The greatest challenge every new generation of the Lord's people faces is evangelism. But what is evangelism? All will agree that evangelism is our primary task, yet we seem to have difficulty even in defining the term. Some years ago a few brethren argued that an evangelist cannot preach the gospel to the church. Today many seem to think it is not absolutely necessary for every Christian to preach the gospel to the world.
What Evangelism Is Not
1. It is not everything we do. While everything the Christian does must be done in the name of the Lord (Col. 3:17), all that he does is not evangelism. It is true however, that almost everything we do may be used to open a door for evangelism. A man's job acquaints him with people he would otherwise never meet. Many of these are good prospects for the truth, but the mere fact that he works with them will not save their souls. His secular work is not evangelism; evangelism is a work in itself.
Opportunities for evangelism have been made on a fishing bank, a golf course, and a bowling lane. Because this is so, some brethren have drawn the erroneous conclusion that entertainment and recreation are a part of evangelism. One young man who broke his ankle while playing volleyball on a church sponsored court, said recently, "I broke it doing personal work!" This represents the thinking of a large segment of our brethren.
2. It is not a good Christian example. Paul instructed Timothy to be "an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity" (1 Tim. 4:13) but he also mid him to "preach the word" (2 Tim. 4:2). Being an example and preaching the word are not the same. One is evangelism, the other is not.
When Jesus gave the commission' to His disciples to go into all the world, He did not say, "go and be a good example, "however necessary that may be; He said, "go 7 7 7 preach" (Mark 16:15). A good Christian life is essential if evangelism is to be effective, but it is not evangelism; it is pre-evangelism. One cannot live the Christian life without directly confronting the lost and teaching them the truth.
3. It is not attending worship services. Some evangelism is done in our Bible classes and worship assemblies. The preacher preaches, the Bible class teacher teaches, and the Christian who sings instructs and admonishes. Because this is true some feel that attending these services is all that is required. To them, attending services is evangelism.
Church assemblies are primarily arranged for the edification of Christians, not as a means of reaching the lost. While attending these assemblies is essential, first, because God requires that we assemble together for mutual edification, and, secondly, to participate in those acts of worship which He has prescribed, our assembling will not fulfill the command to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. Our church
Services should be used to admonish brethren to go out and preach the gospel to the lost, but attending such a service is not evangelism.
What Evangelism Is
The word "evangelism" comes to us from the Greek through the Latin word "evangelium." It comes from two Greek words, eu, meaning "well," and aggelos, meaning "messenger." To evangelize means to tell good news; an evangelist is one who tells good news; and evangelism is the whole process of telling good news. Evangelism then requires three things: a good message, a messenger, and the telling of the message.
The English word "gospel" comes to us from the Anglo-Saxon godspell, and it signifies God's spell (story), or good spell. The Greek words behind it are the same as those given above for evangelism (euaggelos). Thus, the words "gospel," or "glad tidings" (Lk. 1:19; 2:10; 8:1; Acts 15:7; 20:24; Rom. 10:15), evangelize, or "preach" (Matt. 11:5; Acts 5:42), and "evangelist" (Acts 21:8; Eph. 4:11; 2 Tim. 4:5) are related words. Taken together they give us the full meaning of evangelism. Evangelism is the telling of God's good news, the gospel.
Evangelism is not everything we do, it is not a good Christian example, nor is it attending a worship service. It is a telling; the telling of a specific message or body of truth, the gospel. Jesus said, "And they shall all be taught of God" (Jno. 6:45). That is what evangelism is all about.
TRUTH MAGAZINE XIV; 28, pp. 13-14
May 21, 1970