I knew a pastor in Philadelphia with a reputation for being a very gifted evangelist. According to the near-fantastical stories told about him, anyone whom he engaged in conversation, whether on the subway or in line at the store, would invariably give his life to Christ.
I would venture to say that most Christians don’t have such an impressive evangelistic résumé. In fact, when it comes to witnessing, we may sense that our failures far outweigh our victories. Why does our witness often falter? In this article, we will examine four common reasons—but don’t lose heart. We will also see how God can use even these poorest attempts for His glory.
Fumbling and Forgetting
Conversations, especially those of a religious nature, cannot be choreographed. The mental rehearsal beforehand is flawless, and afterward every snappy rejoinder comes quickly to mind. But in the moment, hardly anything goes according to plan. Have you ever completely blanked while answering a particular objection to a biblical doctrine or fumbled over how best to present the faith?
The biblical command is to “always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15; NKJV). The word translated “ready” carries the sense of being properly arranged. We speak of getting our house “ready” for guests to come over, which doesn’t happen on its own but takes work. The same is true with our witness. If we are failing to articulate the faith because we have not prepared, we must repent and revive our studies of the Scriptures.
That being said, no amount of preparation will make us perfectly eloquent in every encounter. And that’s OK—even the most gifted orator cannot do justice to the majesty of the message. So don’t walk away from a “failed” conversation with your head low, decrying rhetorical inadequacies. Instead, go with confidence, because the gospel goes forth “not in plausible words of wisdom” but rather “in the power of God” (1 Cor. 2:4–5). God can—and will—use our earnest, though unpolished, proclamations for His glory.
Getting Caught in Sin
Witness is not just evangelistic conversation; it’s all of life. We damage our testimony when our lives contradict the message we profess. Perhaps you have been caught in a sin that has tarnished the reputation of your faith. An unbelieving coworker says, “I didn’t think Christians would cheat their employers.” Or an unsaved neighbor, who knows you claim Christ, overhears a heated domestic dispute: “Some temper you have for being a Christian!”