My first job in Christian ministry was in the chaplaincy department of a private school in suburban Sydney. After the best part of a decade as an infantry officer in the Army my hope was that, in comparison, talking to teenagers about Jesus would be pretty easy.  

It took me about 15 minutes to work out that, rather than this being a walk in the park, it was closer to a limp through the valley of the shadow of death. Quite simply it was the toughest thing I’d ever had to do. From day one I found myself confronted with an endless supply of objections to the Christian faith. Many of them I didn’t have a good answer to on the spot. Some of them I had never heard of! 

The result of all of this was that for the first year of my ministry I was persuaded that in order to be effective in evangelism I had to be an expert in every single possible objection to the Christian faith. 

I scoured apologetics videos online to develop a working knowledge of not only secular philosophies and other religions, but also how to defend the faith when the topic turned to history, science, sexuality or any other objection. 

Some of this was really helpful. It grew my confidence in the truth of the gospel. However, when it came to how to utilise it in evangelistic conversations, I still found myself quickly overwhelmed. 

The result was that I began to grow both in embarrassment at my inability to engage in conversation, and then anger at those whose viewpoints I couldn’t answer. It seemed much safer to simply say nothing and leave evangelism to the experts.  

Have you ever experienced anything like this? Have you ever found yourself flustered or embarrassed in an evangelistic conversation because the person you’re speaking to has questions you can’t answer? It’s a horrible feeling. In my experience it’s an enormously common reason why many of us find evangelism so difficult. 

Yet that’s not the end of my story. Fast forward 12 years to today and I can honestly say I don’t get flustered in evangelistic conversations any more. In fact, I really enjoy them, no matter who I’m speaking to and what objections they have. 

So, what happened? What did I have to do in order to become so much more confident?

The answer is… nothing. Rather, someone pointed out to me that the most important thing that needed to happen first was not a change in what I did, but in how I saw. I needed to understand the reality of what’s really going on in evangelism. The reality that only God’s word can give. 

Reading 2 Corinthians 4 was the “penny drop” moment for me. Listen to what Paul says: 

The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ (2 Cor 4:4-6).

What does this passage tell us about reality? It tells us that the people we speak to are not the enemy. They are victims of the enemy, Satan. But not only that; the fundamental objection at the core of everyone who is not a Christian is spiritual, not intellectual. 

It tells us that our role is not to be an expert in every type of non-Christian worldview, but rather to be experts in our own. What we need to do is faithfully proclaim the good news that Jesus is Lord, explaining why we believe what we believe in the hope of seeing people saved. 

But best of all? It tells us that it is God who switches on the light inside a person’s soul, not us. We know that for certain because he did the same thing for us! So, we don’t need to stress or worry; what we need to do is faithfully proclaim his gospel, knowing that God is at work and Jesus is with us until the end of the age. 

Dave Jensen is the assistant director of Evangelism & New Churches and co-host of the Fire Up! podcast.