Tuesday, November 28, 2017

The Gift of Evangelism

"But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth" (Acts 1:8).

In our popular language, we often equate witnessing with evangelism, but there is a distinction in the way the New Testament uses these two different words. Basically, the difference is this: Witnessing calls attention to Jesus Christ in many ways, and is very supportive of evangelism. Evangelism is the proclamation, either orally or in writing, of the message of the person and work of Christ.

We are called to righteous living, and sometimes people say, “I do my evangelism by how I live.” In the biblical sense, however, this is a form of witnessing but not of evangelism. After all, how many times have you seen someone go up to a Christian and say, “I’m amazed at how you live! Tell me your secret!” That does happen from time to time, but not very often.

Giving personal testimonies is not evangelism either. It is witnessing. It is telling people something true about what Jesus has done for me, but it is not the same thing as proclaiming the work of God in the salvation of the world through Jesus Christ. My personal experience may or may not be relevant to you, but the “personal experience” of Jesus Christ is always relevant to everyone.

Don’t misunderstand me. Personal testimony is very important, and we see it in the New Testament in many places. One such account is when the man born blind told people Jesus had healed him. In the strict sense, however, this is not evangelism. Similarly, inviting people to church is very important, but it is not evangelism.

Finally, I don’t believe every Christian is called to be an evangelist. The church is a body with various gifts in it, but not everyone has the gift of evangelism. Every Christian is called to bear witness, but not every Christian is gifted to proclaim the message of the Gospel to men.

While not every Christian is an evangelist, it is every Christian’s responsibility to help see to it that the evangelistic task is carried out. Clearly, the New Testament biblical model encourages each believer to be a participant, not a spectator in the work of the Gospel. What specific things are you doing to help? Make a list of ways in which you do, or should, help carry out the evangelistic mission.