I'm not a person who is easily bedeviled by stage fright. Most often, the opposite is true—I don't know when to keep my mouth shut and so I blather on, winging random and frequent opinions about anything and everything to anyone and everyone who might be nearby. Still, I do recall one particular time when stage fright seized me. I could feel my heart race, my muscles tense, and sweat begin to pool in my armpits while I was speaking to a group of people.
It started out innocently enough. At the time, I was working as an advertising copywriter for a luxury travel company. I found many good people there, but not many religious ones. It didn't take long for everyone to discover that I was a Christian…with opinions. At any rate, my desk was situated right next to the break room. One day, around Easter, a group of about a half dozen folks came in to eat lunch together. They started chatting about the holiday and soon came upon the topic of the Jewish Passover. Since none of them was Jewish, and since they knew I was "religious," they called me over and asked me to tell them what I knew about that Hebrew celebration.
I didn't think much of it. I knew these people and called many of them my friends. So I walked over and started sharing a few basic facts about the Passover. As I was talking, I also included some of my thoughts on how elements of the Passover feast symbolized the promise of Jesus' life, death, and resurrection. It was no big deal, a natural part of the conversation. They asked some questions; I answered as best I could. Then all of a sudden—almost midsentence—it hit me: I wasn't simply chatting with these people. I was actually Sharing The Gospel with them—or "witnessing," or "evangelizing," or whatever the kids are calling it these days.
Honestly, I don't know why that made a difference to me. Although I wouldn't call myself a fervent evangelist, I have spoken about Jesus to lots of people lots of times. But something in that moment choked my thoughts. I was suddenly aware of one woman sitting at the table who, due to unfortunate experiences with family members, was typically hostile to Christianity. And another woman who belonged to a different religion. And a guy who generally seemed to view all Christians as right-wing Republican nutcases. And…you get the idea. I started thinking about how I should be careful not to offend anybody, and I worried about my choice of words.
And my heart started pounding.
And I could feel myself beginning to sweat.