Christmas is just around the corner! Crossway+ members can receive 50% off hundreds of books and Bibles in our 2022 Christmas Gift Guide through 12/25.

Podcast: Help! I’m Afraid to Share My Faith (Isaac Adams)

This article is part of the The Crossway Podcast series.

Help for Hesitant Evangelists

In today's episode, Isaac Adams discusses the nature of evangelism and why we so often feel intimidated, unequipped, or unsure of how to even speak about the gospel to others in our lives. Isaac provides encouragement and insight on how to organically balance the relationship with outreach, and how we might be misunderstanding what we're actually called to do in evangelism.

What If I'm Discouraged in My Evangelism?

Isaac Adams

This short book for new Christians unpacks what the Bible says about evangelism, outlines what it looks like in the local church, and offers practical suggestions for making it a part of their daily Christian life. Part of the Church Questions series.

Subscribe: Apple Podcasts | Spotify | Google Podcasts | RSS

Topics Addressed in This Interview:

01:03 - Dealing with Intimidation and Discouragement in Evangelism

Matt Tully
Isaac, thank you so much for joining me today on The Crossway Podcast.

Isaac Adams
It’s good to be here. We got cancelled last time because of COVID.

Matt Tully
We did. We’re meeting at TGC2021 right now, and last year, obviously, it just didn’t happen. It’s good to be together. I want to start this conversation about evangelism—which, obviously, is a topic that we all know well. If we’ve been Christians for a while, if we’ve been in the church for a while, it feels very familiar. But it also can feel intimidating or discouraging. I want to start with a story that you tell in your book about your senior pastor, Mark Dever, which I thought was really interesting and really fun. You said this story had a profound impact on you. Walk us through that.

Isaac Adams
Mark has written a book called The Gospel and Personal Evangelism, and I knew him to be a lion of an evangelist.

Matt Tully
I think that’s something that maybe a lot of people don’t realize about Mark Dever, that he really is passionate about personal evangelism.

Isaac Adams
Oh yeah. The man is an evangelist. I’ve known this about Mark, but one day he was talking to our staff, sharing about how he was on an airplane and he wanted to share the gospel with this guy sitting next to him, but the guy put his headphones in. Then they wind up at baggage claim afterward, strike up a nice conversation, and the guy just kind of leans over and he’s like, I’m so glad you’re not one of those evangelical Jesus freaks. The guy just keeps going and he says, Have you ever been on a plane with them? It’s the worst. They just go on and on and on. Mark goes on to say to us, I didn’t say anything to that guy. What I say in the book is that could have been wisdom (maybe): “Answer not a fool according to his folly” (Prov. 26:4). But Mark was making it clear that it was fear of man in that moment.

Matt Tully
He could assess his own heart in that moment.

Isaac Adams
Yeah. He could recognize that he clammed up and didn’t want to be thought poorly of in this random unbeliever’s mind. The profound impact that that story had on me was like, okay, hold on. If the guy who wrote a book on personal evangelism falters in his evangelism, I didn’t feel like, Oh, what hope is there for me? I felt like there is actually hope for me. If he is, as he called himself in that situation, a “lousy evangelist,” then surely there’s some hope for other lousy evangelists like myself, and I would certainly put myself in that category. So that was the impact.

Matt Tully
Why did it have such an impact on you that it actually gave you a measure of hope rather than making you feel like, Well, he’s a spiritual person I look up to and if he can’t do it, then I’m certainly not going to be able to do it?

Isaac Adams
For the same reason we kind of like it when our friends tell stories about their failures rather than their successes. Maybe that’s our own pride, but it just makes me realize, oh yeah, Paul was right: no temptation has faced us except what’s common to man (1 Cor. 10:13). So I’m not alone in my insecurity in my evangelism. It’s one thing to be friends with Clark Kent, and it’s another thing to be friends with Superman. This is why Jesus is so wonderful, because he sympathizes with us in our weakness. This is one of the wonderful things, Hebrews tells us, about our Lord and Savior is he is certainly God, but because he became God and man, we can understand him and he can relate to us in this sense. So in that moment I just felt very relatable to Mark. Okay, you’re human just like me, and let’s be sinners together and rely on Jesus.

