Confronting the fear of rejection in evangelism
Rejection can be devastating. It can paralyze us from taking risks. Status quo is far safer than stepping out in faith. Most of us don’t like to place ourselves in positions where the likelihood of failure appears far greater than success. Let’s face it… we hate being disappointed or hurt.
Perhaps the fear of rejection is one of the greatest barriers for Christians to fulfill God’s commission to proclaim the gospel.
We hate rejection.
We can be so fearful of extending ourselves for the purpose of forming a close friendship or even deepening a relationship with our spouse, because we don’t want to be hurt. The walls of protection prohibit us from receiving what God has designed us to be – a creature who freely loves and freely receives love in return. We allow ourselves to get in the way.
Perhaps the fear of rejection is what prohibits many Christians from proclaiming the gospel with another soul.
It’s too risky.
We hate the thought of losing friends. We can’t bring ourselves to be rejected about something that matters deeply – our relationship with Christ. We don’t like to be labeled as a fool. We don’t feel prepared or ready to provide an answer for the hope we have in Christ. We don’t want to let God down.
So, we say nothing. It’s safe to remain hidden.
And by doing so, we lose out on an opportunity to do something that really matters to God – to help him find his most valuable possession – a lost sheep, a lost coin, a lost soul who needs to be rescued from the clutches of eternal damnation.
The fear of rejection
As a six-year-old in China, Jia Jiang received a humiliating experience in front of a classroom that haunted him well into his adult years. This got in his way of accomplishing a life-long dream of being a successful entrepreneur.
In a recent TED talk, Jia made a bold attempt to overcome the fear of rejection by setting out on a hundred-day journey by purposefully placing himself in a position of being rejected.
He learned that rejection typically has very little to do about himself, but simply not meeting a particular need of another individual. The fear of rejection comes when we make faulty assumptions that the reasons for rejection has to do with us.
According to Jia Jiang, the best way to confront rejection is to ask, “Why?” The answer may be surprising and you can learn how to turn a rejection into an opportunity.
I believe this discovery could be applied to evangelism.
The fear of verbally proclaiming the gospel plagues many Christians. When we speak the truth with love and respect, rejection has little to do about ourselves and everything to do with the message of the gospel.
The Bible even tells us that.
In the parable of the seeds (Matthew 13:1-23), three out of four seeds of the gospel will be rejected. There is roughly a 25% chance that seeds are going to fall into good, receptive soil. This also means that roughly three out of four people are going to reject the gospel message.
[When leading outreach campaigns throughout the U.S. and training people by providing an experience to go door-to-door to proclaim the gospel, this percentage holds true. Approximately 80% of the people politely reject our brief gospel witness at the door.]
Christians confront the fear of evangelism by remembering that people don’t reject the messenger, they reject the message.
Recent studies are revealing that a surprising number of unbelievers who have Christian friends are open to listening about their faith. They are waiting to be asked so that you can provide a reason for the hope you have in Christ. And when they don’t want to listen, perhaps they just aren’t ready. They are not rejecting you, but the message. The fear of losing a friend or being rejected is not nearly as prominent as many Christians think, thereby creating a barrier to step out in faith to share their faith with others.
Jesus Christ knew rejection. He even foresaw rejection, but he still went to the cross. He did so not only those who love him and place their trust in God’s promises, but even for all those who reject him.
Those who proclaim the message of the cross, pick up the cross. Prompted by love and concern, we crucify our self, our fear, our self-preservation, all for the sake of their soul.
“My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Gal. 2:20)
Proclaiming Christ means we must first die to self. It is doing something that is totally contrary to our human nature. Therefore, we die to the image in the mirror and the searing accusations that instill fear in taking risks. With Christ who lives in us (Phil 4:13), we receive the power and the courage to share the all-important message of salvage. It’s no wonder that God provides an important promise immediately after he gives us the commission to proclaim the gospel – “And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”