A good question: What is evangelism?
One question, four answers
‘Evangelism is one of the easiest and life-changing things Christians can do’
Evangelism is the sharing of the Good News of Jesus Christ in today’s world. In the New Testament we see time and again the passion of its writers to share the Good News. It is one of the primary roles that the Church is called to, and, although today we might be scared of being the stereotypical preacher-evangelist, I believe evangelism is one of the easiest and life-changing things Christians can do.
When we consider evangelism, we are immediately challenged to think of good, life-changing things about Jesus. Depending upon your theological understanding and background you might see different aspects of Jesus’ incarnation, ministry, life, mission, death, resurrection and ascension as being good. What aspect of Jesus’ ministry resonates most with you, has changed your life, draws you to worship and challenges you to respond? That’s the thing that should be the focus of your evangelism. Wouldn’t it be great if across our churches and congregations we were all known for sharing something good about Jesus – it might be different from the next church in the next town – but good nonetheless…
‘Evangelism is living out the God who is big enough to encompass all’
Evangelism is living out the God who is big enough to encompass all, not afraid of being in the midst of faith and doubt. For many, evangelism may be about conversion to Christianity; for liberal Christians, it will mean valuing truth wherever it is found.
Why do liberal Christians like myself often shy away from the word, when our questioning faith creates a firm belief through a biblical understanding that is rooted and grounded in the witness and teachings of Jesus? Bishop Jack Shelby Spong often quotes John 10:10: “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” This means a life lived to the full, for all, and “loving wastefully”, exuding the love of God without measure in all we do. A liberal Christian tries to live with the questions that come through studying the Bible and to live out the Golden Rule, loving in pursuit of the Kingdom of God. On our own faith journeys, we respect and acknowledge the paths of other faiths, growing through such experiences and deepening our individual faith…
‘We must make evangelism radically subversive and transformative’
Evangelism, the proclamation of the Good News of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, is central to the lives of the disciples of Christ. It is unfortunate however, that the idea of evangelism has been hijacked by the Christian right, and has been tamed and coopted into the rhetoric of Christian imperialism. As a result, evangelism has come to be seen as a means of Christian expansionism and is locked into individualistic notions of being born again and personal salvation.
Evangelism, therefore, must be reclaimed by the community of disciples as the core of the life of faith. It is up to us to relocate the idea of evangelism from the narrow confines of a tamed individual faith into being radically subversive and transformative of the world as it is today…
‘We need to put our faith into words’
Jesus didn’t come to make bad people good, but dead people live, and evangelism is vital to that amazing transformation. For me, it was clear-cut. At the age of 16, I had an encounter with Jesus that changed my life. I didn’t come from a church background so the change was dramatic. From that point on I’ve been convinced that the Gospel has the power to change lives.
The Talking Jesus survey (www.talkingjesus.org) commissioned by Hope, the Church of England and the Evangelical Alliance, shows that 41% of practising Christians started following Jesus because they grew up in a Christian family. That journey of Christian nurture might seem less dramatic, but like Paul we can all say: “I am not ashamed of the Gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes.”…
This is an extract from the November 2015 edition of Reform.