Hindrances to Evangelism

Invitation

Generally speaking, Christians recognize the importance of evangelism – the practice of taking the gospel to those who are outside of the body of Christ so they have the opportunity to hear it and obey it. Yet what often happens is that there are certain obstacles (real or perceived) that hinder our efforts in this vital work.

In describing the work of evangelism, Paul wrote, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth” (1 Corinthians 3:6). His point was that he and Apollos were simply to be engaged in the work and leave the “increase” (KJV) in the hands of God. The reality is that there are certain things that are out of our control – especially when it comes to the interest of those whom we are trying to reach. But Paul was not focused on final results, he was focused on his work – what he could control.

It is tempting to focus so much on results that we are either tempted to compromise the gospel in order to win more “converts” or we get discouraged when we do not see the fruit produced that we hope to see. Like Paul, we simply need to focus on our work. One of the ways we can do this is by trying to see what is hindering our work in evangelism. In this article, I want us to consider five of these potential hindrances and see what we may be able to do to overcome them.

Time

We are all busy. Many of the activities that fill our time are necessary (work, family responsibilities). Many other things we do might not be necessary, but are still good (wholesome activities or hobbies). Even if we avoid doing those things that are wrong in themselves, we still often feel that we are too busy to add another activity – even evangelism.

There are a couple of things we can do to overcome the hindrance of a lack of time. First, we need to make sure we are using our time wisely. Paul talked about “making the most of your time, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:16). The wise man warned about following “empty pursuits” that will lead to “poverty” (Proverbs 28:19). As we relate this principle to the topic at hand, this means we are not to waste our time with worthless pursuits.

Second, we can also benefit by a shift in thinking. We do not necessarily need to think of evangelism as a separate activity that we need to fit into our already busy schedules. Evangelism – at least to some extent – can be done while we are doing other things. We can offer a simple invitation as Philip did for Nathanael (John 1:45-46). Jesus used an opportunity when He had stopped to rest at a well to have a discussion about spiritual matters with a Samaritan woman (John 4:6-26). Rather than letting a lack of time hinder us from trying to reach others with the gospel, we should simply look for opportunities to reach them during our regular activities.

Resources/Training

We can feel hindered by not having the right “tools” to use in evangelism (tracts, cards, etc.). Sometimes we might feel hindered because we think we have not been properly equipped to do the work.

There are many quality materials and products available for purchase that can be used in evangelism. These can be very useful. However, there are also free resources at our disposal that can be used as well. Regarding the hesitancy to talk to others about the gospel because of a lack of confidence in our ability to do so, that is something we should work to overcome. We have a responsibility to be “ready always to give an answer” (1 Peter 3:15, KJV). However, if we are still working on getting to that point, we can offer a simple invitation like Philip offered to Nathanael (John 1:45-46). It does not require any resources or training to invite someone to come to one of our assemblies or Bible studies where they will be able to hear the truth of the gospel explained to them.

Interest

If we have no personal interest in reaching the lost, we are not going to reach the lost.

If this is hindering our evangelism, it is certainly an issue that needs to be addressed quickly. We need to recognize the value of each individual as one who was made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26; James 3:9-10). We need to remember why Jesus came to earth: “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10). Jesus died for “the world” (John 3:16; 1 John 2:2), not just for us. Also, if we fully appreciate our salvation, we will be more inclined to want others to experience the same thing. Paul recognized that he was the “foremost of all” sinners, but he “found mercy” so that he could obtain “eternal life” (1 Timothy 1:15-16). Understanding this, he was willing to suffer in order to carry out his work of preaching the gospel (2 Timothy 1:9-12). We should want others to be saved as we are (cf. Acts 26:28-29).

Division

Anyone can invite their friends, family members, neighbors, and co-workers to assemble with them; but if the local church is dysfunctional and divided, it will not be a welcoming place. Conflict within the church is very off-putting for visitors. Brethren will not be inclined to work together to reach the lost if there is tension between them.

The way to overcome this hindrance is to be “diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3). Those who struggle to get along with one another need to be helped to be able to “live in harmony in the Lord” (Philippians 4:2-3). Those who persist in causing problems and division need to be warned, then rejected (Titus 3:9-10) – marked and withdrawn from (cf. Romans 16:17). When there is one like Diotrephes in a local congregation who insists on having his own way and will cause trouble when he does not get it, the brethren must “call attention to his deeds” (3 John 9-10) so that he can be disciplined and the church can remain at peace. Once the local congregation is unified, it becomes a much more welcoming place for visitors and a more effective hub for collective evangelistic activity.

Distractions

This is different from the hindrance of time. Being too busy means we will not set aside time to evangelize. Being distracted means we will not use the opportunities that arise organically. It is easy to miss opportunities to talk to others about the gospel or invite them to an assembly or Bible study because we are focused on other things.

We simply need to train our minds to look for opportunities that arise to talk about the Bible, religion, the church, God, etc. We have already noticed Peter’s instruction about being “ready always to give an answer” (1 Peter 3:15, KJV). In order to not just be ready to give an answer, but to actually give the answer, we need to do what he said earlier in the same epistle: “Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:13). If we are preparing ourselves to act and we keep our hope continually at the forefront of our minds, we will be better able to notice and take advantage of opportunities to reach out to others with the gospel. We need to be aware of the situations we find ourselves in so we can use them to be best of our abilities.

Conclusion

There are many people all around us who need to be exposed to the gospel and have it explained to them so that they can believe and obey it. There is more work to be done in the realm of evangelism than any one Christian – or even one church – can do. But that does not mean we should throw up our hands and give up. Our task – like that of Paul and Apollos – is simply to plant and water and allow God to give the increase (1 Corinthians 3:6). We need to be careful that our efforts to plant and water are not hindered by those things that are in our power to change.


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