Matt Tully
There’s something amazing when we have spiritual leaders in our life, men and women that we look up to that we respect, that we see elements of their life and we say, I want to be like that someday. But then when you hear them be transparent and be humble with the things that they struggle with or the sins that they’ve struggled with, there is something super encouraging about that.

Isaac Adams
That’s right. I’m sure we’ll get to practical tips later, but one thing I would say for any pastors listening to this is share your evangelistic failures with your congregation. They will be encouraged, and way more encouraged than you being like, In the last sixty seconds, 30,000 people plummeted into the pit of hell. How does that make you feel? Go tell people about Jesus. That kind of manipulation may work for a day or two, but I’ve never forgotten that story Mark told, and I hope I don’t. So in that sense, understanding that kind of relatability is super useful.

Matt Tully
Do you have any stories of evangelism encounters gone wrong?

Isaac Adams
I do! Do I want to share them publicly? It seems like the Lord would have me do so. I had one—oh goodness—I was going back and forth with this kid (I was on an airplane and being kind of that evangelist)—

Matt Tully
Airplanes are a scary place to be stuck.

Isaac Adams
In the book I talk about why we always evangelize people we know we’ll never see again but not the people around our Thanksgiving dinner table. Actually, let me tell this other story, because this is my old college roommate whom I love. Somehow early in the conversation I fumbled into reprobation, and I don’t know what I was thinking.

Matt Tully
Did you use that word?

Isaac Adams
I didn’t use that word but that idea. Goodness, how many Christians struggle with that?

Matt Tully
That’s a tough place to start.

Isaac Adams
Yeah, and it was just not good. But I will say this: I do think that when people talk about all the ways to not evangelize, I do think it’s a good thing to say that I like my way of trying to do it better than your way of not doing it at all. I think the Lord has given me these failures so that I could write this kind of book and encourage people who often say dumb things like I might have in the past.

07:34 - Defining Successful Evangelism

Matt Tully
I think one of the big questions that maybe a lot of Christians wrestle with, maybe not always explicitly in their mind, but there’s this intuitive sense and answer to this question that sometimes influences our approach to evangelism. The question is, What does successful evangelism look like? What constitutes success in evangelism? How would you answer that question?

Isaac Adams
I think that’s a super important question because if we don’t hit the goal, then we feel like failures. Oftentimes I do think we have the wrong goal, and I think we’ve conflated fruitfulness with success in evangelism. Success is getting that person to make a profession of faith, be converted, whatever it may be. But our job is not to convert people; that’s what the Holy Spirit does. What I like to say is it’s like the mailman. The mailman’s job is not to make people like the mail; it is to deliver the mail. Of course, yes, there is all the biblical nuance about living in such a way that unbelievers—

Matt Tully
You don’t want to make people not like the mail.

Isaac Adams
Right. You don’t want to make people not like mail, but your job is not to make them like it; it’s to deliver the mail. So success in evangelism is simply faithfully sharing the gospel. At least for me, and I’m a pastor, I can count on one hand the folks I’ve “led to the Lord,” and even some of those I’m not sure was lasting fruit. Success is not this trail of souls in our wake.

Matt Tully
But that’s often—even in the way that we talk and think about this issue, not always explicitly but implicitly—what we’re led to think. The people we hold up as examples of this often do have a trail of souls in their wake.

Isaac Adams
That’s right. It’s like this person was a “soul-winner” (or whatever it might be), but I think success is not defined by that. There’s one gal at our church and she started a Bible study at work, and no one came. I still think it was successful insofar as she tried. How helpful is this word for parents who have shared the gospel with their kids 1,000 times and struggle to do it 1,001 times because they’re like, My kid is not going to become a Christian. I was just talking with a faithful pastor right before this and he said his kid didn’t get saved until high school or early college. And how many times did he share the gospel? I think he was successful, not because his son got saved, but because he faithfully raised him in the fear and admonition of the Lord.

