What If I’m Discouraged in My Evangelism?


Several years ago, my wife and I met a single mother of one of our kid’s friends at school. Over the next year, she joined our family for numerous meals, we celebrated birthday parties together, and we became fast friends. Over time, we had chances to share the gospel with her, pray with her as she navigated family challenges, and read through the Gospel of Mark together. She read the Scriptures, asked good questions, and was sorting out who Jesus is and how she would respond to him. My wife and I prayed and prayed that God would change her heart and open her eyes. 

One day, she called to say that it “clicked.” Christianity finally made sense to her, and she wanted to come over to talk about it. After waiting and hoping for so long, we were thrilled. That is, until she told us that she’d found a preacher on the internet who really spoke to her and helped her understand how God wanted her to have her best life now. Our hearts had soared. Now they sunk. No matter how much we tried to warn her, it did no good. She was convinced. 

I assume you, like me, have had days (perhaps months) when you felt discouraged in your evangelism. This shouldn’t surprise us; we are in a struggle against rulers, authorities, powers of this dark world, and spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms (Eph. 6:12). Satan hates God and God’s plan. He doesn’t want people to become Christians. If he discourages us in our evangelism, he’ll tempt us to give up. 

What’s the way out? How can we fight discouragement in our evangelism? The answer Hebrews gives is to look to God: “Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart” (Heb. 12:3). 

I’d like to answer five discouragements with five truths about God to help us and our churches not grow weary or lose heart in evangelism.[1]

Discouragement #1: I Failed 

Our Hope: the God Who Justifies 

The prophet Ezekiel was given the job of Israel’s watchman (Ezek. 33:1–9). If Ezekiel warned the wicked of God’s coming judgment but they ignored him, their blood would on their own heads. If Ezekiel failed to warn the wicked, their blood would be on his head. 

It’s a weighty word for Ezekiel, but the people of God also have a watchman role, since we know the way of escape. In love, we must warn those who are still lost in darkness—God’s wrath is coming. Given what’s at stake, the weight of knowing we’ve cowered in fear can be unbearable. And, truth be told, if we’ve failed to evangelize, it is a big deal. 

But God’s mercy is greater than our sin. The Spirit assures us, “If anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 2:1–2). 

When Satan comes creeping into the room to accuse us, “He’s guilty! He blew it!” (Rev. 12:10), in a sense he’s right. We did blow it, but that’s not the whole picture. 

“I know he failed,” our advocate Jesus says.But I took his record of debt and nailed it to the cross. I drank the cup of God’s wrath for his sinful failure, so now he’s forgiven. He’s righteous!” 

Friends, consider our God who justifies, and teach your people about him. Our righteousness is not based on our evangelistic performance—Christ is our righteousness. If we’ve failed, we can run to Christ, rest in his mercy, and share Christ the next time. 

This is Jonah’s testimony. He blew it when God told him to go to Nineveh. But God was not just at work in the Ninevites; he was at work in his messenger. If you or a church member failed to speak up, spoke too aggressively, or watered down a difficult part of the gospel, you may not have a chance to go back and address the problem. But if in God’s providence you do have a chance, go back and address it. More than once, I’ve gone back to apologize to a non-Christian friend for how I shared or failed to share, and it’s led to fruitful gospel-conversations. 

Discouragement #2: Nothing Is Happening 

Our Hope: the God Who Is Sovereign 

Romans 10 teaches our responsibility to share the good news and the hearer’s responsibility to believe. But undergirding this is the sovereignty of God, as taught in Romans 9. Some fear the doctrine of God’s sovereignty dampens missionary efforts, but the opposite is true. His sovereignty makes evangelism possible. 

Outside of Christ, we are dead in our trespasses and sins. Left to ourselves, evangelism is like going to a graveyard to raise the dead (Eph. 2:1). God’s sovereignty fuels evangelism because, if God holds complete control over all things, we have confidence the dead will rise at his command. 

God’s sovereignty sets evangelists free from the unbearable burden that a conversion depends on our presentation. The mailman doesn’t lose sleep over how a letter will be received since his job is to deliver the mail, not to ensure that the mail delights the recipient. Likewise, our job in evangelism is to deliver the good news, pray, and leave heart change to God (1 Cor. 3:6, Mark 4:26–27). As Paul says, “Having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart. . . God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Cor. 4:1, 6). 

Consider our God who is sovereign over salvation and teach your church about him. Books like J.I. Packer’s Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God and Orlando Saer’s Big God are helpful. 

Discouragement #3: It’s Overwhelming 

Our Hope: The God Who Gives Us a Family 

Even if we rest in God’s sovereignty, evangelism can still feel overwhelming. You already have a full schedule driving the kids to school, helping coach the Little League team, paying the bills, and getting supper on the table. How can we find time for evangelism? 

