Updated: Dec 1, 2019
By Ben - #NoPlaceLeftOKC Church Planting Resident
You may have read the works of others who have impressive resumes: theologians, seminarians, doctors of disciple-making, church-planting-movement-catalysts, or the pioneer missionaries of old. But I’ve got a different kind of skillset: 29 years of being afraid of new social situations. I don’t mean that meek little nervousness you get at your first middle-school dance—I’m talking gasping-for-air kind of fear. This is the kind of stuff you can’t learn in seminary. So how can you gain the same experience in fear of evangelism?
Just follow these 10 simple steps:
Your heart needs to be pounding inside your chest. If you don’t feel like your heart is literally going to explode, you’re not even trying.
Make sure your mouth gets progressively dryer.
Let a lump form inside your throat, the kind which makes it impossible for you to produce verbal words at all.
Try to stutter when you talk, or at least speak with a shaky voice. Shakiness is acceptable, but stuttering is the gold-standard of being afraid.
Assume everyone you talk to will make fun of you, think you are dumb, or just flat out hate you.
Stare at their eyes with anticipation of an eye-roll.
If you can get your whole body to shiver as if you were freezing cold, even when the temperature is in the 90’s, you are on your way to professional fearfulness.
Anticipate throwing up. Whether you actually throw up or not, you at least need to feel like you are going to.
Take short and fast breaths; aim for hyperventilation. As a bonus, the faster you breathe, the faster your heart will pound inside your chest.
…Keep reading to find out mystery step #10!
I am currently working on a master’s degree in counseling and one of the ideas I studied is helpful. According to the paradoxical theory of change Corey wrote, “personal change begins to occur when we become aware of what we are as opposed to trying to become what we are not. Stated slightly differently, it is important that we accept who and what we are rather than striving to become what we should be.” As long as you tell yourself you “should” have courage before sharing the gospel, you will never actually gain courage. Stop fighting who you are, and accept that you are afraid.
So repeat after me: I am terrified of sharing the gospel.
The Forgotten Command
We NoPlaceLefters are all about obeying Jesus’ commands. Jesus repeatedly said if you love Him, you will obey Him. Pretty straightforward. And while we focus on the most commonly known commands, repent & believe, be baptized, go and make disciples, love everybody, pray, etc., there is one little command which is rarely mentioned. Do not fear.
Read for yourself:
Matt. 6:25-34; “do not be worried about your life…do not worry about tomorrow…”
Matt. 9:1-7, Mark 2:1-12, Luke 5:24; “Take courage, son. Your sins are forgiven.”
Matt. 9:20-22, Mark 5:34, Luke 8:48; “Daughter, take courage; your faith has made you well.”
Matt. 10:17-20, Mark 13:11, Luke 12:11-12; “do not worry about how or what you are to say…”
Matt. 10:21-26, “do not fear them…”
Matt. 10:28-31, Luke 12:4-7; “Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul…do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows.”
Matt. 14:26-27, Mark 6:50, John 6:20; “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.”
Matt. 17:1; “Get up, and do not be afraid.”
Matt. 24:6, Mark 13:7, Luke 21:9; “See that you are not frightened…”
Mark 5:35-36, Luke 8:49-50; “Do not be afraid any longer…”
Luke 5:1-11; “Do not fear, from now on you will be catching men.”
Luke 12:22-27, “do not worry about your life…”
Luke 12:29-32, “do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has chosen gladly to give you the kingdom…”
John 14:1; “Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me.”
John 14:27; “Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.” Matt. 28:10; “Do not be afraid…”
Many of these were specific commands given to specific people in specific situations. But that’s exactly the point. It does not matter who you are, or what situation you are in; Jesus told lots of people to not be afraid. Are you so different from them?
So now it probably seems like this entire article is one big contradiction: be afraid, but also don’t be afraid. Welcome to the paradox!
Life in the Paradox
As long as you live with the mindset that you should have courage to fulfill the Great Commission, you will do nothing. Your intentions and desire will get you nowhere until you actually do something. In order to obey Jesus’ command to not be afraid, you must first accept the fact that you are afraid. Stop living with this internal battle of trying to build up courage while also pushing back on your fear. Accept the fear. Become the best at being afraid. Try to be the first one to pass out in terror when prayer-walking. You will be an all-star in my book.
Once you accept that you are a fearful person, then real change can begin. But how does this change begin now that you have no hope of ever being a courageous person?
Remember when the 12 disciples went sailing on a boat and got caught in a storm, but then all of the sudden Jesus just showed up out of nowhere, walking on the water? By the time He got to the boat (probably dragging Peter along in the water behind Him), their fear had hit an all-time high. So Jesus asked them, “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?” He knew their fear was rooted in their lack of faith.
So what do you need to obey Jesus’ command to not fear? You don’t need courage, but rather more faith. But how do you get more faith? According to Andrew Murray, true faith is really just humility before God.
The 10th step to fear...
Keep yourself as the center of your own attention. As long you are not thinking about the people you are trying to reach or about the God who said He would be with you to the end of the age, you will successfully live a life drowning in your own fear.
Stop looking at yourself, and go to God more. Look at how the early church gained courage:
John 15:5, “apart from Me, you can do nothing.”
Acts 4:31; prayer > Holy Spirit > boldness
Acts 14:3, “speaking boldly with reliance upon the Lord…”
Ephesians 6:19-20…Paul tells them to pray for him to speak with boldness.
Paul boasted in his weakness, because it made more room for Christ’s power to be revealed in him. So do what Paul did: boast in your weakness. Be afraid, so that the courage of the Holy Spirit can be revealed in you.
Ben is a master’s student at the University of Oklahoma and a small group leader in his local church. He began the #NoPlaceLeft residency in Oklahoma City in August of 2018 after sensing God’s leadership after attending a #NoPlaceLeft Church Planting Intensive. He desires the tools necessary for future work among Unreached People Groups in the Middle East.