I remember the first time I attempted to share my faith on my campus. A friend of mine invited me to go out on campus to engage my university peers in conversations about Jesus. At the time, Robyn was a staff member with Power to Change in Toronto, and she and her husband were visiting Queen’s University for the day.
Up until that point I had successfully managed to avoid sharing my faith, despite having a done a few summer missions trips as a teenager. I was far too afraid to approach smart and fun classmates and risk making a fool of myself. But when Robyn asked me if I would go with her, half of me was too proud to decline and the other half was enthusiastic because I liked and trusted Robyn.
The person we ended up talking to that day had gone to the same small high school as me, but had been a few years ahead of me. As far as I could tell she didn’t know who I was, but I recognized her. I’m surprised my eyes didn’t bulge out of my head with shock and discomfort. We had a pleasant conversation with her about her faith background and the gospel.
I tend to care a lot what people think of me. So you can imagine my surprise when I walked away from that conversation with more encouragement to talk to others about Jesus than fear. I assumed my fear would grow because I was exposing my unpopular beliefs to people who might know me, judge, and laugh at me. Instead, I walked away with a profound sense that God was in control. What are the chances that of all the people on that campus that day, I walked into the one of maybe three other people who had graduated from my high school and attended Queen’s.
“I assumed my fear would grow because I was exposing my unpopular beliefs to people who might know me, judge, and laugh at me. Instead, I walked away with a profound sense that God was in control.” – Jess Versteeg
Evangelism didn’t stop being hard after that first exposure. I remained filled with fear for years until I was a few years into my career as a full-time missionary (sorry if you find that disappointing). It was a battle, and sometimes still is a battle.
However, the battle now is very, very different. Now, the battle is about saying that first “Bonjour, Hi.”* I’m no longer concerned with what I will say; I’ve had enough practice and experience to know how to carry on a strong conversation.
So here are a few tips from someone who went from “Dear, God, please don’t ask me to do this!!” to “Dear God, let’s do this!”
For Those Who Are Fearful: Learn to Wrestle
1. Figure out why you don’t like/think-you-won’t-like evangelism.
Most people assume things about the experience that are not true. They assume it will be weird, perhaps argumentative, or super awkward.
However, in my experience, after exposing new friends to the experience of starting spiritual conversations almost everyone says, “That wasn’t as bad as I thought!” and I’ve even had several people tell me, “That was fun!”
Once you pin down what your concerns are and talk about them with your discipler or a friend, it will make addressing those concerns much easier.
2. Address your concerns.
Are you afraid of rejection? Afraid to be thought of as an ignorant or judgmental evangelical? Are you extremely shy or perhaps you battle social anxiety? Are you operating in your second or third language at school and this kind of conversation is a desperate stretch?
None of this is too much for God.
Bring your concerns to Jesus and wrestle with them. Like me, it will likely be a lifelong process of learning to master these concerns (I know, it stinks). Evangelism is a great place to start to invite God into your internal mess and start laying things down. Our selfishness rears its ghastly head so often when the topic of evangelism comes up; we can find a million excuses on any day.
“Evangelism is a great place to start to invite God into your internal mess and start laying things down. Our selfishness rears its ghastly head so often when the topic of evangelism comes up; we can find a million excuses on any day.” – Jess Versteeg
3. Consider Jesus and turn to him.
This is the essence of the Christian life: turning away from our selfishness and turning towards Jesus.
Once you’ve discovered what’s preventing you from taking those steps of faith in evangelism, consider what God has to say about your situation.
What does scripture say? How is the Lord able to come alongside you and compassionately strengthen you to do the good he is calling you to? How is he cheering you on and helping you get back up when you struggle? Learn to run to him in your fear, your anxiety, your selfishness, and invite him to transform your heart.
4. Take that step of faith.
5. Remember God is sovereign.
For Those Who Are Confident: Learn to Coach
What if you aren’t having trouble getting out there and sharing your faith? What if you see those around you feeling uncomfortable about and you want to encourage them?
Play the role of a coach! Take the above steps and help your friend walk through them. This isn’t necessarily something that can be solved in one conversation—but it might be! Walk with your friend, encourage them, pray for them, and challenge them! Don’t pressure them and definitely do not use guilt to try to motivate. This is between them and God.
It may take a few times of inviting them to come out with you to do evangelism, they might stand you up a few times or “not get your text.” Be patient. At times, I was that student. God was at work in my life and he is at work in yours and the lives of your friends, Christian and not.
Which person are you? Do you need to go through these steps yourself, or should you take a step of faith to walk through them with someone else? Go through the steps at the same time as a friend and grow together.
by Jess Versteeg
Jess is staff in Montreal, and over the years has worked on all of the English and French university campuses in the city. She is currently dividing her time between mentoring staff, working in the Montreal office, and being at home with her toddler. Jess did her undergrad at Queen’s University in Global Development Studies and enjoys colouring, crochet, writing and Netflix binging. You can find some of her other writing at mycravings.ca or on her personal blog at jessversteeg.ca.