threshold to cross (personal life)
  4. From Meandering to seeking.
  5. The actual conversion to the Kingdom of God (surrender).

I see evidence of my friend being in the 3-4 range of this phase list.

How I talk with my friend

Recently, our conversations have shifted to looking at the teachings of Jesus.  After all, my friend wholeheartedly agrees that Jesus was a good teacher.

We’ve started looking at some of the sayings of Jesus:

  • Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. – John 14:6
  • All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Matthew 28:18
  • Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters – Matthew 12:30
  • Very truly I tell you Pharisees, anyone who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. – John 10:1
  • I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am he, you will indeed die in your sins – John 8:24

My friend didn’t realize Jesus said these things.

He is beginning to realize that if Jesus spoke truth, then some kind of response is required of him.

He could either

  • Not agree with it and say that Jesus wasn’t always a good teacher (limit the impact).
  • Jesus didn’t say those things (question the source)
  • Agree that Jesus was a good teacher and that Jesus will hold him accountable to these words.

By looking directly at the teachings of Jesus, my friend is getting uncomfortable with his own position.  He is realizing his claim that he wasn’t really following the teachings of Jesus if he didn’t believe them.

This dissonance is creating spiritual thirst and a desire to do something about it.

Let me ask you this?

  • What is your favorite Jesus saying that might give a person pause, like my friend?

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What happens when Francis Chan encounters some Jehovah Witnesses?

Working in the yard,  some Jehovah Witnesses come by to share some literature.  Pastor and author Francis Chan tells a good story about what happened next:

Watch and see what happens:

Key Evangelism Values on Display:

  • A proper heart attitude towards people who don’t know Christ.
  • Willing to be interrupted to talk with people.
  • Knows current stories of how God is at work in his life. (See this video)
  • Knows enough to respond to the Jehovah Witnesses rather than working a canned presentation
  • “Can I tell you about some things God has done in my life, some current stories?”
  • There is a time to listen.

Do you need help in Personal Evangelism?

Grow in Personal EvangelismStart here with this MP3 Download on Evangelism Training from the store ($10) to help you see where you need to grow.

It’s a 80 minute audio file that takes just a few minutes to download, but it may help you answer the question:

What can you do in the next 90 days to grow in your evangelism skills?