What is Evangelism?, Part 1
September 21, 2023 | by: John Lee | 0 Comments
Posted in: Pastoral Encouragement
The last couple of years at Oak Hills has been quite an encouragement to me in regards to evangelism. One of the great encouragements has been the privilege to see some of our own church family really seeking, desiring, and praying for opportunities to share the hope of the gospel with those around them. It has been a great honor to add some of your own family, friends, neighbors, and co-workers to my prayer lists each day. It really has been my deepest joy to have conversations, to pray with, and to walk together as we desire for the people around us to come and know the deep, deep love of Jesus.
I have often come across many today who have a hard time defining what evangelism actually is though. When it comes to evangelism (and really anything), I have found that it is important to understand what it is in order to seek to do it well. In the next few weeks, I plan to unpack Timothy Beougher’s helpful explanation about what evangelism is (and what it is not) from the first chapter of his book Invitation to Evangelism: Sharing the Gospel with Compassion and Conviction.
THREE BIBLICAL TERMS
Beougher brings three biblical terms that are associated with evangelism:
The first is the Greek word, euangelion, meaning “the gospel or good news.” The good news at the heart of Christianity is about who God is and how he has provided forgiveness and reconciliation in Christ Jesus for sinners.
The second word associated with evangelism, the announcing of the good news, is the Greek word, kerygma, meaning “to proclaim.” While the verb form of this word in the New Testament isn’t always used to reference the proclamation of the gospel, it often is used in that context. We can catch a glimpse of this in 1 Corinthians 1:21: “For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach [kerygma] to save those who believe.”
The third word associated with evangelism is the Greek word, martyreō, meaning “bearing witness.” Beougher writes, “A witness is someone who brings firsthand testimony of what he or she has seen or heard or experienced” (pg. 4). We catch a glimpse of this in Acts 1:8 when Jesus declares to his disciples that they will be his witnesses all over the world.
These three biblical terms help us begin thinking about evangelism, of which we will unpack the definition in the weeks to come. But for now, notice that at the heart of the task of evangelism is the proclaiming and sharing of the good news of Jesus Christ as those who have firsthand experienced the power of the gospel in our own lives.
Lifeway Research had a recent study that showed some shocking numbers in regards to evangelism and Christians today. Here are some numbers for us to consider:
- 93% of Christians are at least somewhat open to having a conversation with a friend about the gospel
- Only 64% of Christians have prayed in the last month that a friend or family member would put their trust in Jesus Christ
- Only 53% of Christians have actually had a conversation about the gospel with a friend or family member in the last 6 months
What the study from Lifeway Research shows is that Christians in their daily lives have seemingly resorted to quite a passive approach to sharing the very hope that is within us with others. There seems to be an overwhelming majority in the openness to share the gospel with others, yet the percentage seems to drop drastically with actually sharing the hope of Christ with others or even praying for such opportunities.
If we take seriously the three biblical terms associated with evangelism, this means that evangelism is much more than a passive and unintentional approach. It is easy for us to simply hope that our kind presence and kind actions will easily create gospel conversations (when they do, praise God!). Now, our kind presence and kind actions should point to the reality of God’s gracious saving work in the lives of his people. They are important to our witness of the gospel but they should not be divorced from the good news, an announcement through words. We must be reminded that coming to faith in Christ is not “merely caught” but is “taught” for faith comes by hearing the word of Christ (Rom. 10:17).
We need the Spirit’s help and strength in our proclamation of the gospel. Let us never forget that. The task of evangelism is not easy, even frightening. We aren’t able to do it in our own strength and wisdom. So, let us hold fast to the reminder that the task of evangelism is not a man-made methodology or tactic to fill seats in a building but the very commission that Christ gives to His church. It is through the gospel that God is gathering and drawing to himself his scattered people throughout the ages. With this Great Commission, we do well to remember that the One who has saved us and sends us to proclaim his excellencies has all authority in heaven and earth given to him (Matt. 28:18) and he will be with us to the end of the age (Matt. 28:20).
Let us together prayerfully and boldly share the hope that is in us as we depend on the Lord. Let us not boast in ourselves but boast in Christ alone. Let God break our hearts for those who do not know him and who are currently walking in darkness. Let us pray with hope for our loved ones and friends who don’t know Christ because we know that God is gracious and is mighty to save.
Soli Deo Gloria,