Matt Tully
I want to return to that topic of parents and children because I think that’s a really important point that you emphasize when it comes to evangelism. You made the point that our responsibility is to be faithful in sharing the gospel, but there’s more to it than just delivering the mail. There’s one way to do that right: you take it and you stick it in the mailbox and you leave. You did your job. What about the person who is listening and is asking, In evangelism there are so many strategic decisions I need to make. That feels overwhelming. I’m always worried I’m going to do it wrong or make the wrong choice in that. How do you think about that when it comes to just wanting to emphasize that our job is not to get someone saved?

Isaac Adams
That’s a great question. A couple of things. One is because there is no formula of share “A” propositional truth and take them to “B” restaurant—

Matt Tully
I thought it was just the Romans road.

Isaac Adams
Right. I wish it were, but it’s not. I think that should free us up. How many people have gotten saved off of crummy gospel presentations? Clunky and just blah, but then the Lord opened their eyes. He speaks through donkeys, so he can speak through us. That’s just what he does. Again, we can give the most biblically faithful, winsome presentation, and it still might smell like death to someone. So I think there is freedom in the strategy, but because we’re so free in that it’s like, What do I do? What I try to tell folks is it’s good to swing for the fence, and if you share God, man, Christ, response, I’m only happy. But if you just put a rock in that unbeliever’s shoe and you leave them with a pregnant question, that’s a win in my mind. My wife and I were sharing the gospel with this couple and doing an evangelistic Bible study through Mark, and the girl was very clear that she’s an atheist. But at the end of the Bible study—it was about six or seven weeks that we did this—she said, Look, I’m still not a Christian, but Christianity is way more plausible in my mind having talked to you than before we ever did this. I’m still wrestling with some things. I think she had, what I pray, is just a kind of spiritual rock in her shoe. Evangelism is a team sport. What one sows, another one waters, and someone else reaps. I’ve sown a seed, Lord-willing, and ten years down the line she’s in some church and she hears the gospel and is saved.

Matt Tully
Sometimes you can feel this pressure that if I’m going to do evangelism well, I need to get the whole presentation out—probably in my first conversation with this person—and that’s the only marker of success.

Isaac Adams
Right. And I kinda just want to blow that up. Again, if you do, great. But we’re dealing with people, not robots. There are many things to pursue with someone to encourage them to know the Lord, just like most of us were saved not off of one presentation, but probably off of thousands over time.

13:36 - Dealing with Guilt in Evangelism

Matt Tully
Evangelism is one of those topics that I think, as you’ve already said, if we were all being honest with ourselves and with other people, we would have to admit maybe a persistent, low-level guilt about this. Is that something that you’ve wrestled with at times? Maybe today?

Isaac Adams
Right. I am traveling, right? I should be sharing with my Uber driver! I think that’s right and I think that’s symptomatic, or revealing, of how just within evangelicalism we’ve been trained to think about it. We want to be clear, Matt. Unceasing anguish is a good thing. Paul said, I have unceasing anguish for my kinsmen according to the flesh (Rom. 9:2). So if you are sad that people are headed to hell, that’s (I think) a good and godly thing. So we’re not just looking for the lack of guilt, but we want godly grief that leads to repentance, that leads to pushing us into obedience. I think it’s something that I think we always feel like we should be doing more, always feel like we could be doing better, and we often don’t see much fruit. So it’s like, Okay, I tried and that just felt really awkward and painful. One thing I talk about is thinking of this less like this mystical approach—as if something should be happening and it’s not happening and now I’m discouraged because I don’t have the superpower of evangelism—and thinking of it more as a discipline. Despite whatever Crossway edition of my Bible that I’m reading and it’s all beautifully laid out, I don’t wake up in the morning just feeling like flowers and butterflies and lilies when I read my Bible. I’m tired, I got little kids, and I’m just trying to get something out of the Scripture that day. I’ve tried to train myself in not looking for that euphoric feeling every time, and in our evangelism I think we need to do the same. It’s a discipline to grow in. I have a little comic in the book where there’s a kid on the piano saying, Mom, what’s wrong? I don’t sound like Mozart! And she’s like, Well, how long have you practiced? The kid answers, Two whole minutes! You’ve got to practice your evangelism, and I think we feel so awkward in it sometimes because we practice it so little.

