What Is Evangelism?

\"Welcome!\"What is evangelism?

In one sense, evangelism is simply preaching the Gospel.

That accurately pinpoints the responsibility of the preacher. But evangelism is not accomplished solely by a preacher with a message.

Here is a fuller suggestion:

Evangelism is
co-operating with the Holy Spirit
to help people
take steps
towards faith in Christ.

  • That makes it clear what the goal of evangelism is: that people should put their faith in Christ. Christians believe that Christ is the key to what God is doing in the world, that in Jesus are to be found forgiveness, new life, and joy. So we want others to discover what we have found.
  • This definition also makes it clear also that coming to faith in Christ is a process, involving many steps, over a period of time that may be months or even years.
  • Lest we think that evangelism is a purely human responsibility, the definition says that evangelism—helping people to faith in Christ—is ultimately the work of the Holy Spirit. It is God who wants people to have new life in Christ, and by the Holy Spirit, God draws them towards faith.
  • So if evangelism is the work of God, what is the role of ordinary Christians in this process? Two words describe it: to “co-operate” with the Holy Spirit, and to “help” the person who is taking steps towards faith in Christ. We open ourselves on the one hand to the Holy Spirit and on the other hand to people seeking faith, and we do (or say) whatever may be helpful to them at this particular point in their journey.

We may be the person who helps them come to the point of saying, “Yes, I want to be a follower of Jesus.” But our role may equally well be to show hospitality, to lend a book, to answer a question, to say a prayer, to share our own faith story. Any of these may represent a step forward towards Christian faith. And the outcome depends on all of us being faithful!

Some people seem to have unusual gifts of evangelism, and are good at helping people take that final step to faith. But the whole process of evangelism leading up to that point actually requires the involvement and commitment of everybody in the Body of Christ, whether or not we consider ourselves “evangelists” in a special sense. 

Next: What is an Evangelizing Community?

2 thoughts on “What Is Evangelism?”

  1. About two years ago our six person house church decided to establish a pub outreach to make contact with non-church attenders. Some of what happened would seem to fit the concerns of this website. One of our members had access to “the world in general” though his consulting business. We meet from 7-9 once a month to discuss “neutral” questions such as “To what degree should Canada change its traditions to accommodate immigrants?” Most of our questions come from the unchurched. We avoid putting an overtly or strained Christian spin on these discussions to make sure we get the “Gospel Oar” in. On the other hand we don’t unnaturally restrain ourselves if the Christian response is natural. After we had grown to trust each other I and the others have been able to attest to what God has done in my own life without any sense of embarrassment that I could detect.

    Another of our practices is that Christians can only come if they bring a non-Christian. About a dozen unchurched people have attended so far. Most have departed. But the two who are with us now are very reliable attenders and it has become clear to them that we are all believers. A third person will return in the fall of 2010 after studies overseas; I keep contact by email. They are “browned off” Christianity by bad experiences with the Church and one person has had a very difficult life experience.

    We have had two Christmas parties and a summer supper evening at the home of one of the unchurched friends. One person has shared some personal issues and has accepted my offer to pray for her which I do by email. I have done this on two occasions.

    Recently one of the unchurched confessed a fear of death and agreed to suspend the usual ”neutral” discussion question for a consideration of her problem. We felt free to express the hope for post death we have in our Faith.

    I believe we have made significant contact with people who would not attend any Sunday service. I have also developed great respect for what they have to say about life. One is a brilliant graduate of an Ontario computer oriented university and it is a pleasure to hear him speak. Real friendships have developed.

    On page 38 of his book Christian Mission John Stott comments that for evangelism to have occurred, positive results are not essential. No one is ready for an alter call yet, but if Stott is right, we are doing evangelization with hopes that some time one or more of them will join our house church.

  2. Hi John, I think you are quite mistaken in thinking evangelism is a process. It’s an event within a process. Advertising evangelism as a process actually subtely puts people off doing evangelism. I wrote a 700 page book about this over a 10 year period. If you would be so kind as to supply your email address, I will email you a PDF file of the relevant chapter in my book.

    Every blessing


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