Ponder this illustrative story by my late uncle, Keith Long, in his devotional Room to Grow: Daily Thoughts for Men:
“So, how are we going to work this?” I asked John Arrington as he drove to the house where we were to pick up two sisters for a double date. We were both sixteen and less than experienced at the dating game. And double dating seemed to create an extra problem for me.
“I mean, should one of us go to the door, or both of us?”
“Hey, I know. Let’s just pull up and honk,” John said.
I pondered that possibility for just a moment. I’d seen other guys do it. Rather, I’d heard them do it. As it turned out, all my worry was for nothing. The girls were waiting at the door when we arrived. We didn’t have to honk, we didn’t have to go to the door, we didn’t have to be introduced to their parents.
(Incidentally, their parents are some of the finest folks in the world. Only a sixteen-year-old could be afraid to meet them.)
I think of that incident now as I contemplate how Christian men approach people who are outside the fellowship of Jesus Christ. Do we park at the curb and honk? Do we expect them to come to us, and meet us on our terms?
Or do we get out of the car, go to the door, pay our respects, treat them with the same loving care that Christ did?
Too often, in my case, it’s a matter of the former. I revert to acting like a spiritual sixteen-year-old. I want what seems easiest.
How about it? Are you waiting at the curb? Honking your horn? Staying in your comfort zone?
Christians want what seems easiest. That’s human nature. We struggle with engaging in evangelism. That struggle is natural because we know the message we possess is offensive and we are somewhat fearful of the reactions. But it’s also because, like my late uncle said, many Christians are “spiritual sixteen-year-olds.” We are so worried about what people think, so fearful about how unbelievers will react. Furthermore, we become too aware of our tone that we lose sight of the ultimate purpose: to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ that has saved us!
It’s good to be aware of our tone. It’s smart to understand the room and know how to convey the message of the gospel in a loving way. However, I want to talk about overcompensating. We don’t want to fear being offensive to the point that we no longer evangelize. At that point, you’re not offending the culture—you’re offending God. And in some instances a bad witness that still gets the gospel across is better than no witness (Philippians 1:15-18).
It’s a cop-out to say, “I shouldn’t go out and witness because I am prone to get too frustrated with people.” That simply isn’t an excuse to not evangelize. If you’re that concerned about your own shortcomings—which we all should be— than ask the Lord to replace your hard edges with soft ones.
Let’s focus on sharing the gospel with people who are in need of God’s saving grace. The fact of the matter is this: if the Holy Spirit resides in you, He will see to it that you are an effective witness to the gospel of Jesus Christ.
This article was adapted from my book Gospel Smugness: Displaying Christlike Character in Evangelism available now on Amazon.