Biblical Evangelism, Part 2: The Meaning of Evangelism

What does it mean to be a witness for Christ?

Why is defining evangelism important? After all, everyone who is a Christian knows the importance of it. But that is exactly the point: there is a great deal of difference between knowing that evangelism is important and knowing what evangelism is. Knowing the character and purpose of evangelism helps determine how it is to be done and whether or not one has been successful in it.

First, we need to consider some wrong ideas about what evangelism–what it isn’t.

Evangelism is not “getting someone saved.” This puts the emphasis on conversions rather than content (2 Cor 2:17; 1 Thess 2:3-4). It puts the focus on results instead of our responsibilities (Acts 18:5-6; 20:26-27). It puts our confidence in our persuasiveness instead of God’s power (1 Cor 2:1-5; 2 Cor 4:1-7).

Evangelism is not helping people be better people by “meeting their real needs.” This puts the emphasis on us transforming the culture rather than God transforming sinners. It requires the church to be involved in unequal yokes with unbelievers rather than holy separation to the Lord. It removes the need for repentance and faith and replaces it with moralism. Lastly, this is the social gospel that leads to apostasy, rather than the Savior’s gospel that leads to eternal life.

Evangelism is not “living a good life.” This puts the emphasis entirely on my lifestyle rather than telling others the gospel. This is a wrong application of a good passage such as 1 Peter 3:1.

What is evangelism, then?

Evangelism is an activity: a Christian tells the gospel to a sinner.

The activity is preaching, proclaiming, telling the good news (Acts 8:4, 12, 35).

The subject matter is the gospel; Jesus as the Christ; the Word; the good news; Jesus; resurrection; the faith (Rom 1:15; Acts 5:42; 8:4; 17:18; 1 Cor 1:23; Heb 4:6; Gal 1:23).

The objects are people; cities; villages (Acts 8:40; Luke 3:18; 4:43; Acts 8:25).

The aim is that those who hear would turn from paganism to God; to make disciples (Acts 14:15, 21).

The manner is plainly, not in cleverness of speech; without charge; truly (1 Cor 1:17; 2 Cor 4:1-2).

Here, then, is a proposed definition of evangelism: Earnestly proclaiming the gospel to sinners so they can turn to Christ and follow Him.

Biblical evangelism is God centered, not man centered. It trusts the message, not the messenger. It relies on God’s power, not persuasiveness. It seeks to save the lost, not transform the culture.

Thus, we must concentrate on knowing the content of the gospel. Believers already know it, but often lack an organized plan of communicating it. We must thus commit ourselves to speaking the truth, going through doors God opens, and seeking opportunities to speak the message.