What is Evangelism?
by Mike Miller
[Note: Scroll to the bottom for the next edition of our Firm in Faith series of collected articles.]
Before I start defining Evangelism, I think a story may help us to begin thinking about evangelism. I want to introduce a man named Brenden. He worked for a campus ministry at a university in the Midwest. During the spring semester, he took the time to meet once a week with an overzealous freshman after a mutual friend connected them. They spent an entire semester going through the Old Testament looking for Christ, but by the end of the semester the student still had not become a believer.
This story tells of a man who invested time in sharing the gospel with a student who did not show any repentance or faith. Brenden’s engagement with this student was evangelism. Evangelism is telling people the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is a message. Many times, we have heard that we should “preach the gospel and use words when necessary.” However, the Bible proclaims the gospel as a message of words. Romans 10:14-17 explains that people cannot believe in Jesus without first hearing about Jesus. This hearing is hearing the message of the gospel, which Paul describes earlier in Romans 1:17 as “the power of God to salvation.”
Your next question might be, Who should do evangelism? Some people believe that a person can only be saved at church by the pastor. I do not think this is a proper understanding of biblical evangelism. The Bible instead presents that anyone who is a Christian should be evangelizing. Let’s consider Matthew 9:35-10:7 for a moment. The end of chapter 9 talks about the compassion of Jesus for the lost sheep of Israel since they did not have a shepherd. As a result, Jesus tells the Disciples to pray that God would send more people to proclaim the kingdom of God to the Israelites. Then Jesus commissions them to go to Israel to preach the kingdom of God, the gospel. Jesus shows here what he would later command in Matthew 28:18-20. All believers should pray for laborers and they should be laboring for new disciples.
While more can be said, I want to move towards application. Evangelism is hard. Even a seasoned evangelist will say it remains difficult to evangelize the lost. Sharing the gospel with an unbeliever is fighting on the front line of a spiritual war. We have to overcome our own sin and cultural expectations of personal religion. However, engaging in evangelism also rewards the evangelist with a deeper dependence on God. Calling out to God for help in evangelism shows our belief that God controls salvation but also our reliance on Him for boldness. There is also great joy when your evangelism efforts reap a salvation.
Returning to the story in our introduction, Brenden and the student continued to meet in their hometown after the end of the semester. He would share the gospel one last time before the student left for the military. The next week, the student trusted in the Jesus. The student was me.
Periodical: Firm in Faith 1.2