What is Evangelism & Why Does It Matter?

two women sharing their faith over a cup of tea

Before Jesus ascended to heaven, He charged His followers to go and make disciples. His words are forever immortalized in what we call the Great Commission.

Jesus’ words call us to be evangelists, but what is evangelism?

What is Evangelism?

The Oxford Dictionary defines evangelism as the spreading of the Christian gospel by public preaching or personal witness.

Immediately, we can see that there are some key elements in this definition that we need to understand. Things like,

  • What is the Christian gospel?
  • What is meant by public preaching?
  • What is meant by personal witness?

Each of them are weighty so let’s look at them in turn as we seek to understand what is evangelism.

What is the Christian gospel?

What is evangelism and why is it important

To better understand the meaning of the word Christian, let’s go back to the first time the word was used. The word Christian is first used in Acts 11:26. The disciples of Christ had passionately shared the good news of salvation and many believers, both Jew and Gentile, were added to the faith.

The Greek word used was Christianós, (pronounced khris-tee-an-os’) and it simply means follower of Christ. In a time when many people were pagans and the Jews thought the believers little more than heretics, accepting this name required courage.

But it wasn’t the believers who chose the name for themselves,  it was given to them because of their actions. If someone were to give you a name as they did those of the early church,  would the name they choose be Christian?

Many people adopt the title of “Christian” but our behavior often tell another story.

What is meant by public preaching?

The Oxford Dictionary defines preaching as the delivery of a sermon or religious address to an assembled group of people, typically in church.

Public preaching then, is sharing your religious beliefs in a public forum. For some of us, the idea of sharing our faith in a public space is scary for a variety of reasons.

What is meant by personal witness?

A witness is someone who saw an event unfold or experienced.  When we say that someone is a witness, we typically expect them to have a story to tell. We know that have some insider knowledge and we want, or need, them to share it.

Okay, so now that we understand the technical definitions, let’s explain what evangelism is in simple terms. Evangelism is the sharing of your beliefs about God. It may involve sharing the good news about God or your personal experience with Him.

What is Evangelism in the Bible?

The New Testament issued in the arrival of the Messiah. At the beginning of His ministry, Jesus went throughout Galilee preaching the gospel (Matthew 4:23).

The word translated as gospel in the New Testament is the Greek euangélion, (pronounced yoo-ang-ghel’-ee-on) and it simply means gospel or a good message.

If you follow Jesus’ ministry, you’ll notice that He lived the Great Commission. He preached, taught, and after hearing the good news, people were baptized.

Why Is Evangelism Important?

Now that we know what is evangelism, let’s go back to the passage in Acts 11 to  better understand why evangelism is important.

This chapter in Acts offers us a snapshot into what life was like after Christ’s ascension. People were talking about the kingdom of God. They were sharing about the resurrection of Jesus. They were sharing their personal experiences with the gospel. It was their personal testimonies that resulted in the widespread of the good news.

It was because of their evangelistic efforts that you and I got access to the good news.

The Great Commission includes an evangelism component. We need to spread the good news about Jesus in all the world before He returns.

Types of Evangelism

As you would imagine there are different types of evangelism. We see evidence of this in what happened in Antioch leading up to the believers being designated as Christians.

The acts of evangelism witnessed at Antioch were:

  • preaching the Word of God to both Jews and Gentiles (Acts 11:19-20)
  • teaching large crowds of people (Acts 11:26)
  • acts of kindness (Acts 11:28-30)

These are the major types of evangelism but don’t underestimate the power of your personal testimony. Many souls have been claimed for Christ because someone was willing to share their faith. It can be as simple as being a witness about your faith.

Bible stories about evangelism

The Bible has many stories about evangelism but one of my favorites is the story of Little Maid and Naaman. You may have heard the story of Naaman, the commander of the Syrian army who had leprosy, a debilitating disease that had been incurable at the time.

