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(Editors Note: This was originally printed in the July/August 1995 MCOI Journal and is offered with minor updates.)

Fear not! How many times can that phrase be found in the pages of Scripture? Your guess is as good as mine, but it’s somewhere between a lot and a very lot. That is why you and I, as Christians, do not fear anything, right? Right.

Our friend Craig told of an experience he had recently when he met with two JW elders. He said that even though he was as prepared for the meeting as possible, something caused him to become extremely agitated, his hands to shake, and his mouth to become dry. He related quite honestly that he could not wait for the encounter to end and that afterward, he felt strongly that he would never like to have such an encounter again, even though Craig cares very much for the lost and has a special love for JWs since he came very close to becoming one of them. What caused this reaction? Good old-fashioned FEAR.

I commend Craig for his honesty in sharing this experience because I feel that most Christians tend to hide their fears, especially from other Christians. Why?? FEAR, of course. Fear of not appearing spiritual enough, or fear of being accused of not having enough faith.

Not everyone experiences fear in witnessing to the lost, but I believe that such fears are widespread, especially in the area of witnessing to those lost in the cults. Where do these fears come from, and what can we do to combat them? The source is the big three – the world, the flesh, and the devil. Why should we fear the world?

Well, the world tells us, especially in our day and culture, that our American pluralism demands tolerance – and then defines “tolerance” as accepting all religious beliefs as having equal merit and being equally true. To disagree is to be extremely intolerant. New cultural truths must be immediately accepted and adopted, or one will be considered a “hater” and an “enemy of our democracy.” People are routinely canceled – shunned for such offenses. So, the Christian who desires to share his or her faith with those of other religious persuasions must be willing to break the first commandment of current American Culture, “Thou Shalt Not Disagree About Religion – or really anything we say!”  What is it that makes it so difficult to buck societal pressure on these issues? That, my friends, is where the FLESH comes in…

It is very hard for us in our humanity to disobey the Politically Correct societal “law” and “follow God rather than men,” isn’t it? Perhaps we see ourselves as “Christian-Americans,” with the accent on the “American.” The Eagle is our national bird, and openminded tolerance is our national virtue, at least in this present age. Of course, the new open-mindedness is extremely CLOSED-MINDED against sharing your faith, and our American “tolerance” is extremely INTOLERANT of bedrock Christian beliefs in our time.

It may seem just as “wrong to break one of these “American commandments” as one of Moses’ big ten. We know we have been commanded by Jesus to bear witness of Him and not to be ashamed of Him or His gospel, yet we may feel “guilty” in doing what we know to be right. (And likely guilty if we do not.) The Bible states that the gospel will BE offensive to non-Christians, yet so heavily conditioned are we as Americans to be “polite,” completely affirming of others’ views, and “broadminded,” that it seems downright un-American to take a stand for what will be seen as offensive to many. Our “flesh,” which is the old nature we are all born with, and which stays with us until death, hates the very thought of being labeled as narrow-minded, doesn’t it? Wouldn’t we much rather be seen as broad-minded, tolerant, and ecumenical? (This article is not addressing you LIONS out there: you know who you are!!! I admire those people who are LIONS, but I must add that it has been my observation that a LION may need to learn as much about sensitivity as a LAMB needs to learn about boldness) HOW else does the flesh get in our way? Well, back to Craig and his trembling hands and quaking heart to get our answer…

Sometimes, such a reaction is due to a type of “performance anxiety,” a fear that we won’t have all the answers and that we may look bad to the person we are directly interacting with and to any others present. To those of you afflicted with this, it is not a joke. It is a very real affliction, though it may lack justification and though we know that we are to please God and not men. The fact that we may sense this fear is “of the flesh” may not make it any more palatable to us. It may even be harder to admit to for that reason. This anxiety is quite common.

It may be easier to admit to the next fear, and that is the tear of “messing up” and ultimately hurting the very one we wish to reach with the gospel. What if, for all our reading and studying about some particular cult group, or reaching out to a friend or neighbor, we find ourselves not prepared enough, or what if there is some issue raised that we cannot answer and might send the person away only more convinced in their error? I’ve had to battle this myself, not because I have not studied and worked hard to prepare but because their salvation matters to me so much. I do not take my calling lightly because I care very much about those who are lost.

