“Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” (Matthew 4:19)
Evangelism is a term that carries different meanings for different people. To some, it means witnessing to the community, for others it means encouraging people in their faith, and to others still, it is a call to bring new people into the faith. In my view, evangelism is all of these things. Therefore, a more succinct and complete definition of evangelism is the expression of how we live our Christian faith.
With this definition of evangelism in mind, let’s for a moment explore what it isn’t. Evangelism is not a set of doctrinal statements or a system of church governance. It is not a role for which one needs to be ordained—though training the church to evangelize is surely important. Evangelism is neither choosing one style of worship over another, nor a theological discussion. It is action.
I once saw a bumper sticker that said, “Faith is a Verb.” How true this is. Through our faith we are called to action, to evangelize by living out our faith in the community, our churches, families, jobs, and in our mission work. In so doing, we are witnesses to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. So what does this look like? Where does this action-oriented definition of evangelism lead us?
Well, the answer is different from person to person. To those with the gift of words, one might be called to share their love for the Bible and how the scriptures help direct their life. Or, it might be simply discussing how God is working in and through your life, showing that God is truly alive. Alternatively, those who are called to work with their hands might evangelize through mission work by helping the neediest among us. There are a myriad of needs we can meet as Christians locally, nationally, and globally. Evangelism might also take the form of a few spoken words such as: “Would you like to come to church with me?” Our world is one filled with questions, pain, and suffering. Many people yearn for connection with God, yet need a simple invitation to come into the Christian faith.
Having said all of this, the goal of evangelism is bringing people together in the Christian community, to “fish for people” as Jesus said. We do this because it is through fellowship with our Christian sisters and brothers that we support one another, provide guidance when necessary, and build up the church.