Reasons for Witnessing Reluctance
Spiritual conversations are becoming increasingly rare in today’s world.
Verbally proclaiming the gospel to a lost soul is becoming a lost art and a daunting prospect.
Many Christians believers are reluctant to talk about their faith with others and a recent study has proven this to be true.
The Barna Group in partnership with Lutheran Hour Ministries, released a study entitled, “Spiritual Conversations in a Digital Age.” https://www.barna.com/research/reasons-for-reluctance/ The main focus of the study was to discover reasons why people are reluctant to talk about their faith with others.
They uncovered two primary reasons for reluctance: avoidance and ambivalence.
People avoid religious conversations because they do not want to have arguments or they are put off in how politicized religion has become.
People are ambivalent or have mixed feelings about discussing their faith with others because they don’t consider themselves religious, don’t care about religious topics, or feel like they don’t know enough about religion to talk with others about their faith.
Jonathan Merritt, a regular contributor to The Atlantic, commissioned the study. He wrote a book published this year, “Learning to Speak God from Scratch,” that is based on the study. He broke down the reasons for people not entering spiritual conversations into three categories: Ignorance (17% of Christian respondents), Indifference (23%) and Avoidance (63%).
“Regardless of [a Christian’s] motivation, they are apathetic about religious language because religion itself is unimportant to them. And people don’t talk about what they don’t care about.” (Jonathan Merritt)
Those are stinging words.
But I think he is right.
We are far more apt to talk about the weather, our children, or the recent woes of the Green Bay Packers than talk about our faith.
Why is that?
The top reasons why people are reluctant to discuss faith:
- Religious conversations always seem to create tension or arguments: (28%)
- I’m not religious and don’t care about these kinds of topics: (23%)
- I’m put off by how religion has been politicized: (17%)
- I don’t feel like I know enough to talk about religious or spiritual topics: (17%)
- I don’t want to be known as a religious person: (7%)
- I don’t’ know how to talk about religious or spiritual topics without sounding weird: (6%)
- I’m afraid people will see me as a fanatic or extremist: (5%)
- I’m embarrassed by the way religious language has been used in popular culture: (5%)
- I’ve been hurt by religious conversations in the past: (4%)
- Religious language and jargon feel cheesy or outdated: (4%)
- How do believers conquer fear that prompts us to avoid spiritual conversations?
[Source: The Barna Report, “Spiritual Conversations in a Digital Age”]
How can we conquer ambivalence or indifference to the commission God gives to all believers to unleash the power of God’s Word by proclaiming it to others?
The fact that you are reading this blog post shows that you care about evangelism. You are concerned about reaching the lost. Conquering the fear of evangelism is much easier than trying to conquer ambivalence.
Evangelism fear is a product of misplaced trust.
Evangelism ambivalence is a sin that requires repentance — a radical change of heart and attitude.
The Christian life is a garden. It takes care and attention to sow and water our plot with the power of His Word. Seeds grow into ripe and delicious fruit to be harvested for his glory. Inattentiveness allows the weeds of this world to produce the fruits of worry, anxiety, and fear.
Overcome by the world, well-meaning Christians can easily emphasize our inabilities to proclaim the gospel rather than God’s ability through us.
Seasoned believers can easily misplace trust by emphasizing the lack of power in our words rather than trusting the power of God’s Words.
Misplaced trust tends to focus on how people will potentially respond to our message rather than the power in the message.
Misplaced trust inevitably leads to avoidance.
Jesus helps us direct our trust by providing a picture of a faithful farmer who sows his field each spring with great expectation and confidence that there will be a harvest in the fall. Naturally, a farmer will want to direct his seed sowing to fertile fields. But the picture we receive from Jesus is a careless farmer who liberally sows seeds on all types of soils. He displays greater trust in the power of the seed rather than the condition of the soil.
When speaking the truth in love to a lost soul, it is likely that a person may reject the message by displaying a lack of interest or indifference. There are rare cases when a person may threaten violence. Even then, the Lord has deemed a believer “worthy” to be placed in that position (Acts 5:41).
Worrying about how a person responds is a huge factor in a Christian’s reluctance to have a spiritual conversation. Our human nature is quick to avoid rejection, being labeled as intolerant, or called a religious wacko.
Our Christian default is to think that being a light for Christ through our actions takes precedence over giving a reason for the hope we have in Christ. That’s an example of misplaced trust.
By fixing our eyes upon Christ and trusting in his promises instead of ourselves, we begin to make ourselves available to be used by God to have spiritual conversations with people whom God has placed into our lives.
Redeemed children of God are fully approved and acceptable to God by faith alone. There is nothing believers can do to cause God to love us more than he already does or love us less. This includes whether believers proclaim the gospel or choose to avoid it.
With thanksgiving in our hearts for what Christ has already done for us, we can confess our sins of commission. Whenever we feel that we have blown opportunities to witness our faith by responding in anger, frustration, or impatience, we can ask God for forgiveness.
The Good News is that we are fully forgiven in Christ.
We can also confess our sins of omission. Every time God has graciously given us an opportunity to declare our faith and boldly give a reason for the hope that we have in Christ to someone who has asked, but we have chosen to remain silent, we can also ask God for forgiveness. And I have more Good News.
God has fully forgiven us.
An ambivalent heart is transformed through the power of the Holy Spirit when basking in his grace, love, and mercy. A thankful heart can’t help but to proclaim his name. Evangelism no longer becomes about us when our eyes are fixed on his completed work on the cross. We dare to step out in faith to share our faith with others when our hearts cling to his promises.
Spiritual conversations are tough in today’s world. It’s far easier to avoid them than consider that we can be used by God to spread his message and unleash its power.
Personal evangelism doesn’t have to be a lost art.
It can be one of the greatest joys a believer can experience. All for his glory.
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