What is evangelism?
In one sense, evangelism is simply preaching the Gospel.
That accurately pinpoints the responsibility of the preacher. But evangelism is not accomplished solely by a preacher with a message.
Here is a fuller suggestion:
co-operating with the Holy Spirit
to help people
towards faith in Christ.
- That makes it clear what the goal of evangelism is: that people should put their faith in Christ. Christians believe that Christ is the key to what God is doing in the world, that in Jesus are to be found forgiveness, new life, and joy. So we want others to discover what we have found.
- This definition also makes it clear also that coming to faith in Christ is a process, involving many steps, over a period of time that may be months or even years.
- Lest we think that evangelism is a purely human responsibility, the definition says that evangelism—helping people to faith in Christ—is ultimately the work of the Holy Spirit. It is God who wants people to have new life in Christ, and by the Holy Spirit, God draws them towards faith.
- So if evangelism is the work of God, what is the role of ordinary Christians in this process? Two words describe it: to “co-operate” with the Holy Spirit, and to “help” the person who is taking steps towards faith in Christ. We open ourselves on the one hand to the Holy Spirit and on the other hand to people seeking faith, and we do (or say) whatever may be helpful to them at this particular point in their journey.
We may be the person who helps them come to the point of saying, “Yes, I want to be a follower of Jesus.” But our role may equally well be to show hospitality, to lend a book, to answer a question, to say a prayer, to share our own faith story. Any of these may represent a step forward towards Christian faith. And the outcome depends on all of us being faithful!
Some people seem to have unusual gifts of evangelism, and are good at helping people take that final step to faith. But the whole process of evangelism leading up to that point actually requires the involvement and commitment of everybody in the Body of Christ, whether or not we consider ourselves “evangelists” in a special sense.