How does one recover from a failed evangelism opportunity?
James F. Pope
Yours is the experience of many a Christian. Whether the door of opportunity opened just a crack or swung wide open, failing to take advantage of that opportunity to witness can fill Christians with guilt and regret. I am going to suggest that you can recover by looking in different directions.
Look back to Christ
When we fall short of God’s expectations and requirements of us, we might shrug it off with this attitude: “That’s the way it goes. Nobody’s perfect.” We could wallow in self-pity and guilt, thinking, “I’ll never get this right. There’s no use in trying.” Or, we can take our sin and burden to God and find forgiveness and strength in Jesus his Son.
There is forgiveness for every sin, including our sins of omission—those times when we fail to do what God commands. There is forgiveness for those occasions when we hide our faith for whatever reason and fail to testify about our Savior. There is forgiveness because Jesus was a “faithful witness” (Revelation 1:5) in our place. He seized every opportunity to share the truth of God’s Word with people—from a Samaritan woman to a Roman governor. What we have failed to do, Jesus did.
More than that, Jesus willingly endured the punishment our sins of omission and sins of commission deserved. On the cross of Calvary, Jesus sacrificed himself, and now his blood “purifies us from all sin” (1 John 1:7).
A starting point, then, in recovering from a failed evangelism opportunity is knowing that you are forgiven. Completely. The slate is clean.
Look back and learn
But before we look ahead, let’s look back once more.
Without getting bogged down in the past, ask yourself, “Where did it go wrong? Why did it go wrong?” Was it fear of people’s reactions that led to your silence? Was it a problem of not knowing what to say? Was it failure to recognize a witnessing opportunity?
Whatever the reason might have been, look back and learn. Learn what you might do differently. Then, armed with God’s forgiveness and power and equipped with a greater understanding of what happened in the past, look in a different direction.
Look ahead, Christian
Remember Peter. As Peter cozied up to a fire on a cool spring night in the courtyard of the high priest, the door of opportunity to testify about his Lord opened so wide you could have driven a Roman chariot through it. But rather than telling people about the Jesus of Nazareth he knew, Peter vehemently denied any association with him.
Sometime later, after shedding tears of sorrow and hearing words of forgiveness from his Savior, Peter displayed a bold outlook on evangelism opportunities. He shared it with the recipients of his first inspired letter: “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have” (1 Peter 3:15). Those are not the words of a man who lived in the past—the past of failed witnessing opportunities. Those are the words of a man who looked forward to more witnessing opportunities. You can look in that same direction, Christian.
Contributing editor James Pope, professor at Martin Luther College, New Ulm, Minnesota, is a member at St. John, New Ulm.
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Author: James F. Pope
Volume 103, Number 7
Issue: July 2016
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