1. Evangelical

6 Obstacles to Personal Evangelism (and Fear is Not One of Them)

Many people encounter obstacles in their personal evangelism.  

I know I have. 

I have had times where I am super active in evangelistic conversations.   

It seems that every day brings a new seed planting opportunity, a chance to share my testimony, or a chance to share the gospel story.

Runners doing a muddy obstacle course jumping through tires
Obstacles to Evangelism

I have had times that seem like I’m not contributing much to the advancement of the gospel of Jesus Christ. 

Days or even months might pass between opportunities share my faith in a meaningful conversation.

It is in these times, I grow restless and begin to answer this question in the private journals of my devotional life:

Fear is Not an Obstacle to Personal Evangelism

Child hidden in pillows as if child had a fear
Evangelism is nothing to hide from

Interestingly, fear is not an obstacle to personal evangelism for me. 

While I frequently get nervous ahead of confrontational or contact evangelism, my private reflections do not mention various fears of personal evangelism.  

I am not afraid of: 

  • doing evangelism wrong, because God is more sovereign than my ability to do it wrong
  • not having the right answer because I know that I can ask for time to search for the answer and return to the conversation later
  • people mocking me for my faith because most of my personal evangelism conversations are in the context of friendship or mutual trust where there is grace.
  • starting an evangelistic conversation because I’ve got a bank of evangelistic conversation starters I could use.
  • sharing the gospel because I have mastered at least one gospel presentation.
  • failing to persuade anyone to become a Christian because that is the job of the Holy Spirit.
  • spiritual contamination from someone who speaks vulgarities or suffers from addictions or lives any kind of ungodly lifestyle because I am to be the salt of the earth and light to the world.

What my journals reveal to me over time is a collection of obstacles to personal evangelism that touch upon habits of evangelism that I can cultivate, rather than a fear of personal evangelism causing paralysis.

6 Obstacles to Personal Evangelism

Let me share with you six obstacles to personal evangelism that my personal journals reveal at various times when I have done this kind of self-reflection.   

1. Lack of ongoing prayer for my non-Christian friends.

Prayer prepares your heart to be sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit. 

Prayer is where you cultivate your ability to recognize those promptings of the Holy Spirit to a potential divine appointment.

When I’m not regularly praying for the non-believers on my list, or when I have neglected an existing prayer list for some time, my journals always show a corresponding pause in my personal evangelistic activity.

DL Moody Quote on Prayer
We must talk to God about people before we talk to people about God. – DL Moody

When I rebuild, reengage, or restart my prayer list of non-Christian friends, I find a renewed passion to wait for God to open conversational doors with them about spiritual thirst.

I start praying for specific moments to cooperate with what God might be inviting me into. 

As I pray, I cultivate a desire to be more observant about their spiritual journey and how I might be able to be a positive influence.  

As I pray, I listen for the promptings of whom I need to “get to know better” or “spend some time with” this coming week?

Action stepMake a prayer list of friends.

2. Lack of non-Christian friends.

This obstacle to personal evangelism is one I see frequently throughout my journals.   This happens for three reasons.

First, those who are on my prayer list of non-believing friends become Christian and start growing as a disciple.

Second, my current ministry work has me working from home and traveling as an itinerant conference speaker on evangelism and the Holy Spirit fifteen to twenty weeks a year.   This limits my ability to be with non-Christians on a consistent basis for relational evangelism.

Third, I’ve moved to another city every five to seven years for the last 30 years of my life.  With every move, it takes time for new friendships of influence to form.

Inter-connected sphere statue

When this observation shows up in my journals, I review how I spend my time and with whom I spend it. This helps me to once again intentionally cultivate authentic relationships with people who don’t know Christ.

If I do not have enough non-Christian friends, I look for ways to cultivate some new ones.  

Most effective evangelism happens between friends.

Action Step: Take a friendship inventory using Spheres of Influence exercise.

3. Lack of a vibrant devotional life.

Maybe like you, I experience times where my private devotional life is not nourished.  My journals reveal gaps of weeks and sometimes months between entries.

I do not take the time to read Scriptures.  I spend little time in prayer.  Going to church seems like a chore and duty rather than a celebration with God’s people of God’s goodness to us.

During these times of spiritual neglect, I’m not nurturing any passion for the gospel of Jesus Christ.     

Coffee Cup, Bible, Journal for Morning Devotions on Evangelism
Keep your devotional life current.

I’m not dwelling on the truth of God’s amazing love for me. 

I’m not paying attention to living a life that obeys the Great Commission. 

Nor am I praying for my non-Christian friends. 

