Evangelism

Preaching and Worship Resources about Evangelism

Evangelism is generous faith facilitating a living encounter with the living God. Derived from the Greek word for "gospel" (euangelion), evangelism is God's good news made manifest in word and deed. It is the gregarious outworking of genuine faith so that the truth of the gospel is presented clearly, attractively, and compellingly.

In Scripture

God's call to Abraham "I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed" (Gen. 12:2 - 3).

Declare "Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples" (Ps. 96:3).

Jesus' call to the disciples "And Jesus said to them, `Follow me and I will make you fish for people'" (Mark 1:17).

Great Commission "And Jesus came and said to them, `All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. [ ]Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age'" (Matt. 28:18 - 20).

To the ends of the earth "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth" (Acts 1:8).

Bringing good news "But how are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him? And how are they to proclaim him unless they are sent? As it is written, `How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!'" (Rom. 10:14 - 15).

Always be ready "But even if you suffer for doing what is right, you are blessed. Do not fear what they fear, and do not be intimidated, but in your hearts sanctify Christ as Lord. Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you; [16 ]yet do it with gentleness and reverence. Keep your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who abuse you for your good conduct in Christ may be put to shame" (1 Peter 3:14 - 16).

Points to Ponder

Challenge of evangelism Three observations highlight the challenge of this topic to a modern church: First, Jesus clearly commands evangelism (Mark 1:17, Matt. 28:18 - 20). Second, the world clearly needs evangelism. About two-thirds of the world's 6.9 billion people in 2010 were non-Christian, and two-thirds of the U.S.'s 304 million people in 2008 did not know Jesus as personal Savior. Third, even with those statistics, most churches struggle to effectively evangelize. Only 15 percent of the more than 320,000 churches in the U.S. are growing, and 85 percent of that growth is from church hopping.

Evangelism and divine election Some streams of Calvinist theology struggle to reconcile a belief in divine predestination with a call for human proclamation. Such confusion about election leads to passivity with evangelism. A proper response observes that God has ordained both the ends and the means of salvation. Evangelism is the means God has ordained to achieve the salvific ends God has determined (Rom. 10:14 - 15; 1 Corinthians 3:6).

Evangelism and social justice For many today, social justice is seen as a more appropriate way to love our neighbor than evangelism. We would rather demonstrate our faith in just actions than proclaim it in potentially offensive words. That is especially true in a North American culture that lionizes humanistic philanthropy and demonizes exclusivist truth claims. A response to this objection observes that not just the Great Commission but also the Great Commandment calls us to give voice to the reason for the hope within us. We must show and tell. Theologian and author Ron Sider explained to Relevant that "[W]ithout social works, evangelism appears to be all talk. But without sharing the hope and good news of the Gospel, ministry lacks the Holy Spirit's transformative power. Neither side of social justice ministry is complete without the other. `People are both spiritual and material beings,' Sider says. `Addressing only half the problem only gives you half of the solution.'"

Evangelism and postmodernity Postmodernity and pluralism have privatized faith. As George Barna observes: "Given that more than eighty million adults contend that being on the receiving end of an evangelistic pitch is `annoying' and knowing that several million born-again Christians refuse to describe themselves as born again for fear of becoming social outcasts, Christians and non-Christians alike opt for a nation in which people are free to practice their religion as long as it is done in secret (or quietly)." Yet the gospel must be shared because it is historical (Acts 4:18 - 20) and exclusive (Acts 4:12). As a revealed religion centered on a historical event (the resurrection of Christ), Christian faith cannot be independently or rationally deduced. It must be shared and received in community.

Evangelism and eternity Part of our indifference to evangelism stems from an indifference to eternity. Over-realized eschatology on the left and right have dampened both our holy hunger for heaven as well as our healthy fear of hell. A proper response observes that to love like Jesus, we must warn like Jesus. John Piper says: "[I]n order to grieve over the straying lambs, and in order to summon with tears the wild goats. . . I must feel the truth of hell — that it exists and is terrible and horrible beyond imaginings forever and ever. . . .When the heart no longer feels the truth of hell, the gospel passes from good news to just news."


Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.