Sharing Jesus without Freaking Out: Evangelism the Way You Were Born to Do It

Book Review: Sharing Jesus {without freaking out} by Alvin L. Reid

I requested Sharing Jesus {without freaking out}: Evangelism the Way You Were Born to Do It for review as soon as I saw the title and read the description. Why? Because I carry a lot of “evangelism guilt.”  Do you know what that is? It’s that nagging feeling that I’m not a good enough witness, and I’m not doing enough to tell others about Jesus.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m eternally thankful for the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross—literally. I have loved the teachings of Jesus and embraced a lifestyle of faith since I was a little girl! In fact, when I was in kindergarten, I couldn’t not tell people about Jesus. I led my friends to the Lord by having them say the “sinner’s prayer,” repeating what I said phrase by phrase.

When I got older, I would accompany my father, a local pastor, on his “door-to-door” evangelism outings. I’m not exactly sure how many times I went out with him—honestly, it probably wasn’t that often—but I have distinct memories of it.

Our church was located in a depressed, residential area of the city, and we lived only a couple blocks away from it. On Saturday mornings, we’d walk to a nearby house; knock or ring the doorbell; and then patiently wait for someone to come to the door.

Once the door was open, I’d stand there in awe as my dad charismatically introduced himself, caringly invited total strangers to Sunday services, and routinely engaged many in deep conversations about Jesus and eternity.

The question he was hoping to ask went something like this: “If you were to die today, do you know beyond any shadow of a doubt where you would spend eternity?”

20th Century Evangelism

Some responded by ending the conversation and going back inside. Others responded by attending a Sunday service. Some explained why they hadn’t been to church in years. Others prayed and turned their lives around.

My dad helped a lot of people find what they were looking for with that method of evangelism. Some folks’ lives were truly and forever changed for the good—they got off drugs, cleaned up, and became who they were created to be (a couple guys I remember were Mike and Mondo). Others, though, never did completely recover from their addictions (Bob) and left as fast as they joined.

This evangelistic method (marketed as “Evangelism Explosion”) was taught and used all over the world during my childhood and young adult life. Many lives were changed and the experience was legit.

Sin = Hell. Jesus Saves. Fire Insurance.

Although the method was working and the numbers looked good in the short-term, the long-term results of this type of cookie-cutter evangelism were disappointing. 

The emphasis on discipleship was promoted years later, but it was too late for most of the fire insurance buyers—they didn’t like the “upsell” of discipleship and lordship, and many of them bailed out, OR worse, continued to call themselves “Christians” while living a lifestyle completely opposite of what Jesus taught.

Evangelism Shut Down

It probably comes as no surprise to learn that as I grew into adulthood, I pretty much shut down any type of “cold call” evangelism. I’m NOT remotely comfortable starting conversations with strangers anywhere at any time about any subject, but especially not about something as important to me as my personal relationship with Christ.

Completely shut down

I will admit that in today’s post-Christian culture—which is partially the result of fire insurance sales gone bad—I’ve not knocked on a door or had the eternity conversation with anyone in a very, very long time. This has resulted in my carrying around a lot of “evangelism guilt.”

And I think it’s because for so many years, the church has approached evangelism one way. Sure there are/were different methods (e.g., Ray Comfort, Kirk Cameron, Evangelism Explosion, etc.), but they all approach it from a place of power and superiority: “I know something you don’t know.”

What Did Jesus Do?

If this makes you ill, it should. That’s NOT how Jesus or the apostles or anyone in the early church did it. They never threatened an eternity in hell in exchange for a ticket to heaven. They never coerced or manipulated people into making a decision to follow Jesus. In fact, their approach was quite the opposite.

Although there were a few who traveled and shared the good news far and wide, the vast majority of Christ followers simply lived their lives according to His main teachings: Love God. Love People.

And this lifestyle was attractive. An aroma. A pleasant-smelling perfume.

These people shared resources, supported and encouraged each other, and when persecution showed up, they gave their lives for the sake of the gospel. They would rather die than renounce the relationship they had with God.

Back to Basics

Alvin L. Reid’s new book Sharing Jesus {without freaking out} was written “to help regular believers, from teenagers to senior adults, from homemakers to pastors, to have real conversations with people about Jesus” (p. xii). It’s about having real conversations in the context of healthy relationships with people we already know. 

Conversation about your relationship with God should feel natural

Tracing the recent history of evangelism in the 19th and 20th centuries, Reid explains how the church followed the world by applying mass production techniques and programmatic approaches to evangelism.

Similar to any sales tactic, the approach to evangelism began by establishing the need of the prospect. Once the need was established, the next step was to simply demonstrate how my “product” meets that need; then sell my “product”; and enroll the person in a maintenance program. Can you believe this?! 

Although he consistently and respectfully refrains from condemning these “fruitful” endeavors, the author is keenly aware that emotional manipulation and successful sales tactics did not yield true disciples in every case.

You Are Totally Unique

Reid explains that we were never meant to follow some streamlined, impersonal approach to sharing Jesus with others. Instead, he proposes eight principles which serve as touch-points to help us understand and remember our unique place in the grand story of God’s redemption.

You are unique.

By concentrating on one principle per chapter, the author is able to help the reader work through common mistakes in evangelism while at the same time fostering a sense of confidence in one’s own testimony. 

He warns against the tendency to avoid evangelism due to overcomplication and fear of rejection by reminding us that sharing our faith is not about making visits and presentations: It’s about transparent conversations within the context of existing, authentic relationships. 

