By Dr. Kevin Schrum
The Great Commission Resurgence proposals within the Southern Baptist Convention have reminded us of the high priority of evangelism and local/global missions. The same is true of many denominations across the theological spectrum of beliefs as Christian leaders worldwide seek to regain strongholds of spiritual influence in North America and Europe. However, unless we’re cautious and clear, a sloppy, imprecise definition of missions and evangelism will destroy renewal efforts. Let’s define evangelism by what it is not and then by what it is.
Evangelism is not…
1. Evangelism is not denominational renewal, reconstruction, or even deconstruction.
Sometimes, these are necessary to advance the cause of evangelism, but they are not evangelism. Denominations and ecclesiastical structures need occasional, healthy upheaval. But unless we’re careful, we may end up thinking that one more meeting and a new way of doing things constitutes evangelism. Structural reorganizations may end up being commensurate with rearranging chairs on the deck of the Titanic.
2. Evangelism is not inviting people to church or an evangelistic event.
Inviting people to events is important, but it’s not evangelism — it is pre-evangelism.
3. Evangelism is not imposing our will or beliefs on another person.
We make no apologies for attempting to persuasively make the case for Christianity. But in the end, only God can change the human heart.
4. Evangelism is not personal testimony.
A personal testimony does not save a sinner. The Gospel does. It’s quite right to support a Gospel presentation with what the Gospel has done in one’s life. Yet, we must never confuse the Gospel itself with a personal testimony.
5. Evangelism is not social work/justice or political involvement.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with seeking social justice, feeding the homeless, clothing the naked, and addressing institutional-political injustices. But social justice, food in a hungry belly, and a jacket on the back of a homeless man do not prepare that soul for eternity. Good deeds complement the Gospel enterprise; they do not replace it.
6. Evangelism is not doing apologetics in order to win an argument.
Apologetics is a necessary part of the Christian mission. Apologetics can help answer questions and remove intellectual objections, but only the Gospel of Jesus Christ can change the heart.
7. Evangelism is not the results of evangelism.
It is very easy to get caught up in numbers in the church business. And numbers are important. Even Jesus told three successive stories involving numbers in Luke 15 — one lost sheep, one lost coin, and two lost sons. But souls are not notches in our belt or numbers on our denominational charts. "One" represents a precious soul for whom Christ died. This means that we are to communicate the Gospel regardless of the results — God alone takes care of the results.
8. Evangelism is not church planting.
Church planting is biblical and necessary. Many church plants succeed at a higher rate of growth than already established churches. But it’s not because of the magical words — "church plant." The reason church plants grow fast for a season is because the believers of that new church have been reminded of the basics of one person sharing the Good News with another person.
So what is evangelism? Evangelism is a believer sharing the person/claims of the Gospel of Jesus Christ with a person who has yet to believe the claims of the Gospel or trust the person at the center of the Gospel — Jesus Christ. The Gospel is "that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures." (1 Corinthians 15:3-4; Romans 10:9-13) The Gospel is clearly stating what God has done in Christ for the sinner, calling for repentance and belief. To fail to do this is to fail at evangelism. All the other dimensions of church life are but outgrowths and/or complements to the Gospel itself.
Dr. Kevin Shrum has been in ministry for 29 years, currently pastors Inglewood Baptist Church in Nashville, Tennessee, and is an Adjunct Professor of Theology for Union University in Jackson, Tennessee.
The church needs to hear that today. So many people, even in denomnational leadership, confuses the things evangelism is not, with what it’s suppose to be. I like the “sharing testimony” and the “result” aspect here the most–speaks so much truth.
I see the changed life/personal testimony presented as the gospel so many times I stopped counting. One man I know of in another small circle of ‘Christian’ bloggers refuses to discuss the sin issue at all, leaving that up to the Holy Spirit and those with the ‘gift’ of evangelism. Needless to say he also hates sovereign grace doctrine.
He has however given me opportunities to explain what those precious doctrines are in order to clarify his ‘misinformation’. No matter how gently I do that I am still hammered. But that’s OK.
Reblogged this on Take A Look.
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I can see why you reposted this. It is one of the most excellent short essays on evangelism that I have read.
I only have one other comment.
In the definition of evangelism, the author writes:
“The Gospel is clearly stating what God has done in Christ for the sinner, calling for repentance and belief.”
I haven’t figured out which comes first yet, repentance or belief. I think it is something that Christians argue over too much.
I’m thinking of the example of the woman caught in adultery. After all of the rocks hit the ground, Jesus told her that her sins were forgiven and that she should go and sin no more.
Did the woman believe? If she did so, when did she believe? If I remember the story right, the woman said no prayer of repentance before she was forgiven. She may have, but it is not recorded that I can recall.
Maybe I am ignorant, but I think that the whole argument over which comes first, repentance or belief, is a waste of time. I think it is a mystery. Christians on both sides of the argument can quote verses to back their point of view.
I have no problem with someone taking a position. I only wish they would handle the mysteries of God in a more civil manner.
Hope all is well.
I forgot to go back to Dawnmarie’s blog and make this comment, but it may as well be here too since this is where she got it.
I left a follow up statement at Dawnmarie’s blog.
Thats a good question. What does come first, repentance or belief? I think repentance comes before placing one’s trust in Christ as savior, since we are believing for ‘somethng’ – the forgiveness of sin. That’s just a thought. Thanks for stopping by!
I respect your position and the fact that you didn’t hit me over the head with a sledgehammer with it.
Back to the story of the adulterous woman. Was she believing for something?
It seems to me that she was brought before Jesus by force, or shall I say not by her own will. Was she believing for somethng? I would say by the text that she was not. She got caught (like we all do) and God showed up.
Which comes first, repentance or belief? I don’t know.
Thanks for your thoughts and maybe I gave you something to chew on.
Well, we can probably figure she was believing she was going to be stoned, for that was the law. She probably didn’t expect mercy, especially from the hand of another Jew, Jesus. Jesus told her to leave her life of sin and we can assume that meant he was telling her to repent, which is how he began his ministry – by telling the people to repent and believe. We also know that repentance is also a gift along with faith. You could call them twin graces.
I know they boh happen, and at the core they are something done in the heart. They could occur simultaneously as a sinner comes to Christ in an attitude of repentance. I also believe that a person can be truly repentant wihout having heard the actually preaching of the gospel message, which would put it before belief, since belief is connected to the gospel that tells what we are to believe.
I would say that repentance can come first, they can happen simultaneously at the time a person hears the gospel message, but that if saving faith is present, a repentant heart will be also.
You can always google the question and see what others have to say about it. Probably a range of answers. I try to stick with what we know for shre from the text of scripture.
It’s good talking to you!
I appreciate your thoughts. Like you, I try to stick with what we know for sure from the text of scripture.
On this question, I don’t see a definite answer. And I don’t understand why some theologians spend so much of thier time arguing about things like this when there are so many lost people out there who need to hear the simple gospel message.
That’s why brought up the subject.
It’s been nice talking to you too.
It’s been good talking to you too! We humans can argue about anything, There’s a human (probably sinful) desire to know all the answers.