Why Experiencing Fear When We Evangelize Isn’t a Bad Thing – Feat. Greg Stier and Mark Mittelberg
We brought two leaders onto our podcast who cannot get enough of the “E” word. That’s right, we are talking about evangelism with Mark Mittelberg and Greg Stier.
Mark is an evangelist and apologist. He is the author and Founder of “Becoming a Contagious Christian” evangelism training through which 2 million people have been trained to share their faith.
Greg is Founder and CEO of Dare 2 Share ministries which trains and equips teens to live out and speak their faith. He has spoken to over 1 million teens around the nation and is the author of Gospelize.
Stephanie: Can you Both share what motivates you to do this work? What’s your ‘why’?
Greg: I was raised in North Denver, Colorado, one of the highest crime areas of the city. I was raised by my mother and other family members. I never knew my father and Mom was like woman at the well, but with a baseball bat. She was a tough lady and had 5 brothers. My uncles were all bodybuilders, street fighters, and in and out of jail. On Friday nights Mom would ask if I wanted to watch cops. We would get in our car and follow the local cop cars to the scenes of the crime in our neighborhood! It was crazy and our family was a mess.
There was a preacher that came from the suburbs and he reached out to my toughest uncle on a dare to share the hope of Jesus Christ with him. One by one, in various circumstances, my family came to Christ. I was a little kid, I wasn’t tough, I was a scared kid. I was scared of my family and neighborhood. I watched in utter awe as my family transformed one by one with the message of the gospel.
That same preacher taught me how to share the gospel and God put one person on my heart – my mom. She never thought she could be forgiven. She had almost aborted me and there were other things she was ashamed of. From the time I was 12 to 15 I shared the gospel with her. When I was 15, she finally accepted Jesus. I never forgot that moment and it was because I was equipped to share my faith that I was able to witness to her.
I’m so passionate about evangelism because I really believe in the power of the Gospel. It changed me and my entire family and I want to see every person have the opportunity to put their faith in Christ.
Mark: My family was about as opposite of Greg’s as you can get. My parents met at Wheaton College which I think is the biblical definition of predestination.
G: Ha! That’s right.
M: If your parents meet at Wheaton, you will be a Christian. No, but really, I had a lot of ups and downs in my faith. I prayed with my mom when I was 4 years old and accepted Christ. I had a lot of spiritual ups and downs growing up though. I would go to camp every summer and accept Jesus again into my heart and then go back and completely backslide in my faith every school year.
I became a low-key prodigal son in high school. I wanted to do my own thing and through a variety of good and bad circumstances, God got my attention. When I was 19, I dedicated my life to Christ. Instantly I felt the joy of knowing the Lord and the freedom of not pretending to be Christian. Hypocrisy is a horrible weight to bear. I felt integrity in my soul. I wanted my friends to know the joy of knowing Christ.
When I came to faith I was working in an electronic store in North Dakota. Our store had the best sound systems I knew, nobody could hear anything but the music. We sold these weird round things called records, that are made of vinyl! You put a needle on it, and it would play music. It was fun working there, but it was with my partying buddies. I made my commitment to Christ while I was working there, and I couldn’t help immediately talking to coworkers about Jesus.
One coworker had grown up in a Christian home but had no desire to go to church. We were sitting in my car and I was telling him about Jesus days after I came to faith. Then, within a week I was telling the cashier, Barb, at the store about Jesus too. She actually came to know to Christ 3 weeks later. At that point, I had only been a Christian for about 6 weeks.
That Christmas, it was my first one as a real Christian. I ran into a girl I had been going to Bible study with. I had been telling her about Jesus and that night on Christmas, I got to pray with her to accept Jesus into her life.
I began to see the power of the gospel (Romans 1:16). This is the message that changed me and others. It made it alive and real to me. I could be in any career, but I realized there is nothing more exciting than leading others to Jesus.
S: In our current culture, what is the thing that hinders people from telling people about Jesus?
G: It’s the same thing that has always held us back: fear. People are afraid of being marginalized or mocked. They are afraid of losing friends, of being labeled, and often we think we are not qualified to share our faith. I think sharing faith is central to discipleship. If we are not going with our faith, then we are not growing in the gospel. When Jesus said, “Be my disciple,” that meant picking up your cross, dying to self, and following Jesus.
The first death on our cross is a social death. When we pick up our cross, we articulate the gospel of Jesus Christ. A lot of Christians are stuck in their spiritual development and think it is because a lack of knowledge or truth. If you pour milk into a sponge and don’t squeeze it out, it rots. In our western mindset, we pour more truth in and end up with a lot of spoiled Christians. We must ring that message out. It is fear that keeps the average Christian from sharing their faith about Jesus.
S: I definitely agree with that, what about you Mark? What do you think is the anecdote to that fear?
M: I think it is preparation. A lot of people don’t even want to start a spiritual conversation because often times we don’t want to be asked questions we don’t think we have the answers to. It’s more comfortable to not go there at all. People think it is too complicated, which I believe the devils wants us to think.
