What is evangelism? David Barrett in his work for the Global Evangelization Movement reveals a dichotomy within the Christian Church as far as understanding the meaning of the term. First of all, the upper-range Christian specialists across the world which include a whole catalog of various fields from exegesis to theology, missions, evangelism, and pastors or preachers unanimously affirm that ‘evangelize’ meant in Bible times, throughout Christian history, and still means today: to preach, to bring, to tell, to proclaim, to announce and to declare.
A contrary view is held by an impressive range of Christian practitioners, the ones who are actually doing the task of evangelism and includes pastors, evangelists, denominational leaders, and mission’s executives. Their concept of ‘evangelize’ is: receive, go, witness, proclaim, disciple, baptize and train.
A majority of rank and file Christians, which at the time of Barrett’s findings composed about 99.7 percent of the 1.6 billion Christians in the world (Barrett’s statistics from 1987), support the specialist’s interpretation. The rest are supportive of the practitioner’s interpretation. In other words, most of Christendom interprets evangelism from a theoretical standpoint rather than practical. There is a whole lot of talk about evangelism, but not a whole lot being done about it.
According to John R. W. Stott, the whole Bible speaks of world evangelism. It is to be found in the creation of God (because of which all human beings are responsible to Him), in the character of God (as outgoing, loving, compassionate, not willing that any should perish. . . all should come to repentance), in the promises of God (that all nations will become the Messiah’s inheritance), in the Christ of God (now exalted. . .) in the Spirit of God (who convicts of sin, witnesses to Christ, and impels the Church to evangelize) and in the church of God (. . . a multinational, missionary community, under orders to evangelize until Christ returns) [John R.W. Stott, “The Bible in World Evangelism,” in Perspectives on the World Christian Movement, edited by Ralph Winter and Stephen C. Hawthorne. Pasadena: William Carey Library, 1981.]
Evangelism is such a necessity for the continuing ministry of the Church that without it the Church becomes static, stagnant, torpid, like a “dead sea.” In other words, the Church becomes like a stagnant pond where streams flow in but there is no outlet. Sooner or later all sorts of putrefying organisms will be manifested, because there is no life, only death and decay. In the natural, life giving streams must keep flowing or the waters accumulate in a pond and become stagnant. Christ created the Church with the intention of spreading the Gospel to every creature. Indeed this is what the “Great Commission” is all about. Where the local Church is ministering, reaching out to the lost, proclaiming the Gospel message, life is flowing through and God’s grace is being manifested. In Jesus’ discourse about the vine and branches (John 15), it is evident that abiding in Him produces fruit. This may have reference to the individual and to the fruit of the Spirit, but it seems it would also apply to the present discussion. Churches who are allowing Christ to minister through them in proclamation and evangelism, who take to heart the mandate to save the lost, are fruitful and prospering. Those churches which shut up their bowels of compassion and have forgotten what their Master commanded, who are not abiding in Him, are slowly but surely dying. “If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered” (John 15:6).
Learn more about evangelism from evangelism.encounterz.org.