It's Difficult but Not Hard
James Merritt 01.01.70
There are some things in life that are difficult but they are not hard. I realize that sounds contradictory, but think about it. I play golf and I would be the first one to admit that it is difficult to hit a golf ball where you want it to go, but it is not all that hard to hit a golf ball somewhere. It is difficult to speak in front of a crowd, but it is not hard if you at least start talking. It is difficult to understand some of the Bible, but it is not hard to read the parts of the Bible that are difficult to understand. It is difficult to learn how to drive a car at first, but it is not hard once you do. There are tons of things in life that are difficult, but they are not hard. One of those is evangelism.
With few exceptions, for most believers, evangelism is seen as something that is not just difficult, but practically impossible. I know that because every survey I’ve ever seen says that anywhere between 90-96% of Christians have never evangelized anyone. I will be the first to admit that I was never trained growing up in church to evangelize (though I was told to do it) and frankly when I began (as a lot of believers do) was simply by trial and error.
For a lot of reasons evangelism was difficult from not knowing how to get a conversation started, to being afraid of being asked a question I could not answer, to feeling like I might “mess up” the message and totally blow it for the person I was trying to reach. Yes, it was difficult at the beginning, but I learned as a part-time summer youth worker in my home church that after I lead my first person to Christ (a ten-year old boy) that it wasn’t really hard, because when you evangelize what you are really doing is simple, “instead of talking about the weather or sports or politics or business you are simply talking about Jesus and the Gospel.”
Yet, I still have some real struggles with evangelism. Even after having done it for over half a century, actually having a PhD in the subject, and having the privilege of pastoring some wonderfully evangelistic churches, I still find it is difficult, but not hard. I still have a couple of real struggles in evangelism that I readily share and hopefully will be an encouragement to many who share either one or both of these two major struggles.
The first major struggle I have is simply doing it consistently. If you are a pastor or serve on a church staff, let me give you both an encouraging word and one that hopefully will open your eyes – we have to both make and take opportunities for evangelism, because we work primarily in a Christian environment. Unlike the vast majority of people who attend our church and work in a mission field, we actually work in the church and rarely venture out into the mission field. We don’t have a built-in audience that works in the cubicle next to us or has an office up the hall from us. We literally have to go into the highways and byways to do what Jesus said was His primary mission: “seek and save that which was lost.” The easiest thing for any believer to get away from other than prayer and Bible study is evangelizing.
But that is not my greatest struggle. Increasingly, my greatest struggle is seeing real lasting fruit from my evangelistic efforts. I have talked to a great number of other pastors who all say the same thing. I have seen so many people apparently pray to receive Christ with me, but never follow up. That is, they either disappear, drop out, or detour away increasingly from becoming a disciple. The process from sharing the Gospel, to seeing someone pray to receive Christ, to actually getting baptized and involved in the local church is becoming more arduous and frustrating. That is my biggest struggle – like instant coffee, I want to see everyone who prays with me to receive Christ, to be baptized the next week, to begin having a quiet time, to getting involved in a community group, to serving, and to evangelizing themselves. But the struggle lies at the very beginning – simply trying to get people into the baptismal waters is an on-going, frustrating, continuous labor of love that never ends.
Yet, I am still encouraged to share the Gospel, to evangelize, to have the joy of seeing people pray to receive Christ for two reasons: 1) I know I am being obedient to the command of my Lord and Savior; 2) I know if I will not grow weary I will see the fruit of my labor.
Remember the parable of the sower and get it into your heart. Remember, three of the four seeds that were sown were relatively unsuccessful, but there are those who bear ten, fifty and one-hundred-fold fruit and that is what makes the difficulty of evangelism so well worth it. So yes, evangelism is difficult but it is not hard and so I encourage you to sow the seeds and as always leave the harvest to God.