It’s safe to say that we almost all struggle with fear in talking to others about Christ. No one wants to be rejected, disliked, alienated, labeled, or avoided. Fear so grips the average Christian that even when faced with a prime opportunity to speak of Christ, he tends to clam up instead of speak up. Our emotions (fear) can overwhelm our will (faithfulness) in half a heartbeat. That’s why so many believers ask, “How can I get rid of my fear of outreach? What can I do to stop being afraid?”
Change Your Focus
Our thinking generates our feelings. Every thought produces a feeling. When you ask, “How can I avoid fear in outreach?” you are asking the wrong question. The need is not to be unafraid, the need is for courage amid your fear. If you focus on your fears, your fears will win out. If you focus on boldness, courage will win. You must change your focus. The appropriate question is not, “How can I get rid of my fear of outreach?” but “How do I get boldness?”
There are two Greek words normally translated “boldness,” “courage,” “confidence,” “open speaking,” or “bold.” They mean “confidence in public speech” or “freedom to speak openly.” Together these words are used 40 times in the New Testament, 26 of them in a context of outreach. What does this reveal?
Whenever these two words occur in the context of outreach, there is always a risk of personal harm or injury. Boldness results, therefore, not from the absence of fear or fearful circumstances but from the conquest of it. Boldness overtakes fear and creates a state of mind from which flows freedom of speech instead of silence. Boldness gives Christians the ability to speak the Gospel with confidence in the face of fear and fearful situations.
After all, isn’t that what courage is? Doing what you know you’re to do in the face of fear. If you wait for an absence of fear, you will wait forever. Fear flees when you take appropriate action – but only when you take that action. You will get what you aim at so first, change your focus from fear to boldness. But how?
Boldness Comes When We Have A Heart Full Of Jesus (Mt 28:1-20)
After His resurrection, our Lord gave us our marching orders. Each gospel has a variation of the Great Commission. Matthew’s summary says
Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Two words, “then” and “therefore” connect back to what just happened in verses 1-17. That tie-in helps develop courage, boldness, and confidence in our witness.
Before He gave the Great Commission, Jesus’ disciples worshiped Him. If I were to encourage you to worship the Lord, your mind would broadcast a picture of Sunday morning at 11 o’clock. A worship service is not what I have in mind. If you read Matthew 28 carefully, you will find that the disciples’ encounters with the resurrected Christ prompted their honest worship, in which some expressed their fears (10) and others their doubts (17). So rather than say, “You need to worship the Lord Jesus,” I like to say that you need to get your heart full of who Jesus is.
Outreach wells up from a heart of worship. To genuinely worship Jesus is a transforming experience. When we encounter His transforming presence and power, we will witness spontaneously. Replace your worship service with worship of the Savior – make sure the focus is Him rather than the liturgy. You will be bold when you get a heart full of who Jesus is. Who is he? He is
- The Faithful One – He came to the mountain in Galilee as He had promised them (7, 16). Jesus always keeps his word – always – and if you focus on His faithfulness, you will find that He overcomes your fear.
- The Living One – He faithfully met his disciples on the mountaintop because he defeated death and lives (16-17). Jesus’ resurrection is the heart of the gospel and your guarantee that He and you are victorious. At the same time, because He lives you can discuss with him your doubts, fears and worries knowing that He will not condemn you nor reject you but will accept you. In fact, the text states that some doubted . . . then Jesus came near. He understands your confusion, doubts, and fears and does not castigate you for them. When you focus on Jesus’ victory over death, boldness replaces your fears.
- THE Authority – The Father gave Jesus absolute and total authority because of His sinless life, sacrificial death, and powerful resurrection (18-19). Jesus won complete authority over all heavenly, unseen enemies and over all earthly, seen enemies. When fears rise up, remember that Jesus has all authority over you, your words, your listeners, and any seen or unseen enemies. Know that He sent you to represent and to communicate Him with His authority. This is a great confidence builder – He is over all!
- The Present One – This is interesting. The great commission starts with Jesus’ command to meet Him on the mountaintop (7); there He would be present with the disciples. It ends with His last words, “Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (20). Translations vary, but the words “surely,” “lo,” and “behold” are all different translations of one Greek word that emphasizes the importance of Jesus’ presence. His presence is so real that He is persecuted when you are; He feels and shares what you go through (cf. Acts 9:1-5). He wants you to remember that whether you feel His presence or not He is with you – through all the days, good or bad, in all your ways, to the end of the age. Perhaps the greatest boldness builder is to believe that Jesus is present with you.
Fill your heart with Jesus and you will find that your boldness grows. Saturate yourself with the gospels, the Acts, and Revelation. Rehearse His victory, power and authority often. Get your heart full of Jesus.
Boldness Comes When We Witness With Others (Acts 2-4; 4:13, 29, 31)
Recall that Jesus called the first disciples to follow Him together – two by two. He chose twelve to be with Him and to preach the kingdom. He sent them out two by two to do just that. On Pentecost Peter stood up with the other eleven apostles to preach. Acts 4:1-22 records Peter’s and John’s arrests as they witnessed together. Doing outreach together is the norm in Acts (Acts 4:13,29,31).
Through the rest of Acts, Paul traveled and evangelized with teams. The biblical norm in fishing for men is that we link together. Of course, we speak on our own, but the New Testament witness is usually done with others. When you and a friend or two are speaking of Christ, you feel safer and more confident, knowing that “I’m not alone.”
You would be wise to complete the Evangelistic Styles survey on page 29 in BMW Fostering the Harvest Workbook. Have several of your friends take it with you to determine how you can use each other’s strengths and weaknesses to make a good outreach team. This will build everyone’s confidence.
With others you’re more likely to speak up when the opportunity pops up. Boldness comes from witnessing together.
Boldness Comes When We Ask For Boldness (Ac 4:23-31)
Boldness rarely comes naturally. Even the great apostle Paul experienced fear in outreach. He testified about his ministry in Corinth, “I was with you in weakness, in fear and in much trembling” (1 Cr 2:3).
The reason individuals in the New Testament are often said to be bold is that they asked God for boldness -and He gave it! Paul wrote, “We were bold in our God” (1 Th 2:1-2). Paul requested boldness from God and asked others to pray with him for boldness (Ep 6:19-20).
In Acts 3, Peter and John healed the lame man at the temple gate. Peter used the crowd’s amazement to preach the resurrected Christ. Unable to refute the miracle, yet unwilling to believe in Christ, the rulers decided the only alternative was to command Peter and John “not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus” (4:18). Dismissed from the presence of the rulers, what did Peter and John do? They returned to the fellowship where they all prayed that God would grant boldness (29), and God did: “They were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness” (31).
Witnessing saints pray differently, with urgency. Outreach transforms our upreach. They prayed Psalm 2 about the Gentiles coming revolt against Jesus in the Tribulation. First, they recalled God’s control (24), even and especially in persecution. Next, they rested in God’s plan, which includes opposition to Christ and the church. Finally, they requested God’s power to boldly speak up when the opportunity came up. And God answered! When we jointly pray and preach Jesus He is there with power. Boldness comes from praying together. Pray for boldness and believe God for it.
Boldness. We all want it and most of us need it. To be bold is to speak up when the opportunity pops up. Where do we get this boldness? Boldness comes from changing your focus, getting a heart full of Jesus, witnessing together, and praying together for boldness.
Written by: Rick Oglesby