How do I avoid hurting the relationship or offending someone while evangelizing?

Hi Max,

I’m most grateful for your ability to cut through so much complexity with simple but clear and profound answers. Thank you!

In my context, I find that many people feel afraid or unable to share the gospel. It seems like an overwhelming challenge. How do I avoid hurting the relationship or offending someone? I don’t know what to say. What if I can’t answer their questions?

How would you encourage people who express these concerns?

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You’re far too kind Carson…but thank you. It’s all God’s grace and providence.

I can completely understand and empathise with people who are afraid to share the Gospel. We’ve all been there at times and there will always be instances where we find it a challenge to break through that comfort-zone barrier. In fact, when we think about the significance of sharing the Gospel, it’s pretty reasonable to be overwhelmed given what’s at stake.

I think the first thing to remember is that the Holy Spirit is always with us in that moment. When we are overcome by the fear of awkwardness, rejection, judgment etc, we are not alone. We can do all things through Christ who strengthens us (Philippians 4:13), including evangelism.

Another thing that always helps is for us to be clear on our own story I.e. what God has done in your life, who He is to you and why? These are things about which no one can argue with us. Our testimony is one of our most powerful evangelistic weapons, and a great way to tag Jesus into the conversation. It seems a little technical and mechanical, but I always encourage people to have a quick 90 second version of their testimony and a longer 5-7 minute version (perhaps for dinner parties or more extended conversations).

The most important thing for us to lead with when sharing the Gospel is love. This all begins with our heart posture. Whatever our motivation for sharing the gospel will become clear to those around us. If we are sharing from a place of superiority, judgment or adversarial confrontation, this will be immediately obvious. It’s crucial that people know that we want what’s best for them, that we care deeply about them and that God loves them. Anything different necessarily makes for harder ground than we’d like to be working with.

Of course, it’s very likely that they’ll have questions. If they do, there are three things I always encourage people to remember:

  1. The Gospel can stand up to questioning.
  2. The truth of the Gospel doesn’t depend on our ability to answer every question asked of it.
  3. It’s a perfectly reasonable answer to say ‘I don’t know’ to a question. In fact, this will show the person to whom we’re speaking that we are authentically interested in them and their questions. Perhaps you could offer to find an answer and come back to them at a later time, connect them with someone else who might be able to help or direct them to a resource (a book, a youtube clip etc).

Of course, anyone reading this has already taken the next step in evangelism too: equipping ourselves to be better at sharing the Gospel and helping people with their questions. Programs like the RZIM Academy, initiatives like RZIM connect and even some of the more intensive practical courses that we offer (please email us if you’d like more information) are all fantastic ways to build up your capacity and skills as an evangelist and apologist.

The final thing I’d say is that the best way to get more comfortable with both sharing the gospel and answering questions is to do it again and again and again. This might seem daunting, but if we keep our hearts on Christ, our love for people transparently demonstrated and our minds sharply focused on communicating the Gospel effectively, the Lord will use our imperfect efforts for His perfect purposes.