Then there is the fear of being hated. Don’t we all enjoy being LIKED? I definitely do not enjoy being looked upon by JWs as “the whore of Babylon,” but they have been taught that anyone who opposes their dogma should be scorned as an “opposer.” Especially when dealing with people who are wrapped up in cult groups, you will often encounter hatred because it is the reaction they are conditioned to have towards those “opposed” to their group. I’ll never forget JW Charlotte’s words to me, though these words have been repeated plenty of times by other “Charlottes” that I have sat across the table from, “Why have you taken the trouble to learn ALL ABOUT Jehovah’s Witnesses? It must have taken you years to learn all of this… What makes you HATE us so much?” And I’ll never forget the bitter expression on her face as she spat out those words. I told her I did, in fact, work very hard – because I care about her. Of course, she did not believe me. I have hope that these encounters may actually bear fruit somewhere down the line. We have been told by ex-cultists that they never forgot some of the words of people who had witnessed to them along the way. I have never forgotten Charlotte. I still pray for her and hope she has come to know the true Jesus, not the “Michael the archangel” fraudulent Jesus.

I also believe that the evil one takes our natural fears of bucking society’s prohibition against religious disagreement and the fears that are a part of our own nature and capitalizes upon them, blowing them up beyond reality and striking a nameless terror into our hearts. It can produce what FDR called a “fear of fear” itself, which can stifle our desire to reach people. I believe there is a true “dark side” out there that loves to capitalize on these fears. Yet, as Americans steeped in our secular/scientific culture, it can be hard for us to admit to a belief in supernatural forces, even to ourselves. “What’s wrong with me?” is more easily asked than. “Who is hindering me?” The Bible teaches us that it is the evil one who is blinding the eyes of the unbeliever, holding them captive to do his will. What weapon is the most potent in his arsenal to discourage you from making any rescue attempt? FEAR, of course… He is a skilled adversary, having had thousands of years to perfect his techniques, while we have only been around for a nanosecond by comparison. We’re outgunned, and unless we take spiritual warfare seriously, we will not be willing to take the trouble to put on the armor of God to make a stand.

A more potent fear than that of looking foolish or messing up is the fear of loss of an important relationship. This is a very real fear when dealing with family members or friends who do not believe the gospel, whether they are in a cult or just lost. It is hard enough to overcome the world, the flesh, and the devil when the person you are conversing with is a stranger…multiply that 1000 times for a loved one. Aunt Sue may not just “get mad” at your attempts to free her from a cult group; Aunt Sue may cut all ties with you. Multiply the anxiety exponentially when Aunt Sue is not your aunt but your mother, sister, brother, or child. The trepidation can be crippling.

I am involved in a ministry to rescue those who have been taken captive by cult groups, and I have been a Christian myself for many years, so naturally, I am immune to these fears that may plague others. No! None of us are immune, though it does lessen somewhat as time passes. I have tasted every fear on the menu, I think, as far as witnessing to people is concerned, and so I do not write this piece as an intellectual exercise about fear but as a plea to those who have suffered like me in these situations: DON’T GIVE UP on reaching out to the lost when you find yourself engulfed in one or more of these fearful feelings. If you feel that God is calling you to reach out to JWs or Mormons, or anyone else for that matter, DON’T allow yourself to become convinced that because your stomach may churn at the thought of an antagonistic encounter, you are just not cut out for this work. Cheer up!!! Your reward will be great! Fear is the most common weapon in the enemy’s arsenal to still the voice of the church. So, when you find yourself afraid before or even during an encounter, do not assume that you aren’t “spiritual enough” to engage in this work. And no, DO NOT QUIT. PLEASE.