Matt Tully
A lot of it is about expectations. If our understanding of successful evangelism is not quite right and we’re thinking about it as this sort of mystical thing that just happens, or that we should just immediately be good at—

Isaac Adams
Yeah. A superhero power.

Matt Tully
—then we’re setting ourselves up for discouragement.

Isaac Adams
That’s right. If you expect this person you’re talking with to be like, Oh my goodness, you’re right. What then shall I do? Here is water, shall I be baptized here? If that happens to you, praise God! It has never happened to me.

Matt Tully
Do you think we need to talk more about those kinds of things, whether it’s evangelism, "failures” in evangelism, or just the progressive nature of bringing someone to faith? It does seem like we like the stories that are big and dramatic. Those are the ones we hold up, but does that contribute to an unrealistic picture of what this should look like on an everyday basis?

Isaac Adams
There are tons of things that probably factor into that when we’re talking about a Western, American context where we just like big. We like flashy—

Matt Tully
Dramatic.

Isaac Adams
Yeah, we like the dramatic. We see these kinds of events happen in salvation history, but Israel wandered out there for forty years. There was a lot that went on that was not recorded. I think that kind of conversation would be helpful, and that’s kind of what I’m trying to inject here in the book. Get your eyes off yourselves and get your eyes on God. Hope in God. Why is your soul downcast, evangelist? Hope in God. I think that kind of conversation would be helpful to engender because frankly, as Americans, we like strong. Christianity is a religion for weaklings. If you’ve got no weakness to bring to the table, Christianity does not have much for you. But if you are a weakling, join the club. So I think sometimes we do—whether it be the old man (nature) raising up his head and just wanting to be strong—we want to be really strong in our evangelism. Again, that’s not all bad, but it can quickly become about us more than it is God.

18:42 - Evangelism Is a Team Sport

Matt Tully
What about introverts—people for whom the thought of talking to someone about something that could be awkward—but especially even just talking to anyone else in general—is a stressful, difficult thing. Maybe it gets to the more broad topic of natural giftings and spiritual gifts. Are there certain people that are more naturally cut out for evangelism? Or is that just kind of an excuse?

Isaac Adams
It’s funny because I feel like I want to be an introvert, and I tell my wife (who is an introvert) that I want to be team introvert, but she’s like, You’re not an introvert. I know you would like to be among us, but you are not of us. I have great sympathy for that though. What I would say is one phrase that’s been helpful is, Don’t be what you’re not; just pour out what you got. I understand this is uncomfortable, but Christianity is about a cross. And I’ll just say that as an extrovert, maybe I naturally like talking to people more, but it is not, And therefore I love talking to them about Jesus more.

Matt Tully
Some people might be like that, right?

Isaac Adams
Yeah, some people may be like that. Are those people more lent toward sharing? Sure. But I do think personal evangelism is a task for every believer, and I also think it’s a task for the whole church. To kind of click out when we’re talking about the corporate witness of the church, there is an evangelism aspect there too. “By this all people will know you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). So we want to think about that. We want to think through, Okay, I want to be faithful in my church so that this church can continue in its witness. Again, evangelism is a team sport. If this introvert helps bring someone to church, I kind of want to get out of the “you are, or are not, evangelizing.” We need to be clear about that because we don’t want to say, Hey, planting trees in the desert is evangelism. So we want to be clear about gospel proclamation. That said, I want to also be clear that folks lending what you got is good, and keep doing that. Bring your non-Christian friends around this other person who loves to share the gospel. That’s great!