What my ministry training, “Becoming a Contagious Christian”, or other messages I give, is just the simple message. You don’t have to tell them everything you know, just the basics. We are sinners, who are in need of a savior, and God loves us so much that He sent Jesus to die for our sins. You can receive His forgiveness like I did and really that is about it.
People ask hard questions, but learning how to answer those can come from talking to people from different backgrounds. It can start to become natural. I remember talking to one woman in a shopping mall who said she was a Bahai. I had never heard of that, so I asked. She said, “We are people who follow Bahai Allah.” Then I just started asking her questions. She began to evangelize me as she told me about her faith. I ended up asking a brother of Christ about it and he gave me a book about Bahai. I read it and learned about it, so I wasn’t afraid of it anymore.
I think that is the natural process. We don’t have to go in with all the answers but instead be willing to listen. Then if you run into things you are unsure of, you can tell them and ask if you could research it and have coffee with them in a week to discuss more. This way you are more ready and prepared to help them in the next conversation. That is the best thing you can do because you are learning about relevant stuff from someone who matters to God.
I think that is a lot of what people need to do to be prepared to share their faith and come to trainings that teach the basics. I remind people that adventure always involves a little bit of fear or danger. Instead of fearing fear, embrace it a little bit. God always shows up. When you impact a life for eternity, you go away saying, “There is nothing better than this.”
S: Mark, I like to call it “fear-practice,” I have to practice being afraid to share my faith. When I survive, I am much more likely to do it the next time and the next time. When we are around other believers, we feel so free in our faith and the second we get out of our environment something happens. Beyond the fear, What is happening to us?
G: John 12 says that many leaders believed in Jesus but did not profess because they were afraid of being put out of the synagogue for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God. I think that is exactly what happens. To back it up a little bit, we train and equip teens to share their faith. Before we can share, we need a big fat WHY.
Barna and Alpha did a study that 47% of Millennials believe sharing their faith is wrong. We have to provide a big why before the challenge. We need gospel urgency which is something we have lost. We have several motivations to share our faith! Here are three:
- Jesus told us to
- Begin to see people as Jesus sees them so we can have compassion on the lost.
- Hell is a reality
We think that people no longer respond to hellfire and brimstone. I have found teenagers have never heard these things. I had a teenager come up to me at a Dare2Share event and ask, “Why has my youth pastor never told me about hell? I have never thought of my friends spending an eternity separated from God and me in hell forever.”
There was genuine compassion in her eyes. I tell teenagers, we need to save our friends from the hell they are heading to and hell they are going through. There is a compassion now and urgency for later.
Even before evangelism, we need to get people to pray for the lost. I have a friend who is a retired Navy Seal. Intercessory prayer became a huge thing for him when he became a youth pastor. He told me once, “You know what Greg? I have the black Toyota truck effect that I believe in.”
I asked him, “What are you talking about?”
He says, “I bought a black Toyota truck because I had never seen a black Toyota truck on the highway and I wanted to be unique, but once I bought that black Toyota truck, I see them everywhere. That is my same theory when it comes to prayer. When we pray for the lost, we see the lost. When our kids pray for the lost, they see the lost.”
I think that it is true for adults too. When you pray for the lost, you get to see people with the eyes of Jesus. You get to see the opportunities that are dangling in front of us all the time, but we choose to not go down that road because we don’t have a sense of urgency.
The great thing about the fear factor is it makes you plug into the power of the Spirit. “You will receive power from the Spirit when the Spirit comes on you and you will be my witnesses” (Acts 1:8). The Spirit longs to testify about Christ.
M: I couldn’t agree more with Greg and something else I would add is that somehow we have become convinced that every kind of person in our culture does not want to hear about this stuff. We think they aren’t interested, they are secular, they have moved beyond Christianity, but I think the opposite is true.
In my trainings I tell people that our friends are more interested in this than we think they are. If you aren’t obnoxious about it and really listen and ask questions, you find that almost everyone is curious. I was on Twitter this morning speaking with an atheist about Christ. He is genuinely curious about what makes us tick, why we believe, what evidence we have. We need to tap into that.
G: We need to have a conversation with people, not a presentation. This is actually a shift that we made at Dare2Share. Early on it was all about the presentation as opposed to teaching teenagers how to have a conversation. I agree with you Mark I think people are longing to talk about this stuff.
M: Yeah, but with a trustworthy source. Sometimes they don’t even have the language to ask the questions, but we need to fish a little and ask, “Do you have a spiritual background? Do you think about these things? Or do you wonder about God?”
When we ask, we find that the ice breaks a little bit and they are full of questions and curiosity.
G: We have a three-tier conversation guide at D2S. Ask, admire, admit.
- Ask questions. Just get to know someone and find out about their spiritual beliefs. When you get to know their spiritual beliefs, find out what you agree with.
- Admire what you can about what they believe.
- Admit that we are screwed up and we need Jesus to save us.
What I found is teaching students to do that is teaching listening skills and how to have a conversation. You are able to share the gospel and they are able to hear it because you are not throwing it in their face.
