Fear does more to hinder our witness than any other single item. How does one overcome such a devastating problem? In order to begin to overcome fear, two things must be kept in mind.
First, fear in evangelism is normal. It assures you that you are a normal human being. After all, Paul the apostle was afraid to evangelize. How does he admit to entering Corinth? He determined to be true to the message of Christ and the cross, but he admits to being with them “in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling” (1 Cor. 2:3). In a city filled with such godlessness, impurity, and vice, such fear is certainly understandable.
Paul is not alone. Peter and John had equal reason to be afraid. In Acts 4, we have the first recorded persecution experienced by the early church. Commanded not to speak or teach in the name of Jesus (v. 18), what do Peter and John do—hover in a corner, pray for the rapture, or plead with God to “send Joe”? Not for a minute! Instead, we are taught that they laid their fears before God. “Now, Lord, look on their threats, and grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word” (Acts 4:29).
If people with that kind of commitment to the Savior are afraid, why would we not be? After all, fear in evangelism has nothing to do with the presence or lack of spirituality. It has everything to do with being human. We dare not assume that because we are afraid, there is something wrong with our walk with the Lord. How we deal with our fear may be affected by our walk with the Lord, but the presence of fear itself is never attributed in Scripture to a lack of spiritual depth.
With that in mind, a second thing to remember is that the issue is overcoming fear, not removing fear. This side of heaven one will always have times of fear. Paul the apostle requested prayer that “utterance may be given to me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel” (Eph. 6:19). When Paul wrote these words he was writing them as a prisoner in Rome. When he was in prison he had time to think back on his evangelistic experiences. Paul had spent three years in Ephesus and God used him mightily. Not only had he established a strong Christian church in Ephesus, he also sent out messengers through whom the whole province of Asia was evangelized. Churches were established in each of its major population centers.
Do you mean Paul the apostle is actually requesting prayer for boldness in evangelism after his extensive experience? Most certainly. He knew full well that once fear raises its ugly head and is dealt with, it is not gone forever—never having to be dealt with again. Instead of thinking in terms of never being afraid, Paul had to think in terms of overcoming fear each time it became a major obstacle to sharing the Gospel.
Moments of fear will always be there. Anyone who says they are never afraid to share Christ is most likely not being honest with you. Fear in evangelism is normal and natural. This side of heaven it will occur and reoccur. To say, “I don’t witness because I’m afraid” is an explanation. It dare not become an excuse. The issue is what we do with our fear.