Matt Tully
To think of evangelism in that language—as a team sport—where we might have slightly different skills and abilities and roles to play, but we’re all working together in maybe a more intentional way to do this together.

Isaac Adams
That’s right. I do want us all to push on how can we tell someone about Jesus. We want to be so immersed with Jesus that we can’t help but talk about him. But will other people perhaps find that easier than some? Sure. Just as some people who are more analytical minded will find this or that easier.

Matt Tully
Some of it, I wonder, is we often—going back to that idea of examples or heroes who are really good at this—we might see their method or approach to evangelism and feel like that’s the way I have to do it to be doing it well. Maybe that doesn’t fit my personality as well as it does there.

Isaac Adams
That’s right. This guy or this gal, they’re going to do it one way and, again, going back to that point about freedom, there’s one sister who is super introverted, but what she does—I think this is another thing that is getting into strategy—she just reads the Bible with people. She’s not having these winsome apologetic conversations, she just lets the Word do the work. People are like, She’s a great evangelist because she would just read the Bible with people. She’s not a super outgoing, outspoken sister, but just faithfully, quietly reading with people. Man, that’s some good stuff! I need to learn from that. That’s how you wind up talking about reprobation because you’re just running your mouth. Just read the Bible with people!

Matt Tully
I think that’s one of the biggest fears that we struggle with is, I’m not going to know what to say. They’re going to ask me a question or they’re going to make a comment that I’m not going to know how to respond to. What would you say to that fear?

Isaac Adams
I would say that will happen, and it’s okay. All you have to do is use those three beautiful words that every theologian and every Christian should have: I don’t know. That’s okay to say. Again, it’s back to expectations. Another book would be Great Expectations about Evangelism. Expectation number one: expect to not know the answer sometimes. That’s okay. I can’t explain the Trinity in its fullness and depth; it’s a mystery. So when I’m telling someone that God is one in three and three in one, and they ask, How does that work? Well, yeah. Here we go. I think it’s okay to, again, have weakness. Think about what that does for the person you’re sharing with. They don’t feel like to be a Christian you have to have all the answers. What they realize is, Oh, you can be a Christian and not have all the answers.

Matt Tully
That’s so funny because I think we often feel this pressure to have all the answers, right? But then at the same exact time, one of the most often levied critiques against Christians from non-Christians is, You guys think you know all the answers to everything. But this is an opportunity, you’re saying, to demonstrate a level of humility that is actually appropriate to us.

Isaac Adams
Yeah, and this circles back to the example about Mark. If we can put it one way, humility is disarming for basically anyone. That person who is in the group of friends and they’re going on about how awesome they are, you watch people glaze over and kind of roll their eyes. You watch another person share and just be honest and raw and real, it just does something to disarm your listener. It invites them into a vulnerable moment. Just saying, I don’t know can do that. There are so many hang ups people have like, I don’t think I live a good enough life to tell people about Jesus. I’m like, Sister, that’s the point! That’s why this religion is so great! No, you don’t live a good enough life, but someone else did. That’s what we want to help people see: Hey, I’m not perfect and have it altogether. I’m actually in great need of a Savior, and you know what? So are you. Why don’t we go look at him together?

25:33 - Dealing with a Fear of Rejection

Matt Tully
Another one of the biggest fears that I think we often have is just the simple fear of rejection. The simple fear of someone getting upset or just thinking we’re weird, even if they don’t say it.

Isaac Adams
Like Mark in the airport.

Matt Tully
Do you ever struggle with that?

Isaac Adams
Yes!

Matt Tully
How do we get over that?

Isaac Adams
In evangelism we can have some real self-centered moments, and what I mean is that if this had gone well, then they would have liked me. That’s deeply unchristian because it went really well for Jesus, and they killed him. They killed the prophets. Jesus tells us that in the world we will have trouble. A servant is not greater than his master. Why do I think that I would be exempt from that? He goes on to tell us about when they reject and revile you, great is your reward in heaven. Rejoice! I think what happens is this: we’re rejected, we forget God’s promise, we despair. We’re just sitting there with our pain. But what Jesus comes and says is, Rejoice, for great is your reward in heaven. So it’s not to say, How many people can I offend today?

