By Jon Anderson
As I studied Acts 8 for this past Sunday’s sermon, I was struck again with the thought that maybe I’m not the only one who struggles with this particular part of sharing the gospel. There is one part of evangelism that I consistently find to be the absolute most difficult. No matter how many times I do it and no matter how much I prepare, there is one part at which I continually falter and fail. The hardest part of evangelism is the otherwise simple act of opening my mouth.
I suspect it’s a bit of a colloquialism, but I find it interesting that Luke specifically notes: “Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus” (Acts 8:35). And that is exactly the same thing that even the great Apostle Paul prays for in Ephesians 6:19: “And [pray] also for me that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel.”
No matter how prepared I am, or how blatant the opportunity staring me in the face, I so often fail to simply open my mouth and begin to actually speak. That is where the rubber hits the road. Where theory becomes reality. At that point I have to actually initiate human contact and start down the rabbit hole of conversation. Approaching that moment, my mind fills with speculations of how I could be accused of being intrusive or told off by an angry atheist. My insecurities rise to the surface and I wonder if I will have answers to their questions or if they are even the kind of person that will be interested in Jesus anyway. So often I find people are actually more than willing to talk and even interested in what I have to say if I can only get over the hurdle of opening my mouth.
I have long held to a strategy for this very moment of decision. But I recently heard it put better than I could in a popular movie. The hero of the movie was explaining to his son how he began his relationship with his wife. The comment that I loved was this: “all you need is 20 seconds of insane courage; 20 seconds of embarrassing bravery.” That is it! Just open your mouth! When I was young and foolish (ok… so, not all that long ago), I got talked into going bungee jumping with a friend at West Edmonton Mall. I stood out on the platform, 106 feet over the water, friends watching below, with nothing but a rubber band attached to my ankles. Everything in me from my brain to the pit of my stomach said, “whatever it takes, stay on this platform”. But with friends waving below and a friendly dare pushing me on, failure was not an option. So what do you do? All you need is courage for one instant. You don’t need courage to finish, you just need it to start. You simply let your will rule for just 20 courageous seconds. In spite of fear and hesitation, you just simply jump. But here is the best part, once your feet have left the platform you are on your way. You have left the safety of the platform and the ride begins.
The same is true for evangelism. Just open your mouth. Take 20 seconds of insane courage, ignore your fears for just an instant and jump; open your mouth. I find the easiest jump is often a fairly benign question with a purpose behind it: “did you grow up going to church?” or “do you believe there is a God, heaven or hell?” Once you have opened your mouth, the conversation is started. All that is left now is the free fall and you might as well just enjoy the ride.
The majority of our church has recently been through the Life on Mission material in our small groups. You have a strategy at hand to share the gospel. Most of us have even been praying for specific people with whom we want to share the gospel. For many, I think, there is but one step left… opening your mouth. Some people get better at dealing with that fear, but I have heard many a seasoned evangelist say that the fear never goes away. As we go out in the wake of Easter, our hearts filled with the glory of the death and resurrection of Christ and challenged by the example of Philip who so clearly leveraged his life for the sake of the gospel, I challenge you to this simple act: open your mouth. Just start that conversation. Ignore your fear, trust in Christ, take the leap and share your faith.