I enjoyed living in the comfort of friendship evangelism. There was only one problem — the Holy Spirit made me so uncomfortable I had to move out.

When I was enculturated in friendship evangelism, like most American Evangelicals, I thought that I had to build trust with a person before I could share the gospel with them, and trust takes a long time. I was sure that people wouldn’t want to hear about Jesus until they knew that I cared about them, they knew my personal struggles and knew that I was an authentic Christian. I even figured, according to my informal training on the subject, that if I lived a good life, my witness would shine, and people would come to me asking about Jesus.

The responsibility inadvertently fell on the people who weren’t Christians. It was their fault they weren’t coming to ask me about my relationship with God. My job was to be a friendly guy and wait, maybe even drop the word “God” in a few conversations and talk about my church on occasion.

If a person who was spiritually searching walked into my church service, I might share the gospel in a message and give an invitation to pray. But I had a file full of really good excuses why I wasn’t “in the harvest.” I’m a pastor who equips, not an evangelist. I’m an introvert. I have no natural environments to meet non-Christians. I don’t want to be a Bible-thumper who turns people away from God.

Let’s contrast my approach to that of Jesus. He traveled to every town and village in his region. He preached to crowds outside, healed sick people, freed people from spiritual oppression and made house calls to people who were lost. He instructed his disciples to do the same. Just read Matthew 9-10. Jesus and his crew were proactive. They went to people and initiated conversation. When they were rejected, they simply moved on. When they found someone who was hungry for God, they stayed.

I wish the facts supported my comfort zones and preferences, but they don’t. Dr. Stephen Elliott, a Wesleyan pastor and professor, writes “only about one percent of the conversion stories in the New Testament can be primarily attributed to the impact of friendship/lifestyle evangelism, whereas 99 percent of the conversion stories are due to the combination of … prayer, the Holy Spirit, usable/available believers, miracles; and powerful/passionate witnessing.”

A recent Lifeway Research study echoes this reality in our own era. More than half of Christians in America pray every week to have an opportunity to share Jesus with someone who is not a Christian. But in the last six months, less than half of Christians have actually done it, even once. Looks like we are fishing for people by only getting out on the lake once or twice a year. That sounds more like a fringe hobby than a calling.

It took God a long time to nudge me out of my comfort zone and actually get me into the harvest fields around me. How did I do it? I’m a little embarrassed to say. The first step was surrender. I apologized to God for my excuses and laid them down. I asked for the Spirit’s help to do the work Jesus gave me to – the same work he did – making disciples. I practiced sharing the story of how Jesus changed my life. I practiced it with Christian friends, family members, even by myself. I practiced sharing the Gospel using simple language, asking if the person would like to explore more about who Jesus is, or surrender their life to him. Again, at the risk of sounding juvenile, I practiced this with Christian friends and alone in my office.

I discovered in my practice that I was somewhat embarrassed of Jesus. I was afraid of being labeled, rejected or even hated because of my obvious association with him. Once these feelings came out, I repented again. I knew what he said: “Whoever is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.” (Luke 9:26)

So I just started moving. I knew I had to do something because the nothing I was doing had not worked. I literally put on my shoes. That was step one. Then I walked out my door, step two. (I know, this isn’t an amazing strategy. I didn’t know what to do.) I walked up and down my street, praying for each neighbor by name as I walked by their house. I did this every day for a week. Great! Easy enough.

Then I started praying with people. I never knocked on a door, but when I saw someone outside, I’d introduce myself if I didn’t already know them, and ask if there was anything they’d like me to pray for them about. I was shocked! I expected to be cussed out of their yard, but instead almost everyone I asked responded immediately with a sincere prayer request. I prayed with people about their grief and loss, drug addictions, childhood sexual abuse, job stresses, pregnancy. I couldn’t believe that strangers would be so open.

One man who was far from God even told me that he knew I was going to come and pray with him from the moment he saw me. Somehow he just knew. I interpreted it as God’s Spirit speaking to him ahead of time. Only a few people gave me the cold shoulder.

My neighborhood walks didn’t last forever. God used those times to get me moving and teach me some important lessons. Perhaps the most important was that Jesus was right, the harvest is plentiful! But the workers are few. Not only did I need to pray that God would send workers into the harvest fields, I needed to be one of those workers myself.

This season of walking and praying led to new opportunities. God opened amazing doors for me to share the gospel on a weekly basis with people who are spiritually hungry and in great need. Just last week I shared the message of Jesus with a group of people, and six of them surrendered their lives to him. I prayed with them to put their faith in Jesus as their Savior and become children of God. I’ve only known these guys for a few months, and I did build relationships with them, on their turf. But the relationships were formed around the gospel. Friendship was never a Trojan horse to sneak Jesus into their lives. They knew my story up front, and that I was associated with Jesus.

I have seen this again and again: the gospel actually works. Followers of Jesus were never meant to lure in the fish only by inviting them to church. We don’t have to be friends with everyone for a year before we introduce them to the God who changed our lives. (Imagine if Paul or Barnabus or Philip took that approach.) God has given each of us a mission: to make disciples. He’s placed us in communities of people who need the gospel. He has given us his Spirit, the greatest resource we’ll ever have. And he has given us a story of his grace to share with others.

“God, please evict us from our comfort zones, and send us into the harvest fields. There are people that we know who are hurting. Lost sheep. Lost sons and daughters. Help us to be your ambassadors in their lives, helping them find their way home to you. Amen.”

Jarod Osborne serves as lead pastor of Pathway Church in Warsaw, Indiana.