In the church God gives us a spiritual family. As we share the gospel and our lives, we should involve others in your church. Jesus says, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). 

I was recently reminded of the importance of evangelizing as a family. I’ve been reading the Gospel of Mark with a friend every Friday at McDonald’s. We only met, though, because a member invited him to church one Sunday. He started coming regularly, and another family invited him over to their home, even to celebrate Christmas with them. He’s unable to drive because of a recent run-in with the law, but when the family who normally picks him up was out of town last Sunday, another family from church realized they live right down the street, picked him up, and brought him to church. I love hearing testimonies when people can’t pinpoint one person but point to a family of people who led someone to Christ. 

One way to encourage your church to evangelize together is by having people share their testimonies. We have people tell how they came to Christ in our small groups, in membership interviews, before someone is baptized, and often before our Wednesday night prayer meetings. Not only is this encouraging and God-glorifying, but testimonies also highlight the family nature of evangelism and provide examples of how we might share the gospel with others on a tight schedule. 

Discouragement #4: What If They Reject Me? 

Our Hope: the God Who Vindicates 

No one likes being rejected, so out of fear we say to ourselves, “I’m not doing that again!” To battle discouragement of past rejection, look to the God who vows future vindication. 

Look to the eternal Son, who humbled himself by taking on flesh and becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross—the lowest-of-low forms of execution reserved for scoundrels. Talk about rejection! But God vindicated Christ by exalting him and giving him the name above every name (Phil. 2:6–11). Therefore, you can become obedient in evangelism to the point of rejection, knowing you are hidden in the rejected-and-vindicated Son of God (Phil. 2:12–13), and God will likewise vindicate us when we obey. This puts the sting of rejection by mere man into perspective. 

Warren Wiersbe tells the story of a faithful missionary couple who returned to the United States on the same ship that brought Teddy Roosevelt home from a safari in Africa. Many reporters and photographers were on the dock, waiting to interview Roosevelt and take pictures. Nobody was on hand to welcome home the veteran missionaries who had spent their lives serving Christ in Africa. 

That evening in their modest hotel room, the couple reviewed their arrival in New York City. The husband was somewhat bitter. “It isn’t fair,” he said to his wife. “Mr. Roosevelt comes home from a hunting trip, and the whole country is out to meet him. We get home after years of service, and nobody was there to greet us.” 

His wife had the right answer: “Honey, we aren’t home yet.”[2] 

Our hope does not rest on the applause of this world. Our hope looks forward to the day when, clothed in the righteousness of Christ, we will hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” That’s the voice that counts. Friends, consider the God who vindicates, and teach your church about him. 

Discouragement #5: I Stink at This 

Our Hope: the God Who Is All-Powerful 

It’s easy to listen to a brilliant apologist or winsome evangelist, look in the mirror, and get discouraged. Comparison causes much despair in our evangelism. 

Paul dealt with comparisons to so-called super apostles, false teachers parading their credentials—PhDs, rhetorical abilities, and doting patrons (2 Cor. 11:5). Others preached out of envy and rivalry hoping to make him look bad (Phil. 1:15). But Paul didn’t join the competition. In fact, Paul boasts about his weakness and lack of self-sufficiency (2 Cor. 3:5). He wasn’t fond of weakness, per se, but after pleading with God to take away the humbling thorn in his flesh, God said to him, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9). 

How do we build trust in the all-powerful God as we evangelize in weakness? Pray! James says, “You do not have because you do not ask” (James 4:2). Don’t let that be true of you! Pray for those you’re sharing the gospel with; pray with your family, pray about evangelism in your pastoral prayer, and pray about it in your prayer meetings. 

At our last prayer meeting, we had about ten folks share who they’ve shared the gospel with recently or planned to soon, and then we prayed together for those people by name. It was wonderful! Also, have folks read testimonies of God’s grace like Rosaria Butterfield’s The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert. 

Evangelism is a spiritual discipline. It’s something we need to learn, practice, and grow in. We didn’t hop on a bike and start riding without first learning, falling, and getting back on. Growing in evangelism doesn’t mean self-reliance, but a joyful reliance on God. As Paul says, “We have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us” (2 Cor. 4:7). 

For our own evangelism and the evangelism of our church members, may we consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that we will not grow weary and lose heart (Heb. 12:3). 

* * * * *

[1] I’m indebted to Isaac Adams for this outline. 

[2] Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, vol. 1 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1996), 671. 

Zach Schlegel

Zach Schlegel is the Senior Pastor of First Baptist Church Upper Marlboro in Upper Marlboro, Maryland.

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