Sometimes, the battle is with our own selves. Yet, the apostle Paul refers to the Christian life as warfare and tells us that our battle is not against flesh and blood but against evil spiritual forces that we cannot see but with whom we grapple, nonetheless. I guess I should not be too surprised that I do not like spiritual warfare any more than I personally would like ANY KIND of warfare. Warfare does not sound like anything I want to have anything to do with. On Memorial Day, we honor men and women who did not shrink back from horrible battles and even fought to the death. Many people have fought bloody battles for their nation or what they believed in, but that may not add much to my own determination to stand fast. I cannot even imagine having the guts to stand firm when bullets, arrows, spears, or even BBs are whirring around my head. Please, Mr. Custer, I don’t wanna go!!!

dont-wanna-go-150x150But we as Christians must realize that whether we like it or not, we ARE in a war, even though we may have somewhat different roles in this fight. It is a war with the highest possible stakes, and our participation in the battle is essential for the sake of the lost all around us. We DARE NOT keep our heads in the sand or turn our tails. We are all needed in whatever position God has placed us. God will place on our hearts what our role is in the body – what are we called to do.

What is needed is COURAGE. Well, what is courage? I’ll tell you first of all what courage is not…courage is not fearlessness. A fearless person need not exercise any courage at all since courage is the ability to face your fears and standing fast when your whole heart and soul are telling you to RUN!!! I would be willing to bet that most of the soldiers who have bravely faced the thought of their own mortality in battle fervently wished they were someplace else. Anyplace else… Some encounters with cult members or others may make us feel much the same, wishing we were elsewhere. But please do not let that stop you if you know that is your calling.

I actually think, though I could be wrong, that the Lord takes delight in stretching us beyond our comfort zone. I don’t mind hearing about the battle, but I don’t want to be in the range of those guns!!! Much as I’d prefer to stay in the rear, safe and sound, with a kitten on my lap, reading about the adventures of other, braver souls, I find myself sometimes propelled forward by the Almighty hand. But I think He wants to keep on showing me what He can do with a coward like me.

I’d like to offer a few words of encouragement to those of you who are struggling with this issue and may even now be on the verge of hanging it up. First of all, as I said, it DOES get easier in time. The tenth time is easier than the first and harder than the 50th. Second, as we obey the Lord in the area He has called us into He will provide the necessary strength, words, and abilities for the task.

The first time we were to be interviewed on a popular Christian radio program, I was petrified rather than eager. All the way to the station, I was fretting and assuring Don that I was not going to be able to speak a word and that he was going to have to do all the talking. Well, it turned out to be much more difficult even than I had imagined – difficult to shut up and let the man get a word in edgewise. I have to accept the jitters I still feel sometimes and just trust God for the outcome. I know He has always been there for me.

Something else. The apostle John says that “perfect love casts out fear.” (1 John 4:18). Now I know that the context of that verse has to do with our relationship with God, but I believe that the principle holds true for other fears as well. The more love that we have for the lost, the more we shall be able to conquer our fears for their sake. What force is it that can send a man into a burning building to rescue his family? What can make a parent face an intruder in his or her home? Love, of course. Does the church’s lack of evangelism indicate a lack of love for those outside? If we find ourselves lacking love, what can we do about it? We can ask God to increase our love for the lost, and I believe He does answer that prayer.

This piece may not be germane to those who seem to be brave by nature. There are some warriors who have never experienced the type of traumatic, heart-stopping fear that some of us have known. I don’t pretend to have much understanding of extremely fearless people, and I don’t really like them much, either. Just a little joke; of course, I love fearless people! In my book, they are right up there with flawlessly gorgeous models and spotless housekeepers. But we are not all the same in our strengths and weaknesses, either. To those of you who do know the knee-knocking, heart-pounding terrors, I offer this piece to you in love and empathy. But I cannot offer you permission to quit. Please don’t. We need you out here. Even more important, lost people need you. Whether the person is a cult member or your neighbor, you are too valuable to get along without. And if I can’t quit, neither can you.Ω

Love to all,


©1995, Midwest Christian Outreach, Inc All rights reserved. Excerpts and links may be used if full and clear credit is given with specific direction to the original content.

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