M: What I love about these conversations is that when one person starts having a spiritual conversation with a nonbeliever, it opens a floodgate. They start to become aware that there are people who actually care about this stuff. They realize they can have a conversation and they didn’t embarrass themselves too much. Sometimes you even realize you say things that were totally of the Spirit that you didn’t even know about. You are learning as you are speaking because God is speaking through you.
Once that happens, all of a sudden, an ordinary Christian realizes they have an extraordinary God that is right there with them. He is with them and empowering them and those are prayers He will answer because you are joining Him in His evangelistic cause. More and more they will be sharing their faith and it will turn into a lifestyle.
S: In Portland, We realized we needed to focus on evangelism in gospel movements. we started an evangelism team and one goal we have every year is to hold an equipping event for local believers and leaders. Greg and Mark, you are both here for the event, Show & Tell. Can you tell us why you wanted to be a part of this event and why you are passionate about the Church in cities?
G: When you look at Jesus prayer in John 17, He prays for us to be one, “perfectly united”, are the words He uses. What if the Church was “perfectly united” around Christ and His cause? It breaks my heart because growing up as an inner-city kid, I am so glad that a church from the suburbs reached out to the city and transformed my entire family. But I think about how many families and kids are left unreached in the city, suburbs, and everywhere else. When churches come together for one cause, I believe it is an answer to Christ’s prayer. Jesus said, “I will build my Church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18).
In Israel there is a place called “The Gates of Hell” where Jesus took his disciples in Caesarea Philippi. No self-respecting Jew would go there because it was said that demons were there. Jesus takes his disciples there! I think what He was saying that He is going to the worst places, the toughest of the tough, the cities, the places that are known for hedonism, and this is exactly where I am going to build my Church.
When we come together as the Church to advance His cause, I believe some supernatural things happen. When we stay siloed, I think the enemy smiles. He can take us out one at a time, but when you unite, it is powerful.
M: I was just a part of the Explore God event in Chicago and I was leading the vision night with church leaders. They ended up with over 1000 churches, all united, and I think it was a powerful thing to see. All these churches are not competing, but they are filled with brothers and sisters in Christ going for the same thing. They are encouraging each other, supporting one another, praying with and for each other. I love that and agree with what Greg said.
What concerns me though is our tendency to polarize from one extreme to another. We used to have people standing on the street, handing out gospel tracks, preaching to the crowds, but they were hungry. We ignored physical needs and only focused on their souls.
Then the pendulum really shifted and now you hear a lot about social justice in churches. There is usually a pastor who oversees outreach, but usually has little to do with evangelism usually. Churches rarely have anyone in charged of evangelism. I believe in biblically defined social justice, but I have a new term for everyone and that is “redemptive justice.”
It is unjust to do good things for people like feeding them and not share the good news with them. That is redemptively unjust. My concern is that the evangelical church has largely shifted toward the social justice side and ignored the redemptive justice side. We don’t need to yank it back but remember there is power when you get the church operating on all the cylinders. This looks like loving, serving, and preaching like Jesus did together. It’s not doing it in a manipulative way where we feed people only if they listen. But we will feed you and hope you listen to this too.
When we do that together, it is dynamite. I often tell leaders, it’s one thing to give lip service to what I just said, but you must put real practical steps into action here. If you have teams who are doing justice work, but make it a standard that you will go through a teaching course – like Show & Tell.
We just want everyone on our teams to be equipped and trainied so their fear of having these conversations goes down. They will be able to be ready in season and out of season and they will be able to tell when someone is ready to hear the Good News. Then we have salvations happening!
G: The way we talk to teenagers is that: “We should be giving people bread, and the Bread of Life. Be giving people water and Living Water. Build them a house here on earth and build them one in Heaven. Stop human trafficking and stop soul trafficking. Let’s do it all.”
What is exciting for us is that we do Dare2Share Live and it is a citywide effort. The city unites together to host the event. Last year we had 93 cities that participated. This year we are praying for over 100 cities. It is a youth event but youth groups come together and pray for the lost. Then they go collect canned food for local rescue missions and start having gospel conversations.
Last year we collected 19 tons of canned food for local rescue missions and there were thousands of gospel conversations. We kind of re-brand the Great Commission as The Cause because teenagers think Great Commission sounds like a bunch of money from a real estate deal. Students are into causes so we say that sharing faith is the ultimate cause and every other cause can be a subset of it.
It is not either or, but both and. You bring this to Gen Z who are very cause-oriented and we can see a major shift! They want to do all the justice things, but also gospelize in every way. Not shove the gospel down people’s throats but show them how they can be the love of Christ every day.
M: Exactly! The gospel is not just to serve people; it is to make disciples.
S: We could talk about this stuff all day but thank you so much for being on the podcast today. How can people get AHOLD of you two?
G: Our website is dare2share.org and I am on Twitter and Instagram as @GregStier.
M: I can only keep up with one part of social media. I am on Twitter, as @MarkMittelberg. You can follow me there and direct message me.