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September 21, 2007

Overcoming the fear of witnessing Christ

by Dave Malnes
http://www.flickr.com/photos/yorktone/11223428356/

Anybody who shares the gospel of Jesus Christ can be considered a cross-cultural witness. When Jesus says, “Go into the world”, we do not need to go very far because the world has come to us.

Ethnic communities are springing up all around us. The challenge of sharing Christ has become even more daunting. Not only do we need to be prepared to give an answer for the hope we have in Christ, but we must take the time to learn a different culture or even a different language.

From my experience in cross-cultural evangelism, the first barrier to overcome is to understand the language and the culture of the people. This is a necessary first step to effectively communicate the gospel. Through time and effort, these barriers can be overcome. However, the most deceptive barrier that we rarely acknowledge is to overcome fear and guilt.

Have you ever experienced fear in sharing the message of Christ?  Do you battle with guilt from missed opportunities to share our faith?  A neighbor makes a flippant comment about the Christian faith and we are tongue-tied. A conversation about Jesus Christ around the water-cooler makes us nervous and awkward. Knowing eyes turn toward us for a response and we only mumble a feeble reply. Mormon missionaries knock on our door at just the wrong time. We’re tired, we’re busy and we make excuses, hoping they will go away. Doesn’t this sound familiar?  We get nervous, fearful, and struggle with feelings of inadequacy and the guilt of being unprepared.  How do we overcome this? 

What about Paul?

The Apostle Paul is considered the greatest missionary who ever lived.  Did you know that even he struggled with “weakness and fear and with much trembling” when given opportunities to preach the Gospel (1 Cor. 2:3)? He was fully aware of his weaknesses and personal barriers. He knew exactly what God wanted him to do and had a passion to do, but he still battled his human weaknesses to carry them out (Romans 7:18). We wonder how Paul became such an amazing servant for Christ.

The fear of witnessing is a direct result of being me-focused instead of God-focused.  We allow our human inadequacies to clog the power of God working in our lives.  Paul gives us a clue in Philippians 2:12-13 on how to conquer the effects of sin and the schemes of Satan.  Verse 12b says, “…continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling.”

We must first realize this verse is not telling us to earn our salvation, but to work it out.  How do you work out something that’s already been done?  Is it like washing dishes after they have gone through the dishwasher or changing the oil after coming home from Jiffy-Lube? What’s the point? Paul is encouraging us to exercise or “work out” our faith so we may develop our faith muscles and grow spiritually. He urges us to train as if we are preparing to compete in a race (1 Cor. 9:24-27). When we exercise our body, our heart gets stronger. We are able to unclog our arteries in order for our heart to work even better. Our blood flows more freely. In becoming spiritually fit, we unclog the barriers and allow the Holy Spirit to flow more freely within us.  We “make every effort to add to your faith” (2 Peter 1:5) by exercising regularly in the gymnasium of God’s Word. This is the means God has given us to persevere, grow, and mature in the faith.  By becoming spiritually fit, we are kept “from being ineffective and unproductive” (2 Peter 1:8) in carrying out God’s commission for our lives.

Read part two of this post at this link http://wp.me/p7nlp-5

 

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