Matt Tully
Someone listening right now is maybe saying, Yup. I love that. They almost see it as a sign of success when they get yelled at and cussed at. They love starting with reprobation. That’s the main place they always start, and maybe they don’t go further than that. So what’s the difference between that and what you’re saying?

Isaac Adams
The difference is that one of those is motivated by love of controversy, and the other is motivated by love of people. Just because someone rejects me, I still have the unceasing anguish in my heart for them to be saved. If you don’t have that kind of grief and burden for people, I think something is off. Someone could say, Oh great! My numbers are up in heaven today! Well, I think you probably lost a spiritual reward today. Whatever spiritual reward you just got, you probably just lost.

Matt Tully
It is possible to—even if what you’re saying is true and none of what you’re saying is wrong—in the tone and demeanor and approach, you could actually push someone away from the faith.

Isaac Adams
That’s right. Koukl talks about this in his book on evangelism, Tactics. People want to say they have this real brash presentation and that’s their style, just like what you’re saying. They say, It was worth it because one person got saved. Koukl asks, Was it worth it? Those three hundred people you turned away from Jesus, was that worth it? So we want to be real careful to not think about it as a system to game, to win our reward. That’s not what the reward is for; it’s for faithfulness. Part of faithfulness is always being prepared to give an answer, and doing so respectfully and being kind. Those are part of the commands that God gives to us. There is content, but there is also tone and posture. All of that matters in our evangelism.

Matt Tully
How do we strike the right balance between being persistent in our evangelism and being willing to do what Mark Dever says he wishes he would have done (say that thing to that guy sitting on the plane next to him), but do it in a way that isn’t annoying or obtrusive or presumptuous in an unhelpful way? We aren’t trying to offend people and we don’t want to do that and we’re not like that guy we just talked about, but we want to be faithful in this. We’re not always sure what to do. For example, the guy has his headphones on. Should I interrupt him, tap him on the shoulder and say, Can I talk to you? Is there a line there, and have you ever wrestled with figuring out where that line is?

Isaac Adams
There is a line, but the problem is it changes for each person. What one person thinks is obtrusive, the other person thinks is raw, authentic, and helpful. I want to be less on what the balance is because each person needs a certain approach, but that’s where I want to say if it’s just natural in your life, you will get better at it. You will learn how to read people better in situations. Do you have a longer gospel presentation in your arsenal? Do you have a shorter presentation that is just a couple of sentences? What are questions you like to ask? Do you have a faith background? Maybe a normal, disarming question in that sense. Again, while we want to think about posture, tone, and content—all of those good things—at the end of the day, we simply need to trust God and say, God, I’m going to try. I might strike out, but that’s okay. It gets back to “pour out what you got.” How many of us were good at anything when we first started it? The problem is that with evangelism, it seems like we like to pick up our ball and go home. I think that’s because we are discouraged. That’s what I’m getting at in this book. Almost every Christian knows they should evangelize. That is not the problem. The problem is most of us are pretty discouraged in our evangelism.

31:45 - Evangelism in the Workplace

Matt Tully
Speak to the person at work. Most of us are going to spend a lot of our lives in our workplaces. For someone who works in a secular environment where they’re surrounded by non-Chrsitians everyday, that can feel like a great opportunity on the one hand—they want to be sharing their faith with their coworkers—but also can maybe feel even particularly tricky because they wonder, What context can I share the gospel? How do I not step over boundaries in an inappropriate sort of way? Do you have any practical advice for someone who finds himself in that situation?

