Ashamed of the Gospel

cornellWell, this is awkward. I didn’t see it coming. I am not the kind of guy to chat you up on a bus. I am not the kind of guy who likes being chatted up in the bus either. I cherish my privacy. Commuting time usually doubles up as my reading time, and this afternoon was no different.

So, here I was, seated at the back of the bus. I removed my phone from my pocket to check my e-mail before I got to my reading.

“Is that an Ideos phone?” I assumed he was talking to someone else, but the guy seated next to me was obviously pointing at my phone.

I nodded, reluctantly, making it clear that I did not want to find out where this odd question was leading. He seemed not to notice, or care. A barrage of questions about phones, internet speeds and Facebook soon followed. Before I knew it, we were in deep conversation. I have to give him this, the guy is an excellent conversationalist. I grew even more interested when our chat took a turn for the world of literature. We parked there for awhile, talking about books and the declining reading culture in Kenya and the world over. Then a Tupac song began playing on the bus radio and this sparked a new topic about music and how modern day hip hop has nothing on Old Skool rap. We found common ground on many things. I was beginning to relax. This went on intermittently for about an hour.

I should have been fully relaxed and at ease by now. But I wasn’t. There was something that I was still holding back. Something that I felt would spoil this infant acquaintanceship. Numerous perfect opportunities for bringing it up came and went, but I ignored them all. I deliberately pushed it to the back of my mind and conveniently omitted it from the conversation. The truth of the matter is, I was ashamed of the Gospel. What’s even sadder is that this was not the first time it was happening. This is not to say that I am ashamed of the Gospel every time I choose to discuss politics over Jesus. But the circumstances surrounding today’s encounter were especially unique.

  1. I was on my way to church, to join others for the Wednesday evening prayers and Bible Study. The Gospel was bound to be on my mind.
  2. The e-mail I happened to be checking was that day’s For the Love of God devotional by D. A. Carson, which I’ve been using as a guide through the Bible in the past couple of months. Today’s commentary was on Genesis 9 and this was one of the phrases that I picked from it, “… the problems of rebellion and sin are deep-seated; they constitute part of our nature.” Talk about a perfect cue for evangelism.
  3. I was wearing the T-shirt in the photo above (right) emblazoned LIVE BY THE C.O.D.E. (C.arrying O.ut D.iscipleship E.verywhere). Talk about a shouting hint.
  4. We stayed in that traffic for about 2 hours.

So, it wasn’t for the lack of time or opportunity. I just didn’t feel like sharing the Gospel with the guy. I have found that there’s always a convenient excuse at the back of my mind every time I fail to share the Gospel with a friendly stranger on the bus. I can think of four excuses that made me shy away from sharing today:

1. WHY SHOULD I BE A KILLJOY?

The guy was lively and interesting. There was no point making the conversation awkward. Furthermore, I always find it easier to share the Gospel with people who seem a bit distressed and sad. Somehow, I managed to deceive myself that he didn’t need the Gospel. He seemed happy.

2. I HAD ALREADY COMPROMISED TOO MUCH.

When we began talking about the Old Skool rap, I was tempted to show the guy that I also knew my music, and I took off showing how much of Tupac, Lost Boyz, Naughty by Nature and Dr. Dre’s lyrics I still remembered. I conveniently forgot to mention that I knew all that from my past life, before I met Christ. I was in too deep. It was too late to bring up the Gospel.

3. TOO MANY EARS AROUND.

It’s one thing to talk about Christ one-on-one with a stranger when it’s just the two of you, but it’s quite another thing when the woman seated on the other side of you is obviously eavesdropping.

4. I JUST DIDN’T KNOW HOW.

Yes, this is Cornell. I can articulate the Gospel with the precision of a poet and the clarity of a philosopher on paper or on a pulpit. But something just happens when I have to do it in the middle and muddle of everyday life. There’s no time to plan, no timing seems perfect. However, a big part of the reason why this is the case is that I have paid little attention to the numerous guides and guidelines written on street evangelism. I have nothing but my ignorance to blame for this.

