It is inspiring to read of the courage and zeal with which the early apostles and disciples heeded the Savior’s call to preach the gospel unto all people. Their witnesses of the resurrection and the changing power of conversion which burned in their hearts motivated them to travel throughout the ancient world spreading the joyous news of the gospel. Their work and their sacrifices laid a foundation for all who would come after them, and two thousand years later those who identify themselves as Christians are still blessed by the legacy of these ancient missionaries.
Paul, in particular, stands out as an example of a valiant missionary. While his education prepared him to teach to the Israelites, he also had the ability to adapt his message for those outside his culture. With intelligence he shared his message with intellectuals, with eloquence he proclaimed the truth before rulers, and with courage, he preached the gospel in whatever circumstance he found himself in, regardless of the personal consequences he might face. To those that worried about his safety he stated, “I am ready not to be bound only, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” (Acts 21:13)
As we reflect on the modern-day call to be a missionary and take the gospel to all the nations of the Earth, many may compare themselves to Paul and feel insufficient and unqualified for the task at hand. Perhaps you have a fear of public speaking, have never served a mission, are not a scriptural scholar, or are a newly baptized member just barely learning the foundational principles of the gospel yourself. You may feel that you can never be a Paul, and perhaps that is true. All of us are blessed with talents, and being a missionary may not be yours; however, that does not mean that you cannot be an effective missionary. While God needs majestic Pauls, He also needs ordinary people like you and me.
So what can we do to be effective missionaries and overcome the obstacles or weakness that make us feel inadequate? I would like to offer four actions that were impressed upon me during my study this week:
- Learn to follow the promptings of the Spirit
- Study the gospel
- Develop your testimony
- Live a life of discipleship
Learn to follow the promptings of the Spirit: The necessity of relying on the guidance of the Spirit is made apparent when we remember that God can see and understand things about a person that we cannot. We might view someone as the perfect candidate with whom to share the gospel when in reality they are not yet ready to receive it; conversely, someone that we might overlook, certain that they would not be interested, may rejoice at the message that we have to share. As we follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we will be led to those who God has prepared.
Furthermore, it is through the Spirit that a testimony of Jesus Christ and His gospel is received. When we follow the promptings of the Spirit and invite him to be present, he will guide our words and bear witness of the truth to those we teach.
Study the gospel: Immerse yourself in the scriptures, and memorize important or favorite verses. I love to use the Institute and Seminary manuals to supplement my study of the scriptures. They provide great historical and cultural context and are filled with applicable quotes from the leaders of the church that help increase understanding of the scriptures. Utilize the additional materials found in the Gospel Library, listen to general conference talks, and read the church published magazines. We have been blessed with a wealth of information so each one of us can become increasingly familiar with, and knowledgeable about the gospel. As we increase our study of Jesus Christ and of His doctrine, our confidence and ability to share the gospel will grow.
Develop your testimony: As you study the gospel, your testimony of its truth will grow naturally; but even if you are new to the gospel and have only a very basic understanding of it, you can still have a testimony of its truthfulness. If you have prayed and received a witness from God that the gospel is true, you can share your experience with others. If you were recently baptized and felt the confirmation of the Spirit, you can testify of your personal witness. If living the teachings of the gospel has increased your ability to draw closer to God, and has strengthened your relationship with our Savior, Jesus Christ, you can bear witness of how the application of the gospel has affected your life. Through your sincere testimony, the hearts of others might be opened to receive the gospel message.
Live a life of discipleship: Remember we do not have to be great orators or theologians, stand before a king, or be cast into prison in order to share the message of the gospel. Perhaps the most effective way we can share the gospel is to live a meaningful life of discipleship. Build and strengthen friendships, reach out with love to those in need, look for ways to serve and uplift others, and contribute to your community in meaningful ways.
It was the actions of a college mentor, not the words he spake, that impressed my father and caused him to ask his mentor about the gospel. This man’s friendship and faithful discipleship started my father on a path to conversion and baptism and has blessed my family’s life for eternity. I am profoundly grateful for his example.
Do not be discouraged if you feel that you have fallen short in sharing the gospel. We may never know in this life how a simple action or a short conversation may have planted a seed that will one day bloom into a glorious tree of faith. It is through small and simple things that God brings great and wonderful things to pass. (See Alma 37:6)
I love the words of comfort that the Lord spoke to Paul, “Be not afraid, but speak, and hold not thy peace; for I am with thee…” (Acts 18:9-10)
As we sincerely seek for opportunities to share the gospel with our brothers and sisters, and as we trust that the Lord has everything in control, we will be blessed with opportunities to share our faith and we will know the joy of helping others to come unto Christ.
“Missionary Work: Sharing What Is in Your Heart” – Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf, April 2019
“Be Thou an Example of the Believers” – Elder Russell M. Nelson, October 2010
You can follow Jess on Twitter @Jessla_G.