Year ago, I was standing in the lunch line at the seminary cafeteria. A classmate and I were discussing themes in our evangelism class when a fellow student from another class interrupted:
“Are you talking about the E-word?” In our class, we were talking about evangelism and its connections to American Imperialism.”
Another time, in the conversational small talk prior to a personal evangelism workshop, one person mentioned that their session had just spent six months studying evangelism.
“What answer did the session come up with?”
“It’s finding the Presbyterians in our neighborhood.”
Gather 40 people in a room, and you’re likely to find 40 different understandings of evangelism.
Some evangelism definitions are so wide to cover anything and everything related to growing a church.
Some evangelism definitions are so narrowly focused to a scripted outline to a stranger that needs to be humbled.
Some definitions of evangelism are somewhere in between.
Whenever I do workshops, I always get different answers to the question “What is evangelism?”
- sharing my faith,
- getting people to come to church
- building a home (as in a mission project for the poor)
- after school tutoring
- hosting the homeless for a night.
Since I’m a Presbyterian pastor, I choose to use an excellent definition of evangelism, as adopted by the General Assembly (1990).
Joyfully sharing the good news of the sovereign love of God, and calling people to repentance, to personal faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, to active membership in the church, and to obedient service in the world.
I use this definition for many reasons.
- It’s theologically rich.
- It includes the emotion of sharing, the activity of sharing, the content of the sovereign love of God, and a fourfold call to commitment.
- It goes beyond the “say-a-prayer” as a destination, and sees the fruit of evangelism as integration into a church and outworking as a disciple.
I’ve written about this definition before. See these articles: