I don’t know about you, but I find evangelism utterly terrifying. 

It didn’t start that way. After becoming a Christian in my late 20s, one of the things God did in my heart immediately was help me see that following Jesus and sharing the news of Jesus were two sides of the same coin. 

“How hard could it be?” I thought. Very hard, as it turned out.  

My first go at it was with my oldest mate. His response was to take a sip of his beer, look me straight in the eyes and say, “Don’t you ever, ever, speak to me about this stuff again”. The next few responses were no better; I was mocked, abused and made to feel completely stupid. It wasn’t long before I shifted from being someone who looked for opportunities to share my faith to being someone who would do anything possible to avoid it. 

In my experience I’m not alone. While evangelism is something most of us want to do, it’s also something that most of us never do. The reason? Fear. Specifically, the fear of rejection.  

So how do we engage in evangelism when it’s so terrifying? 

It’s always tempting to think that the answer will be found in some kind of new conversational technique, or social engineering. The idea is that if we just do this or just do that, the people we’re speaking to won’t react badly to us.  

However, the gospels show us a different perspective.

In Matthew 10, Jesus sends his disciples out to proclaim the gospel into a world that would hate them. He explicitly warned them of the danger to come. 

According to Jesus, what matters most in life is not the here and now, but the eternal future facing us all

But then he does something surprising. He doesn’t give them a set of directions about what to do in order to avoid the danger; instead, he offers a different way of understanding the opposition they would face:

Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell (Matthew 10:28).

According to Jesus, what matters most in life is not the here and now, but the eternal future facing us all. It is God who has control over that, not people. The good news is that God shows us grace through Jesus, guaranteeing eternal life for those who trust in him. 

The consequences for us transform how we understand fear.  John Newton put it this way in the hymn “Amazing Grace”: 

’Twas grace that taught my heart to fear, 

and grace my fears relieved."

We don’t need to fear people. We need to fear God. When we do, it means we are set free from being slaves to the opinion of people. We are able to see that it’s his opinion that truly matters. 

But not only that. Fearing God means we shouldn’t be afraid of people. We should be afraid for people. The future for those who do not fear God is eternity in hell.  

So, what does that mean for evangelism? 

It means that evangelism starts not with how we talk to people about God, but with talking to God about people. We need to pray that God would have mercy and save those we know, and that we would have the courage to live our lives based on the fear of God, not people. 

Can you think of four people you could pray for in 2024? 


Fire up! is a new, regular Southern Cross column with a focus on evangelism. Dave Jensen is the assistant director of Evangelism and New Churches in the Sydney Diocese.