Evangelism is counter-cultural. It's true everywhere on the planet, but perhaps it's especially so in our increasingly post-Christian Western society. We live in a polite culture, for the most part. Talk about religion? You just don't go there. Talk about how many tornadoes have come through, and how the team is doing, and how the city has new recycling bins. But Jesus Christ, crucified for sinners and risen from the dead? You just don't go there. So they say.
For the time being, it seems the greatest threat to gospel-telling in such a society is not that we will be hauled before the city council, beaten, and have our property taken away. What we are really dealing with is some awkwardness.
Awkwardness is perhaps the biggest threat to evangelism for far too many of us.
Awkwardness Never Killed Anyone
I've done a little research and can confirm to you that there is not one documented case of someone dying, or even being severely injured, by awkwardness. Not one.
But when I read my kids' Twitter, I see nearly half their tweets starting with "That awkward moment when… ." Awkwardness is catastrophic, and maybe especially so among the younger generation.
Awkwardness! It's as if we imagine fire and asteroids and dragons. As if people are running through the streets yelling, "Run from the awkwardness, it's going to get you! You might feel awkward. It would be terrible if you felt awkward!"
But a little awkwardness — or even a lot of it — is such a small price to pay for enjoying the power of God's Spirit using us to be his witnesses.
Joy in Small Suffering
I write this as no super-evangelist. I'm right there with you, naturally fearful that things might be awkward. I sit on the plane thinking, "If the guy next to me doesn't like my talking about Jesus, it's going to be awkward." Oh, no, I'll have a hard life to deal with sitting next to this guy for two whole hours being awkward.
For the Christian, there is a joy and a privilege to suffer for Jesus, even a tiny little bit. Most of us can agree that when we do step out in faith, the awkwardness really wasn't that bad in retrospect. Awkwardness seems so horrible when it's in front of us. But it's not nearly as bad behind us. All my limbs are together, I'm okay, it's really not that bad.
You Are Involved
The aim here is not to press any kind of guilt on you. But I think when we look at this issue of gospel witness, we have a tendency to do what they do in big cities when somebody is laying on the ground. Everyone walks past the victim like they didn't notice anything. Then the cops come around the corner and wonder why nobody responded. It was because nobody wanted to get involved.
Well, if you are a born-again believer, you are involved — really, really involved. The Holy Spirit lives in your heart. You cannot be more involved. You're in the middle of it. It's happening right there in you. You are the issue, you are the scene of the crime. You're involved. We cannot dance out of the way.
Why So Difficult?
Why would God make something that we long to do so difficult to do?
For some Christians, it isn't that difficult to evangelize. In fact, these tend to be confused as to why so few Christians are involved in ongoing, bold evangelism. If this is you, I want to tell you, we praise God for your boldness. And you should know, you are a bit weird. For you, awkwardness is just an abstract concept. For the rest of us, awkwardness is like a plague to be avoided at all costs. But this is an example of the different parts in the body of Christ making their specific contribution to God's glory and the advance of his kingdom. So why is something so important and integral to the Christian life so difficult for so many?
Here's one answer: God gives most of us this awareness of awkwardness so that we would never, not for a second, trust in or magnify ourselves and drift away from the magnificence of the gospel. This awareness in evangelism makes the gospel tangible. It means I need the gospel right now myself. Not only does my hearer need Jesus at this moment, but so do I!
Jesus died for disciples who do a poor job of witnessing. He died for those of us who have all too often failed to commend him because we feared it might get awkward. But he also died to give us the grace to press through the awkwardness to testify to him.
May God give us the grace to rebound from our many failures and grace not to fold in the face of awkwardness in telling others the most important news in the world.