I am not paying attention to God’s work in my life: how God is transforming me, leading me, teaching me, or using me. 

The end result is that I feel like I have nothing to say about the relevance of following Jesus in my modern life.

The way to overcome this obstacle is to take intentional steps to restore the vibrancy of our devotional life through the disciplines of our faith: prayer, bible reading, service in the local church and community. 

Keeping an active journal is my favorite tool to observe how God is at work in my life.  When I do this, I have stories to tell of God’s current activity in my life.

Action Step: Find a plan you can follow to restart a daily devotional habit, even if it is only 15 minutes a day.  If you need a friend to hold you accountable, make that arrangement.

4.  Lack of any evangelistic thinking

My journals sometimes show some stretches where I’m not attentive to any habits of personal evangelism. 

Instead, they are filled with theological reflections on sermons, ponderings over the meaning of Scripture, or writing out those changes the Holy Spirit is calling me to make in my process of sanctification.   

Sometimes, there are ponderings about work crises, financial worries, or relationship stresses that cover the pages of my thinking before the Lord.   A journal is a great place for this work in your devotional life.

Person Journaling to be thinking about personal evangelism

However, in some of these places, the absence of evangelistic ruminations is missing from my journals.

I’m not pondering how I might be able to share what I’m learning with my non-Christian friends.  I’m not starting my day with a prayer “Lord, send me spiritually thirsty people.

I’m not debriefing evangelistic conversations.  (Read More: 10 Questions to Debrief your Evangelistic Conversations)  

When I notice this gap happening in my life, I take action to sharpen my focus once again to conquer this obstacle to personal evangelism.  

As I process whatever it is in my journal, I resume asking the question: “With whom can I share this week what God is teaching me?”

Action step: Bring this evangelistic focus back into your devotional life.  

5. Lack of listening for spiritual thirst.

My journals sometimes reveal that I’m not listening for or even noticing spiritual thirst in conversations that I might have with family, friends, or random strangers.  

Any active involvement in the life of non-Christians will put you in a place to give a personal invitation to church or listen for spiritual thirst.

When I’m not attentive to spiritual thirst that is around me, I’m generally not engaging anyone in evangelistic conversation to help them take another step toward Jesus.

Cracked clay river bed - thirsty for water

Spiritual thirst is the underlying motive that people have to seek after God, to start and continue their search for God.   It could be

  • guilt over sin,
  • a longing for honest community,
  • guidance and direction for life,
  • a stark realization that the person has made a giant mess of their life.

The gospel can speak to each one of these.

To overcome this obstacle to personal evangelism, I need to jumpstart my evangelism habit and listen for spiritual thirst.  I can learn to ask effective questions to help people become aware of their spiritual thirst.

If I realize that I’m not seeing spiritual thirst, I begin to pray,  “Lord, make me sensitive to the thirst in random conversations with friends or total strangers who are asking spiritual questions.”

Action Step: Spend the next 30 days in prayer – “Lord, bring me spiritually thirsty people.” 

6.  Lack of Margin to have evangelistic conversation

Sometimes, I make no space in the day for an evangelistic conversation to develop.  I can get too busy with work, with accomplishing a task, or with whatever errand I am running.   The end result is no time to pause and engage anyone in conversation.

Philip had margin in his life for a spontaneous conversation with the Eunuch.

Peter and John had margin in their lives to heal the lame man at the gate called Beautiful.

Evangelism Conversations between two women on a bench
Source: Flickr

My journals point out times of such full days that I do not have time to notice those spiritually thirsty people I might encounter.

Evangelistic conversations can happen during the ordinary course of your daily life if there is margin for them to happen.

Action Step: Start adding margin in my day for a spiritual conversation if it pops up randomly in a divine appointment.

Listen: 6 Obstacles to Personal Evangelism

Runers jumping through muddy tires - obstacle course

Here is a free 13-minute sample of “6 Obstacles to Effective Evangelism” that comes from the seminar audio set mentioned below, Fear Free Evangelism.

It is a slightly different set of obstacles to personal evangelism.

Your Obstacles to Personal Evangelism?

What obstacle to personal evangelism do you encounter regularly?

Answer in the comments below.

Related Product

I’ve released a product, a 5-hour audio seminar set that focuses on this evangelism. You can also purchase the CDs or the download-only option.

  • Find the Key to your Passion – what motivates you to share.
  • The Role of the Holy Spirit in Evangelism
  • 6 Principles for Fear Free Evangelism
  • Telling your testimony and the Gospel Story.
Order Banner for Fear Free Personal Evangelism Training
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