Get Past the First One
The first time we try something new is nearly always awkward, difficult, and falls short of expectations. I learned this lesson anew recently while building a workbench in my garage. Seeking to expand my abilities as a (very) amateur woodworker, I employed a technique for attaching the legs to the top that I hadn’t tried before. As you might expect, the first leg took much longer than it should have, and the joint fits rather poorly. However, the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th legs fit progressively better. I am by no means a master at this point, but tangible, encouraging progress was made. That progress was only made possible by getting past that first attempt.
This principle of getting past the first one is applicable in our spiritual lives as well. This is especially true in the area of evangelism. Our first try at sharing the gospel by whatever means we wish to use is difficult and awkward, and often we come away from the experience feeling like we’ve failed. It is the fear of that difficulty and perceived failure that keeps us from ever getting started. Most Christians who regard themselves as “not good at evangelism” in truth have either never gotten past that first experience or have been so discouraged by the attempt that they refuse to try again.
However, a slab of wood with no legs or one wobbly leg does not a workbench make. The only way to end up with something vaguely resembling a workbench is to keep attaching legs, even if the first attempt goes poorly. We must get past the first one to be able to improve on all those that follow. The only way to be evangelistic as Christians is make it past our first attempts to evangelize!
A Christian who does little to nothing in terms of evangelism does not fulfill their individual, God-given responsibility of sharing the gospel. We know the passages such as: “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.” (Mark 16.15), and “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” (Matt. 28.19-20a). If we, like Paul, are not ashamed of the Gospel (Rom. 1.16), then we must resolve to share it with everyone we know.
Start by praying that first prayer asking God for opportunities to share the gospel around you. Perhaps evangelistic opportunities aren’t a subject you regularly address during your prayers. [SF1] Pray that first evangelistic prayer, and be specific about who you want to share the gospel with: names, groups, etc. Ask God for courage and resolve in your efforts to evangelize. After all, He’s on your side in this regard (2 Peter 3.9).
Get past that first attempt to study the Bible with a family member, coworker, friend or new acquaintance. If they say “no”, we cannot write off the rest of the world because of one rejected effort. For that matter, our love for that person should prevent us from trying only once! Whether accepted or rejected, the LORD is glorified by our attempts to share His blessed salvation with a lost soul. Even if the answer is no (which isn’t nearly as often as you think), you will see tangible and encouraging improvements in your ability to get Bible studies each and every time you extend that invitation.
Get past hosting that first Bible study in your home. Although you may not feel comfortable leading others in a study: open your doors for a study and find someone who is willing to lead it! You may not know what to expect from that first study, who will come, or what the next-door neighbors might think . Invite that first person to your home for a meal followed by a study. Adopt the mindset of pressing on to the next neighbor, the next coworker, the next family member.
Get past that first invitation to worship with us on Sunday or to study with us on Wednesday night. If you fumble over the words, don’t quit! Spreading the Gospel to “every creature” implies we have to make it past Creature #1! Many souls have been brought to a knowledge of the truth by worshipping among Christians. Who will be your 2nd, 3rd, and 4th invitation?
Get past handing out that first McRaven Rd. business card, whether it be at a table at a restaurant, to your doctor or nurse, your mechanic, whoever it is. This can feel really awkward the first time you do so. Just make it to the second time. Once you make it past that first attempt, the second is much easier. Into how many hands can you issue an invitation to hear the gospel or study the scriptures?
Get past that first conversation where you introduce a scripture or Biblical teaching. After all, we’re called to be “prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3.15). As Christians we are to be so filled with Christ and His teaching that it spills over into our everyday conversation at every opportunity. Moses was sent into Egypt with Aaron who would speak for him (Ex. 4.15-16), and you have been sent into the world with the scriptures. The only way to become comfortable and skilled at introducing Biblical principles in your speech is to make it past that first difficult attempt and continue on to the next one.
Lastly, be aware of your growth as a Christian, and let it encourage you to press on. There is no better feeling than knowing you have pleased the LORD in your efforts, that you have “fought the good fight” in the arena of soul-saving. We do not know who will respond or when, but when we spread the word of God we can be assured of one thing: “so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” (Isaiah 55.11).