A lot of times we make sharing the gospel so unnecessarily complicated and scary.
We work ourselves up into a shaky nerve-wracked mess of questions like:
- “What if they get mad?”
- “What if it’s awkward?”
- “What if they think I’m really weird?”
- “What if I make things worse?”
We convince ourselves that we need to have a whole speech planned out, have the answers to every possible question, and then wait for the perfect opportunity. We either guilt ourselves into saying something or avoid it altogether, saying we’re just not ready or just not good enough. The rare times we do speak up, we open our mouths already expecting to be rejected.
No wonder words like “evangelism” or “sharing the gospel” make us clam up or run the other direction.
But was this what Jesus really meant when He commanded us to “go therefore and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19)?
The Samaritan Woman and the Gospel Harvest
To answer this question, let’s take a look at John 4. This beautiful chapter describes Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well. This was a very shocking social interaction for the time. Jesus was a Jewish man and she was a Samaritan woman, and the Jews and Samaritans had strained relations. After some skeptical questions and some clarifying conversation, she realizes she is speaking with the Messiah–the promised savior. In her excitement and enthusiasm, she runs into the city and tells everyone who will listen: “Come, see a man, which told me all the things that ever I did: is not this the Christ?” (John 4:29) And they come running out of the city towards the well where Jesus was.
Meanwhile, the disciples had just returned from buying food in the city to see Jesus talking–gasp!–with a Samaritan woman! And one of ill repute, at that! They’re secretly horrified but no one opens his mouth to ask about the elephant in the room…or the woman who just went running past into the city they’d just left.
They get over their shock enough to urge Jesus to eat, but Jesus puts them off, saying He has more important things to do. The disciples are confused, and Jesus starts talking to them about the harvest. It may seem abrupt, but He is transitioning from food they’re urging Him to eat to food that will be harvested.
Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work. Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest’? Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest.
– John 4:34-35
While John does not directly describe the scene, it’s probably reasonable to infer that when Jesus tells the disciples to “lift up [their] eyes and see,” He probably meant for them to literally look up and see the Samaritan citizens running towards Him. These are likely some of the same people the disciples just saw in the city–those whom they carefully avoided. Now here they are, running to meet Jesus.
Missing the Opportunities for Harvest
The disciples missed it.
In their prejudices and their busyness, they missed really seeing these people in the “field” of humans.
But Jesus points out that the field is white for the harvest. It’s brimming over with ripe stalks. What does this mean for sharing the gospel? It means we need to reexamine our ideas of what the response will be like.
Jesus clearly did not expect us to worry our way through endless studying, waiting for an elusive sense of “readiness.”
Although Jesus made it clear that not everyone would accept His truth, He clearly demonstrated that there are many, many people out there who are ready for the harvest! They are simply waiting for someone to share the hope and truth with them.
When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”
– Matthew 9:36-38
A Different Approach to Sharing the Gospel
What if we are going about this all wrong?
What if instead of trying to craft the perfect argument, or tell the perfect story, or find the perfect opportunity, we prayed for God to send out laborers into His harvest?
What if we lifted up our eyes–literally–and truly saw the people all around us?
What if we prayed for God to bring us to the people who are ready, just waiting to hear the truth?
What if His word naturally sprang from our lips, and we became His light-bearers, shining effortlessly wherever we went?
There are people out there who are so close to salvation and an incredible life change. If we aren’t finding them, it must be because we aren’t looking. This does not mean we should not continue to reach out to those we know and love who have heard the truth, and haven’t chosen to accept it yet. Absolutely, we should keep praying for them and loving them. We should continue joyfully sharing the reason for the hope that is within us. But besides that, it’s time we opened our eyes and looked for the harvest God says is there.
Sharing the gospel shouldn’t be stressful or unnatural. Sharing the gospel is about how the changed you walks and talks. And if we are faithful to pray for God to bring in His harvest, He will do it.