Isaac Adams
One brother who I know and love, we’ve done some evangelism workshops together. His name is Paul Billings. Paul says it well when he says you want to look for easy wins. He says all of us need some wins when it comes to evangelism. One strategy he has is to plant the flag early. This is what he means: just let them know early on in your relationship that you’re a Christian. It does not have to be, Hello, my name is Isaac Adams and I am a Christian. I just want you to know. A coworker may ask, Hey, what did you do this weekend? And you can say, I went to church. It was great. What did you do this weekend? Just that little response establishes some kind of flag in the ground. Here’s the thing, Matt. I think someone should actually be encouraged that they said that and that they didn’t just run.

Matt Tully
That’s part of evangelism.

Isaac Adams
Right. What we are trying to do is just trying to position ourselves, and now that person has—whether it be good or bad—some association in their mind of, I think that’s a spiritually-minded person. That would be one thing where there are little wins that you can accomplish that way. We don’t want to go from, I’m either quiet, or I’m standing on a soap box in the middle of my office. There are some other speeds in there.

Matt Tully
Those are not the only two options.

Isaac Adams
Right. Those are not the only two options. One would be to plant that flag early on in your relationship. And for the person who’s like, I haven’t done that!: next time they ask you what you did this weekend, instead of talking about all the Netflix stuff you watched that I’m sure was fun and cool and relatable, you should say, I went to church. It was really good.

Matt Tully
It is interesting as you start to think more intentionally about this and where you could plant a flag in natural conversation, there are often lots of opportunities if we just open our eyes to them.

Isaac Adams
That’s right. This little book is a lot about mindset, so once that mindset is right, we can say, Oh wow, there’s a lot of opportunity around me. There are some things I can do and some little steps I can take to really open up some kind of evangelistic conversations.

Matt Tully
One comment you made earlier in our conversation was about how often when it comes to evangelism, we’re focused on sharing the gospel with people we’re never going to see again versus people that we see at Thanksgiving dinner. To me, that brings up this broader question of how central is the personal relationship dynamic when it comes to evangelism? Some people love going out on the street corner, getting a megaphone, and street evangelism is kind of their jive. What do you think of that compared to an approach that would see relationship as core to what it means to share their faith?

Isaac Adams
This kind of goes to the either/or mentality and I just want to step out of that box. What I mean is let a thousand flowers bloom. If someone wants to go street preach or pass our tracts, great! Go do that. Someone else might say they want to build a relationship with someone. For instance, my barista who I see every week, do I need—

Matt Tully
Only once a week?

Isaac Adams
Well, it’s funny I even use that example because everyone who knows me knows I don’t drink coffee. But I do drink hot chocolate, so I still need a barista. Chances are I’ll probably see her again next week, and is there a relationship I can build? Can I say, Do you want to come over to my house for dinner sometime? Come and get to know me, my wife, and my kids? What that does is it’s a different kind of relationship. For the person on the plane, I’m only seeing them once. Here’s my shot. But I want to guard against people feeling like, I must have $500 of relationship capital to do “X” with this person. I think that’s typically wise. You can walk up to a stranger and say, Where would you go tonight if you died? You can do that, and I’ve heard of God using stuff like that. But generally, you’re going to have better relationships and different kinds of opportunities where you’re inviting them into your world and maybe even going to do something that they like to do. Insofar as it’s not sinful, go do that. Again, this is a human being.

36:55 - Parenting Is the Front Lines of Evangelism

Matt Tully
I saw a picture that you posted on Twitter the other day of you and your two super cute little daughters. You said something like, I love being a dad to daughters, or something like that. Do you have just two kids?

Isaac Adams
I have three: I have two girls and a little boy.

Matt Tully
That got me thinking about something that was maybe a little bit of an unexpected emphasis in this book that you’ve written, and that was an emphasis on parents and their kids and the evangelistic importance of parenting. My first question is, Why did you feel it necessary, or important, to emphasize parenting in a book about evangelism?

Isaac Adams
I try to talk about it early in the book, but I think often parents can feel like, I used to be on the front lines. I used to be out in the neighborhood. I used to be discipling people.

Matt Tully
College ministry days.