If you read the book of Acts, you will find a few people were called to preach to crowds. People like Peter, Paul, and Barnabas. But ordinary believers had conversations with others, telling people they met the good news they found in Christ (see Acts 2:10-11; 4:29-31; 8:1-4; and 11:19-22).” (p. 45)

Most of us are “ordinary believers” who live “ordinary lives.” We are homemakers, entrepreneurs, and hard workers. And we are called to share our faith, but in a way uniquely suited to our own personalities, skills, and quirks—sharing our hope in Jesus with others was never meant to be a burden.

Sharing the hope we have in Jesus with others was never meant to be a burden. Click To Tweet

Assuming our relationship with the Lord is healthy, conversing about what God is doing in our lives or offering hope to the hopeless is one of the most natural things we do! 

If Jesus is the greatest thing that ever happened to us, he should come up in conversations. Not forced, not structured, but simply because he is the biggest deal in our lives.” (p. 50)

In the chapter “It’s Not in Your Power, yet You Are Vital,” Reid explains why he takes issue with the one-size-fits-all approach to evangelism with which I was trained.

The more you see how God wired you uniquely, the more you can learn how to live for him—including talking to others about him—in the way he created you to, uniquely for his glory and your good…speak about Jesus out of your personality with the strengths and the limitations with which God has blessed you.” (p. 57)

He had me at personality and strengths

Reid goes on to say, “as you continue to learn who you are in Christ and how God made you, you will become more comfortable sharing Christ in your own unique, uncontrived way.” (p. 63) In other words, sharing our authentic faith is natural. Organic. AND low calorie. 🙌  (I’m just checking to see if you’re still awake.)

Quality vs. Quantity

The bottom line is that we were never meant to follow some cookie-cutter approach to sharing our faith with others—especially people we don’t know and may never see again.

Nothing substitutes for a personal relationship with JesusPlease note: I’m not denying the existence of rare God-appointments or trying to discourage you from sharing your faith when the Holy Spirit is prompting you to do it. I simply am sounding a warning for you to make sure the evangelistic nudge is coming from the Lord and not guilt-induced or pride-filled motives.

Reid offers a sobering reminder that when we share our faith, “we are not seeking to simply ‘close the deal’ and get people to respond; we want them to meet Christ.” (p. 102) We’re sharing with them because our own personal relationship with the Lord is so fulfilling, we can’t not share. 

Make a Plan

The final chapter of the book is dedicated to helping you “develop a specific, practical, and personal plan for your daily life, focusing on sharing Jesus.” (p. 110) Using Acts 1:8 as the outline, Reid reminds us that Jesus presented the perfect evangelism plan to his disciples and challenges us to follow it as well: start where you are with those you know and grow from there. 

Your plan needs to be rooted in the gospel and focused on Jesus, not on you, your church, or your method. Just as one plan for diet and exercise does not work for every person, you need to tailor your plan to the person God created you to be.” (p. 110, emphasis mine)

(I don’t know why he had to bring diet and exercise into it, but whatever. 😉) The author visually demonstrates each person’s approach to sharing faith will be in our very own sweet spot—where our individual giftedness, calling, and deep satisfaction intersect. 

The 8-Week Challenge

Following the close of the book, the author provides an “Eight Week Challenge,” so you can put into practice what you’ve been learning—one baby step at a time.

eight week evangelism challengeEach week’s challenge is based on one of the eight principles expounded upon in the book. The reader is presented with the principle, Scriptures upon which to meditate, questions for reflection and application, as well as a few practical tips for how to pray that week. 

This book is like a ‘how to’ manual for sharing your faith with others—but what you get out of it is going to be completely different than what I got out of it or what your partner might get out of it. Why? Because we’re all DIFFERENT. 

Finally! Somebody gets the fact that I’m not wired for knocking on doors or talking to strangers on airplanes. There’s nothing wrong with those practices, if that’s how you’re wired. There’s also nothing wrong with my avoidance of such conversations, because it’s NOT how I’m wired. 

We all need to be open to the nudges of the Holy Spirit and willing to step out of our comfort zones when necessary, but to assume that witnessing ALWAYS takes place outside our comfort zone is just plain wrong.

We need to be open to the nudges of the Holy Spirit and willing to step out of our comfort zones when necessary, but to assume that witnessing ALWAYS takes place outside our comfort zone is just plain wrong. #evangelism #sharingjesus Click To Tweet

If you’re interested in learning more about how to comfortably share your faith without freaking out, let me recommend Sharing Jesus without Freaking Out: Evangelism the Way You Were Born to Do It. It’s short, funny, full of truth, and highly practical.

Anyone who grew up in the 70s, 80s, and 90s needs to read this book—that’s just a no-brainer in my opinion. I also think that this book would be fantastic for youth ministers to use with their high school students and/or young adults. And, well, if you’re reading this, you’d probably benefit from reading it as well. It’s that good and relevant. 

Download this book for free with a trial Audible Membership

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog. Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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About the author: Laura Zielke

Laura Zielke (ZELL-key) is a deep thinker and Bible scholar. She is not afraid to question tradition and challenges people to evaluate their beliefs according to the Scriptures. Laura earned her M-Div. from Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary with an emphasis on Biblical Studies, Archaeology, and Languages. She has been blessed to serve as a lay leader in local churches for more than thirty years. Having been recognized as an outstanding leader, teacher, and entrepreneur, Laura serves as the Community Manager for the Nonprofit Leadership Lab (an organization dedicated to helping nonprofit leaders worldwide accomplish their mission). She and her husband of 21 years have one son who is in the 10th grade and homeschooled. Laura is an INTJ on the Meyers-Briggs Personality Type Indicator, and enjoys helping people discover more about themselves, the Lord, and their purpose in life. Connect with her on social media: @thezwomann (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest).

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