I accepted Jesus into my heart when I was four years old. From that point on, I was a powerhouse evangelist, constantly leading the people around me to Christ.
After I accepted Jesus into my heart, I remember feeling a very pure and childlike love for Jesus. I also had a passion to share him with my friends. My sister and I were good friends with two little girls who lived down the street. I distinctly remember leading one of them to Christ while we were all sitting on our trampoline. I was a bit frustrated that our moment of silence didn’t last very long. After the prayer, she was pretty eager to get back to her jumping.
Those girls down the street are my first memory of wanting to share Christ, and I consistently shared him with the people around me that weren’t believers. While my heart was in the right place, my tactics weren’t always the most effective.
Often, simply sharing the gospel wasn’t enough to win people over. I could feel hardness and resistance that my words couldn’t break through. I would share the logical arguments given to me in Christian school, but I found that most of my conversations with people who claimed to be very “scientific and fact-oriented” didn’t actually follow the patterns of normal logic (ie, my well-thought out arguments were useless).
I was still passionate about reaching others, and the Holy Spirit graciously began to teach me new methods of reaching people. His tactics are so simple that a child could use them, but they are so powerful that they make the devil tremble in his boots. Since I started implementing them, I’ve been able to approach people who I would’ve previously deemed “unreachable” and see strongholds and hatred for God shatter before my eyes.
Here are three common evangelism mistakes and simple ways to remedy each of them:
1. Getting into debates instead of sharing testimonies.
How many of us view “sharing the gospel” as “knowing how to have good debates”? Growing up in a Christian school, I was trained from a young age to give an argument for my faith. This wasn’t necessarily a bad thing – there are definitely scientific and logical arguments for the faith, and for some people, that might be what convinces them that the Bible is true.
Here’s the problem: When we engage someone in a debate, their guard is instantly up. Their focus will be to form counter-arguments for every statement that we make.
I spent the past few years studying the subject of persuading and creating change, and the conclusion across the board is that the #1 most effective way to change someone’s opinion is through storytelling.
When someone is listening to a story, their guard is down. They will receive the information with an open mind without immediately passing judgment on the principles contained in the story.
“They will overcome by the blood of the lamb and the word of their testimony.”
Your story of what God has done for you is the most potent weapon in your arsenal. The opportunity of storytelling is that you can meet the person where they are, identify with their current way of thinking, and then share the story of the process that led you from your past way of thinking to your current one. Rather than presenting a debate, you are carving out a (mental) path for them that leads to Christ.
2. Forgetting to listen and identify with people.
In order to, “meet them where they are,” this means that we have to do more than just share our story – we also have to listen to them. Too often, our focus is on getting our point across because we already know that we are “right”. Yes, we have the truth that people need to hear, but when we go into a conversation with an, “I’m right and you’re wrong,” mentality, we are treating the other person’s perspective as invalid. You’re communicating an unspoken message that you are more capable of understanding the world than they are.
Most of our friendships and relationships are formed as a result of finding common ground with each other. It might be a shared interest, a shared perspective, or a shared sense of humor. We don’t like to befriend people who don’t understand us or who steamroll over us because they think they are always right.
Just because someone hasn’t received the truth about Christ doesn’t mean that everything you have to say is better.
When you have the opportunity to listen to someone else’s perspective or hear a piece of their story, don’t just sit there and form counterarguments in your head. In fact, don’t worry about your response at all. Go into that story with them, ask questions, and become curious about who they are. Let your primary objective be to form a deeper understanding of that person and form an actual connection with them. We often approach evangelism with the idea that we have the right perspective and that other people have everything to gain from us. Not only will this shut down the other person from wanting to talk to you, but it will hurt you as well. There is a lot to be learned from deeply listening to the people around us, and we will miss it if we don’t take the time to do that.
3. Communicating with your mind, will, and emotions instead of letting Christ speak through you.
“…Do not worry beforehand about what to say. Just say whatever is given you at the time, for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit.” Mark 13:11
Last year, I was in an intense situation with two of my friends. One of them was saying some pretty wild things that were angering me and the other girl. The tension was rising, and I remained silent because I knew that if I spoke, it was going to be out of my own anger. I prayed and asked Jesus to be present with me so that when I opened my mouth, it would be his words.
After this silent prayer, I felt the presence of Jesus in a way I had never felt before. When I looked around the room I knew that he himself was inside of me, his eyes seeing through mine. I felt his love for my friend burning in my heart, and when I spoke the words going out of my mouth were not my own, and they brought peace to the situation.
If I had spoken out of my own flesh, things would have escalated, but my decision to allow Jesus to speak through me changed the outcome.
Before this experience, I didn’t understand what it meant to allow the Holy Spirit to speak through me. I was formulating my own plans of what to say, without realizing that there was something greater available to me.
When Jesus promises that he will speak through us, it’s not something that’s happening in theory – it’s very, very real. “Worrying beforehand about what to say,” prevents the Holy Spirit from speaking through us. When the Holy Spirit speaks through you, the words will come quicker than your thoughts, and you won’t have to think about it at all.
When was the last time you shared your testimony with someone? Is there someone in your life who might benefit from hearing your story?