Isaac Adams
Yeah, we all have those college ministry memories where we’re up late and it’s just this intense one-on-one discipleship. And now I’m up with this kid who’s throwing up on me. Now I’m just up with these exhausting kids. What I want folks to see is that the normal means for Christianity’s advancement is through the home. That’s not the only means, by any stretch, but it’s a normal one that God established. Raising up children in the fear of the Lord is a good and godly thing. What I want parents to see is you are on the front lines. Again, my wife is super introverted, but she’s sharing the gospel with our little girl. That is her gospel audience right here, and she’s got all the capital in the world with her. I want my wife to not have to feel like to be a faithful evangelist you need to be out there passing out tracts. If another person is out there passing out tracts, praise God. But we have a particular responsibility to these children to teach them about Jesus. It says so in the Old Testament and it says so in the New: we need to be sharing the gospel. So what I’m trying to do there in the book is help parents see that they have a huge role in sharing the gospel with their children, and they’re not off the evangelistic front lines.

Matt Tully
So often we don’t view our parenting through that lens of evangelism. And that’s not the only lens, obviously, to view it through, but that is such a different way of thinking about it. Why do you think that is? Why don’t we think of our kids as lost sinners in need of the gospel and that the work of parenting is, in a lot of ways, evangelism?

Isaac Adams
When asking the question why, there are often tons of answers. I think one thing is there’s just the normal exhaustion of parenting. I have little kids right now, and I don’t even know my last name right now. And then there’s a reason Paul reminds us that we’re not wrestling against flesh and blood. We tend to just see the behaviors, or whatever it is, and want to go after that, again, because we tend to lean on our own strength. We think we can just fix it with a correction, a corrective word, or whatever it might be. But it’s like, no, this is a sinner who needs a new heart, just like I was a sinner who needed a new heart. When we have those moments as parents when we can step back, that’s useful. But we’re so often stepping in it as parents—quite literally—that it’s just easy to lose that perspective. We’re just trying to get them in the car and keep them alive.

40:41 - Practical Encouragement

Matt Tully
We’ve identified that you wrote this book for Christians who are discouraged and who are feeling this level of discouragement for maybe all different kinds of reasons related to their evangelism. What would you say to someone who is saying, I am there. I do feel like that. I don’t know where to go from here in my evangelism and this feeling that I have? What word of encouragement would you offer that person?

Isaac Adams
The short one would be this: Brother, sister, join the club. I’m right there with you. What I would offer them is I would probably just offer them a question and ask, Talk to me. Why? Then I would probably tease out some of those expectations—I feel like it’s always awkward, I see no one getting saved, etc. Why do you need to see those things happen? What are you thinking about what faithfulness is and what it’s not? We might be dealing with someone who is genuinely convicted that they need to share the gospel more. So there’s all different kinds of answers, but the first one I give in the book is hope in God who counts us righteous in Jesus. I want to take that person back to the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ and remind them: Brother or sister, your identity is not your evangelistic track record. God does not see you through that lens. What we want to do is we need to be reminded of the beauty of the gospel—it’s power and importance in our life. Evangelism naturally leads us to think about getting the gospel to someone else, but we need the gospel. I need to be spiritually built up by the truth that I am forgiven of all my sin. Jesus really is coming back again. He really has prepared a place for me. What we want to do in those moments when we’re super discouraged, we want to get close to Jesus and sit there because he is near to the brokenhearted. We see a Savior who wept over people’s unbelief. We see a Savior who kept going. What expectations do we have about the Christian life that are leading to that discouragement? For someone who is there, I want to say hey, you’re probably going to be here again, and that’s okay. God can use lousy, discouraged evangelists. Hope in God, and you will again praise him.


Popular Articles in This Series

View All

Podcast: Help! I Hate My Job (Jim Hamilton)

Jim Hamilton discusses what to do when you hate your job, offering encouragement for those frustrated in their work and explaining the difference between a job and a vocation.


Crossway is a not-for-profit Christian ministry that exists solely for the purpose of proclaiming the gospel through publishing gospel-centered, Bible-centered content. Learn more or donate today at crossway.org/about.