So, there you go. After all is said and done, after all the excuses and rationalizations, only one reality remains. I was ashamed of the Gospel. No, I wasn’t afraid of the people who would hear me talking about Jesus on a bus. What can they do to me? The fear I felt has a more appropriate term, shame. I felt shame. Me? Cornell? Talking about Jesus to a stranger on a bus? This may not have been the exact attitude I had at the time, but it may as well be.

So, I got to the church, but the guilt continued to tug at my heart. I ended up being a bit distracted throughout the prayer and study sessions. I knew what I needed to do. I bowed down and repented to God. I had failed. I repented of being ashamed of the Gospel. I know that tomorrow I may face a situation just like today’s. I am not sure if I will handle it any differently. But I am praying and will continue praying for courage, boldness and the discernment to share the Gospel with random strangers at every “opportune” moment. It is my prayer that you, the person reading this, will pray the same prayer too.

I decided to share this because I realize that this shame is not unique to me. It doesn’t matter how many 1.1.6 T-shirts you have in your closet.

After the prayers and Bible Study, I left church for home. When I entered the cab, I found the driver listening to some preacher on the radio. As I fastened my seat-belt, I couldn’t help but notice how quickly he reached forward and changed the channels to some country music station. I looked down in sad apprehension.

Father, forgive us for the many times we have been ashamed of your Gospel.

Strengthen our faith, may we live like we believe; grant us the boldness to freely share the message that we have so freely received.

For the fame of Your name,

Cornell.

24 responses to “Ashamed of the Gospel

  1. That’s a great post, Cornell, and one every Christian can [shamefully] identify with. What grace, though, that we are forgiven even for being ashamed of the One who has done so much for us.

      • Amen, and may it drive us (me) to boldly speak up about the One who has shown and does show this amazing grace! I needed this post! Thanks Tim for pointing me here and Cornell for being so honest.

  2. Superb on a subject we can all improve on. How many times have I too, been ashamed of not sharing my faith. And how many times have I shunned my neighbor by saying, “I’ll pray for you”, instead of actually lending a helping hand. Shame on me, shame on us all. So glad for your insight.

  3. not sure what to say to this, but my challenge to myself is to remember that this gospel that I am ashamed to share, there are people who are being persecuted, imprisoned and even dying to share it in other parts of the world. Maybe a challenge to share the gospel with one new person daily. I really don’t deserve to have all the resources at my disposal, if I m not sharing the most basic truth about who my Saviour is, and what He did and continues to do and be to me.

  4. This was a very transparent post. Thank you for sharing. It will be that little nudge that many of us need, including myself.

  5. Living in one of the most atheistic countries in Europe, I find myself shamefuuly squandering opportunities all the time. I’ll pray for you to have more of the boldness that I currently lack, and when I say that I’ll pray for you, I really mean it.

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  7. I’m glad I found your blog (through Tim Challies’ site). I loved this post and was left wondering if you had ever written about how you became a Christian. I’ll have to take a break one day and read over some more posts. Keep up the good work! God bless.

  8. Dear Cornell,
    This is just to remind you that you are not alone, not to encourage the “being ashamed of the gospel, but realize the opportunities that we miss because of it.
    If you do not mind, where do you go to church because soon I am returning to Kenya and it will be Catastrophic if I return to the church I attended 5 years ago since, by His grace God has taught me stuff from His authoritative word that I never saw before. So we are looking for a church that teaches the “whole word of God”. That believes in the doctrines of Grace: Election, Predestination, eternal security etc. I pray for you that the lesson you learned will be for the good and the glory of God in 2013.
    Glory to God in all things.

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  12. Thank you for this as it has happened to me many times.
    It’s rather saddening, that this is the same Gospel the apostles would risk their lives for,
    constantly telling it to all, both believers and non-believers.
    May we not be bold about the gospel only in the comfort of our friends but also to the rest that require it.
    Bless you.

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