August 26, 2021

Why Is It Difficult to Evangelize?

Nathan W. Bingham & Burk Parsons
Why Is It Difficult to Evangelize?

The church is called to proclaim the gospel in all the world. But sharing our faith can sometimes make us feel anxious. Today, Burk Parsons gives clarification and encouragement to Christians who may be daunted by their responsibility to evangelize.


NATHAN W. BINGHAM: I'm joined this week by one of Ligonier's teaching fellows and the editor of Tabletalk magazine, Dr. Burk Parsons. Dr. Parsons, why does it sometimes just feel so difficult to evangelize?

DR. BURK PARSONS: I think there are many reasons for that, Nathan, and I have wrestled with that question over the years, as I've been asked that question, as I've discussed it with others in the church. It's a good question. And I think that depending upon our personalities and depending upon the way in which we typically go about our communication with people, particularly strangers, that a lot of this depends upon what we're used to, our context, our community, the way we communicate, our personalities, and so on. But if we're to boil it all down, I think across the board, in most contexts, if we were to look at Christians throughout the world, that one of the things that we all experience in it being difficult to evangelize is that when we evangelize, we are proclaiming a message to people that we know or we believe are in peril.

And so when we evangelize, we tell people about Jesus, we talk to them about the gospel, when we proclaim to them the good news of what God has done through Jesus Christ, by His Spirit, well, it all starts usually by talking to people about who God is and about who we are. And when we start talking to people about who God is, well, people have all of their own preconceived ideas about who their God is and what their God would do. And many people believe that God loves them just as they are, that God is pleased with them just as they are. And people don't see themselves as sinners. And that's where the rub is.

The problem is that people, generally speaking, think that they are already good with God. They think that God is for them. They're for God, they have a good relationship with Him, and they're fine. And that's all they need. And so when you begin to talk with them about what their need really is, when you talk with them about the fact that they are sinners, when you talk with them about the fact that God is just and righteous and holy, and that God demands righteousness and holiness, not just our version of it or our attempts at it, but true, perfect righteousness and holiness that can only be earned by Jesus Christ and His active obedience for us. When we start to talk with people about how sinful we really are, how much we really need Jesus Christ and His righteousness and not our own"well, the truth of the matter is that hurts people's feelings. And we don't want to hurt people's feelings.

From the time that we're young, our mothers teach us. They say, "Don't hurt anybody's feelings." And "if you don't have anything nice to say, then don't say anything at all." And so from the time we're very young, we're told, "don't hurt people's feelings" and "be polite," "have good manners," "say nice things to people," "say kind things." And that's what we want to do.

And the difficulty in proclaiming the gospel to people who think that they're good, who think that they're basically at their very core good, who don't really understand the depths of their sin, who don't really understand that God demands a perfect righteousness, when you go to them and you talk to them about God's just judgment, when you talk with them about God's righteous condemnation, when you talk with them about the realities of hell, when you talk with them about the realities of death and sin and judgment, that hurts. And we don't want to hurt people's feelings.

And in our day today, one of the greatest sins that anyone can commit anywhere is hurting someone's feelings. So when we preach the gospel, there's an element in which we have to help people understand why they need the gospel and why they need Jesus. And that can be very difficult for people to hear. And so, I think that one of the reasons"and there are many reasons it's hard to evangelize"but one of the reasons is because when we do so, we have to get to the very heart of the problem, namely our sin, God's righteousness, and our need for Jesus Christ.