How to Overcome Fears of conflict in Evangelism
Gospel conversations involve discussing personal issues that are rarely talked about by non-Christians, including accountability to God, sin, the need for forgiveness, and other spiritual beliefs. They can evoke strong emotions and become uncomfortable quickly. Because of this, many believers do what many people do when it comes to conflict, try to avoid it altogether.
However, Jesus commanded those who follow Him to, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to all creation” Mark 16:15.
So how do those of us who are “conflict-avoidant” obey Christ’s command to share the gospel?
1. Deal with the root of your fear.
When I experience the fear of conflict in evangelism and it stops me from sharing the gospel, it is like seeing the check engine light appear in my car. It may be time to find out the underlying cause.
Here are a few of the reasons my fear of conflict stops me from sharing the gospel. Each is rooted in sin.
- When my fear of the person is greater than my fear of God. (idolatry)
- When I stay in my comfort zone rather than obey God. (slothfulness)
- When I am concerned that I will look foolish. (pride)
1 John 1:9 gives us the remedy for each of these underlying sins. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. When we recognize and deal with the sin beneath the fear that is paralyzing us, it helps us to move forward in obedience by the power of the Holy Spirit.
2. Consider that what you think might happen might NOT happen.
Just because there is a possibility that someone might get upset when you bring up spiritual things does not mean they will. One study suggests that 92% of what we worry about never happens, or at least happens in the same way or to the extent to which we anticipate.
The first time I saw this play out with my own witness was when I was with the owner of a small business in his office. He appeared to be in a bad mood, yet I felt the Lord leading me to change the topic of our conversation to spiritual things. I imagined all the harsh ways he would react yet proceeded to share. I was astounded when He reacted exactly the opposite of how I thought he was going to react. In fact, talking about spiritual things lightened his mood and, later in the conversation, He trusted Christ.
Does that mean every time I share the gospel it goes well? No, but rarely do the things I dread happen in the way I was anticipating.
3. Remember that people respond differently.
Perhaps you have had a bad experience sharing the gospel in the past. It may be tempting to allow the memories of the experience with that person keep you from sharing with another person.
We need to remember that people respond to the gospel differently. Think of Christ’s parable of The Sower. Some of the seeds fell on hard soil, some on shallow soil, but some on good soil. The disciples saw this played out in Jesus’s own ministry. Some would accept His message, yet others would reject it.
One of the applications of the parable is to keep on sowing. Don’t let one person’s negative response keep you from sharing the gospel with someone else.
4. Don’t contribute to the conflict.
A study concluded that most workplace conflicts are due to delivery and tone of voice. I believe this is also true in evangelism even with believers. Our pride, anger, and frustration can get in the way of the message. Even worse, knowing that we ourselves might get upset might keep us from sharing.
Paul reminds us in Romans 12:18: “If possible, as far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” This does not mean to refrain from speaking to others about Christ. Rather, it does mean that we are to strive to keep ourselves in check by abiding in Christ which leads to the fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, patience, etc.) The gospel message is offensive, but those who deliver it shouldn’t be.
Don’t let your fear of conflict keep you from doing one of the most loving things you can do for someone else, telling them about Jesus.
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