When Evangelism Feels Impossible: 4 Steps to Joyful Obedience

Jonty Allcock | June 5th 2019

As new Christians, we often start out enthusiastic at the idea of calling people to follow King Jesus. We are expectant and joyful. But it can soon lead to deflation. We still try and talk about Jesus. We still invite people to church. But the joy has gone. We have given up even trying anymore. Is the command to make disciples of all nations simply far too ambitious? Let’s take four steps and see what happens when we apply them to Jesus’ command in Matthew 28 v 19 to "Go and make disciples of all nations".

Impossible Commands

Impossible Commands

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Discover how obeying Jesus can be both possible and joyful.

1. I can't

Be honest about how you feel about the idea of making disciples. Does it terrify you? Or burden you? Or excite you? Or daunt you? Take a minute to look at what is in your own heart. Is it possible that you once were enthusiastic but can see that slipping away? Perhaps you find that you don’t really have any desire to make disciples of Jesus. You find it hard to care that people belong to the Kingdom of Earth and not the Kingdom of Heaven. They seem to be fairly happy and you don’t see the problem. It might even be that you have lost sight of the fact that belonging to the Kingdom of Heaven is really that great. You might even find yourself looking at people living without Jesus and envying them for the lives that they have. Sometimes we can begin to withdraw from people who don’t know Jesus and just spend time with other Christians. We have a nagging sense of guilt that we should be doing more evangelism but just can’t seem to get started. It might be that we feel really scared and nervous of speaking about Jesus. We are more scared of what people think of us than what Jesus commands us. Do you find any of those things lurking in your heart? We need to tackle these attitudes first before we then start rushing off to try and obey. We will never be able to fish like Jesus until we face up to the wrong in our hearts.

2. I’m sorry

Now take the time to say sorry for the things you discovered in your heart. Are there specific ways that you have avoided disciple-making? When we feel guilty, we’re not supposed to just store that up and try to use guilt to motivate us to action. Guilt is only good if it drives us to Jesus to find forgiveness. So take all of the guilt you feel in this area of evangelism and run to Jesus with it. Remember, that is exactly what he calls us to. He calls us to come to him. He knows your fears and failures and weaknesses. And he did not come to condemn you but to forgive you. Our wrong attitudes are serious but are completely dealt with at the cross. Jesus does not just lift a finger to help us. He lifted a wooden cross on his shoulders to bear the burden of our failures away. So come to him now and confess your sin. Find forgiveness.

3. Please help

Now begin to pray for a change of perspective. Jesus thinks that fishing for people is a privilege, so pray that the Holy Spirit would help you to see things in a new way. Keep asking God to open your eyes to see the kingdom of heaven as glorious. Keep asking God for compassion as you look at the people around you. This is different to us beating ourselves up and feeling guilty. It is about a change of heart. Sometimes I feel relief when I speak to someone about Jesus because it means I’ve done a bit of evangelism and don't need to feel guilty for a few days. Do you sometimes feel like that? Instead, let’s ask God’s Holy Spirit to change our hearts so that we will want to make disciples. Ask for help with the specific concerns you have. Whether that is fear or inadequacy or not knowing where to start or whatever it might be. Ask God to deal with those specific barriers to evangelism and for his power to change you.

4. Let's go

Now begin to think about how to make progress in disciple-making. Here are some specific ideas: Start praying for some friends by name. That would be a great start. Get yourself prepared. Choose something from the Bible that has been helpful to you and think about how you would mention it to a friend. Perhaps it is a verse that has helped you recently, or a sermon, or a story that Jesus told. If a chance to speak about Jesus came along, why would you say that he is good news? Then pray for an opportunity to have a go. It is much easier to speak if we have thought about it beforehand. Tell people what God has been teaching you from the Bible. It may be something you have read or something you heard in church. Invite people to come to church with you. Find a way for your friends who don't know Jesus to spend time with your friends who do. Have a BBQ and invite people over. Just try some different things, pray, and see what happens. If you know people in your church who are good at this, then ask them to help you. Ask them for some advice. Ask them to pray with you. Sometimes the accountability of knowing that someone else is praying can be an enormous help. And don't just have a small horizon. How could you get involved in mission to the ends of the earth? Are there missionaries that you could go and visit on your summer holiday? Are there people that you could support both with prayers and finances? Might it even be that as you come to Jesus, he would equip and send you to go to the ends of the earth?

There is joy and privilege in Jesus' command to make disciples. What practical steps could you take to move forward? And when you fail, don’t be frazzled. Instead, return to Jesus. Confess. Ask for help and then go again.

In Impossible Commands Jonty Allcock shows us that embracing the impossibility of our own obedience leads not to despair, but to true freedom as we look to the God who can do all things. Available to buy here.

Jonty Allcock

Jonty Allcock is pastor at the Globe Church in central London. He is married to Linda and loves being a dad to three sons. Jonty is the author of Impossible Commands, Lost, Hero and Fearless.

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