During a raid of Israel, a young girl had been captured. The girl became the servant of Naaman’s wife. One day, she said to her mistress,

“If only my master were with the prophet who is in Samaria! For he would heal him of his leprosy.” – 2 Kings 5:3 NKJV

Mrs. Naaman told her husband who went to the king of Syria. The next thing you know, Naaman is standing before the king of Israel who’s tearing out his hair thinking the Syrians want to start a war.

But Little Maid was right. There was a prophet in Israel. Elisha told Naaman to dip himself in the Jordan River seven times and he would be clean. When Naaman, finally put his pride aside and listened, he experienced a miracle. His words to Elisha testified of his experience,

“Indeed, now I know that there is no God in all the earth, except in Israel” 2 Kings 5:15 NKJV.

Naaman returned to his land prepared to serve no other God but Jehovah (2 Kings 5: 17). Little Maid had successfully evangelized Naaman. Interestingly, she didn’t mention anything about God. She simply alluded to His power to heal through His prophets. You can read the full story in 2 Kings 5:1-19.

The Bible doesn’t give us a lot of details about Little Maid, we don’t even have her name, but there must have been something in her demeanor that caused Naaman to go to such drastic measures to see the prophet of her God.

I know some people will say it’s desperation, but I like to think Little Maid served Naaman’s wife in such a way that the couple were impressed by her faith. Little Maid’s evangelism encourage us to serve others well despite our circumstances as we may one day get a chance to share Christ with them.

What Does It Mean to Be A Good Witness?

At its most basic level, being a witness means that you saw something happen firsthand. This person is able to give an account because they know what happened.

When Jesus told His disciples: “You are My witnesses.” He meant it literally. They had walked with Him 3 ½ years. They knew the miracles that He had done, they saw how He had fulfilled all that had been prophesied about the Messiah.

It was now their job to go and tell others about Him. 2000 years later, none of us can say that we walked with Jesus for 3 ½ years, so what does it mean for us to be a witness?

It means that we have experienced Him.

We can’t tell people about the goodness of God if we don’t have any experience with it. We can’t speak about His love and mercy if we don’t know Him.

In order for us to be witnesses of God we have to be in a personal relationship with Him.

Are we being good witnesses? Can people look at us and see the God that we profess to serve? The God who selflessly sent His Son to die for people who had proven repeatedly that they cannot be trusted to remain faithful. The God who allows us to live though we do the things He tells us not to do and don’t do the things He asked.

Or, do we instead, reflect a God who allows each man to do what is right in his own eyes?

As children of God, we are called to offer our lives as a living sacrifice. It means therefore that should spend some time learning about who God is so we can understand who He wants us to be.

5 Ways to Evangelize Someone

Evangelism doesn’t have to involve you standing on the street corner handing out printed material or preaching over a loud speaker. Instead, we can simply be god witnesses for Christ. How can we be good witnesses? Here are five ways:

1. Be honest at all times – we should act with integrity in all our dealings. People should know that when we say something, we mean it. Our work should always be done ethically and morally.

2. Speak to people with respect – our aim should be build people up, not tear them down. Truth should be spoken in kindness and with love.

3. Live in a way that honors God – it’s said that people won’t read the Bible but they’ll read you. As believers, we may be the only contact that some people have with Jesus. Because of this, our actions matter.

Someone is always watching us: on our good days and on our bad ones. We have to consistently behave in a way that gives glory to God. Be a sermon in shoes.

4. Be kind in little ways – sometimes we do not give because we think we don’t have enough. We believe that if we’re not doing a big thing, then we should do nothing at all. I get it. I feel the same way. But God has shown me many times that the little acts of kindness count.

5. Be willing to share your faith – what would you say if someone asked you what you believe, or why you serve God? Peter encourages us to always have a defense for what we believe (1 Peter 3:15).

Do you have an answer? If you don’t, start figuring out what you believe and why. That way, you’ll be ready.

Download the free 5 Ways to Be a Witness printable.

What do you think it means to be a good witness? What does evangelism look like in your world? Share your answers with me in the comments below.

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