When we are talking about “evangelism,” “conversion,” or even “gospel,” we need to know what we mean by those terms.
I’ve been talking about evangelism for nearly 20 years and I keep running into different understandings based on different theological presuppositions. There have been many times where me and my conversation partner use the word “evangelism” but mean entirely different things.
I’ve taken a look around to collect definitions of evangelism that appeal to me and seem to do a great job of highlighting various nuances.
Definitions of Evangelism:
Lusanne Covenant: Proclamation of the historical biblical Christ as Savior and Lord with a view to persuade others to come to him personally and so be reconciled unto God.
Dr. Temple: To present Christ Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit that people shall come to put their trust in God
Dr. J.I. Packer: Evangelism is just preaching the gospel. . . . the work of communication in which Christians become God’s mouth piece to sinners and summoning for conversion.
David Hester: Evangelism, in Reformed tradition, is the church’s work of proclaiming the gospel in word and deed, inviting persons to participate in the grace of God and to join in the mutual care and public ministry of the community of God’s covenant people…unfortunately, evangelism has, so to speak, fallen among thieves in the church where it has been ‘beaten and robbed’ by an unfortunate constricting of its meaning to either a fundamentalist theology, a revivalist style of preaching, or a congregational campaign for new members.” (How Shall We Witness?: Faithful Evangelism in a Reformed Tradition?)
American Baptist Churches USA:Evangelism is the joyous witness of the people of God to God’s redeeming love, which urges repentance and reconciliation to God and each other through faith in Jesus Christ–who lived, died, and was raised from the dead. Through renewal with Jesus, believers are empowered by the Holy Spirit and incorporated into the church for worship, fellowship, nurture, and engagement as disciples in God’s mission of evangelization and liberation within society and creation, signifying the Kingdom that is present and yet to come. (Official definition of evangelism, adopted by American Baptist Churches USA in 1984).
Evangelism Connections lists a bunch of phrases regarding evangelism.
– sharing the “Good News” of Jesus Christ.
– bringing to people the love of God.
– telling the good news, being the good news, and doing the good news.
– making disciples for Christ.
– the good news of Jesus Christ.
– the sharing and joyous witness of the people of God.
– the primary mission of the body of Christ, the church.
– proclaiming the “Good News” of Christ, crucified and risen.
– a spiritual journey of formation and transformation.
– the joyous witness of the people of God to God’s redeeming love.
– joyfully sharing the good news of the sovereign love of God.
– leading persons to receive and accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.
-helping people discover their faith in Christ.
-Sharing Christian hope and hospitality.
– the peculiar task of the Church to communicate the good news of God’s love through Jesus Christ.
Over on PomoMusings, a discussion about the evangelism and gospel soliciting reader definitions is in progress. I’ve enjoyed the discussion over there and encourage you to take a peek.