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What do you do when you are afraid for your life?

I have preached the gospel when I was in fear of personal harm.

I don’t exactly know how to deal with this. I have shared my beliefs with people who have RADICALLY different ideas about the world and religion.

How can I not be anxious?

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Hi @Jesse_Means_God_Exists, this is a good question about an important issue. Would you mind explaining a bit more about the danger you found yourself in and what led you into it? As I’ve been thinking this through, I felt there were two layers to developing our approach to evangelism in risky situations.

We know we’re called to share the gospel as believers, and there are times through the New Testament when the apostles were in danger and found themselves in very difficult situations. I think we have to develop our skills in two main ways to reduce anxiety:

  1. Firstly, learning how to deal with general anxiety about sharing the gospel.
  2. Secondly, considering how and if we should share the gospel in situations that bring risk to ourselves and how to deal with the anxiety of this.

In terms of day to day evangelism in ‘ordinary’ situations, I think that getting over anxiety in sharing the gospel is just part of our growth as Christians. It can be scary to share one’s point of view if we’re aware it’s radically different to someone else’s. As we grow in knowledge that it’s really the Holy Spirit working in someone’s heart to convict them to repentance, it can take the pressure off a little. I also think that it’s good to intentionally study other points of view so you can ask genuine questions out of interest rather than coming across as having a message to deliver, come what may. It helps conversations flow and encourages others to be more receptive to what we have to say if we’ve demonstrated the same attitude towards them first. The foundation for all this, of course, is working on your own relationship with God first, feeding from scripture daily.

With regards to sharing the gospel in situations that bring danger to ourselves in some way, it would be natural to feel anxiety. Therefore, I feel it’s highly important that God has led us into these types of situations and that we’ve prayerfully followed the Holy Spirit’s leading to engage with certain people. There’s enthusiasm to share the gospel but there’s also foolishness. I think that’s why it’s so important to have practised effective evangelism on receptive audiences before heading into unreceptive ones.

Personally, I feel that to share the gospel with someone whose views are so opposed to our own, we need to build a good relationship with them first. Once they see you as a human who also values them as a human, they’re less likely to see your motives as simply to destroy their beliefs and preach your own. When we hear about Christians who step into dangerous situations, they go with a long term goal in mind. They aim to settle with the local people, build relationships, live as they do and then preach Jesus. This requires commitment and a huge amount of prayer.

This story is about Kelly Greene who went to Boys Town in Mexico to share the love of Jesus. What you’ll notice is that her purpose was prayer, mercy and hospitality first before engaging the locals with the gospel. In fact, her very acts of mercy and hospitality were a way to share the gospel, before she needed to speak a word. Stepping into dangerous situations to share Jesus is honourable but requires wisdom as well.

You might find this article interesting as it relates to both issues in certain respects and looks at how much of the gospel we share through our lives or through our words.

I’d be interested to know if I’ve addressed the sort of thing you had in mind or whether there’s something more specific you’d like discussed.

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I will try and give the situation.

There is a man who lives at my apartment complex who believe Jesus existed and was crucified in the 80s as opposed to 2000 years ago. I had talked to him previously before about my faith, but I mostly just listened to him for about an hour on his views. I was not judgemental toward him or his PoV. Then, say him at night cleaning his car and this thing popped in my head about how John Piper had said when he did evangelism that he would lead off with, “Do you know the best news in the world?” and that gets the conversation going. So he said, “what’s that?” and kinda laughed. I said, “That Christ came to die for your sins.” and he said, “Well, I already told you about that.” at that point, I felt my life was in danger so even though I was scared, I tried to share more about what I believe about God’s mercy. I ended up saying, “I can’t convince you of anything.” but I was very low key and calm about how I said it.

Then I saw two other men and I told the first guy, “I am going to go talk to these guys now.” So I went to talk to them. I can’t remember what I lead off with, but one of them offered me a cigarette and I traded one of my lighters for it. We talked about some general things and I felt I should tell them, “If you guys would rather be left alone, I can leave and I won’t be offended” the other guy who I had traded a cigar for a few aspirin chimed in and said, “Naw man, you can stay” or something to that effect. So I ended up asking something I got from J. Warner Wallace which was to ask, “What do you think happens after we die?” The first guy is the guy I did most of the talking with. He said, “Ah, I see what this is about.” or something like that. He said he believed we are reincarnated and I said something like, “Ah, so you believe we are reborn” and he said, “I think we go on to another life.” Somehow the topic of hell came up. He said he thought we live in hell. I ended up saying my beliefs about hell - that I do not know if God simply annihilates non-believers (meaning they cease to exist) or if it is continual punishment. All through this conversation, the other person was pretty quiet. Somehow we ended up talking about “mistakes” and I said I make mistakes all the time and gave an example of how when I got out of my car I forgot my facemask so I had to go back and get it and then I had to go back to my car again. He said something like, “If you’re perfect, there’s something wrong with you” and I didn’t really comment on that. It ended up with me saying something like, “You guys are good, bye”

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Wow, sounds like some really interesting conversations you’ve been having with people. It’s great to get alongside others and listen to their points of view.

With regards to the first man you spoke to, was he receptive to your viewpoint? I’ve never heard of the belief that Jesus was crucified in the 80s, so do you know what’s behind that belief? If you’re having conversations occasionally, do you find a mutual respect growing and opportunities opening for further discussion? It might be worth researching his belief system a bit and preparing some questions to get him thinking through how he came to his conclusions. However, you also mentioned you felt like your life was in danger - was it because you raised the issue of Christ dying for our sins? I’m asking all these questions just so I can get a better understanding of the situation you’re describing.

I think if a conversation turns sour, it’s probably because a particular issue causes a person some trouble - perhaps it’s a topic that convicts them and this makes them uncomfortable, or perhaps they have negative asssociations with a particular word, for example, the word ‘sin’ can be connected with strict religiousness that people have experienced in the past and want to avoid. Sometimes it might be because they don’t feel that their viewpoint is being understood properly. As you reflect on this conversation, prayerfully consider what you think might have been the trigger for a negative response. Maybe spend time praying and building up a relationship before heading back to the conversation you previously engaged in.

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I actually think It’s good that you’ve got rational concerns and reasonable anxiety. I can’t know fur sure, but I would contend that your anxiety may or may not actually be a problem. (You’ll have to be the judge of that however) Stepping out in faith does involve a certain amount of normal anxiety. Hopefully you can separate your rational concerns from irrational fears and then work on mitigating the issues of concern moving forward. (and hopefully you can then move forward)

Along those lines I would give a few practical things to consider and then a book recommendation that might best demonstrate a gospel-sharing, that deals with a bigger picture than just going out and sharing the gospel.

On a practical note: you might consider developing more of a strategy and routine as you go out and give the gospel. Maybe a growing checklist could serve to develop your specific ways and means to mitigate the dangers of sharing the gospel on “the street”. Another thing that would lower the danger factor would be to bring other people with you, and to do the work in open public areas.

In Walter L. Wilson’s book “Just what the doctor ordered” he explains (using his own personal stories (one after another)) how the simple use of prayer and walking in the Spirit throughout the regular course of the day is all the routine needed for God to provide “divine appointments” and to enable His work (giving the gospel) throughout the course of a believer’s regular daily living.

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