Do We Still Need Evangelism?

I had a thought while I was at Starbucks today. I was reading a book for Doctrine of Holiness, and this thought that has nothing at all to do with the book came into my head. Do we still need evangelism?

My reasoning is this: in the great commission, which is the primary biblical justification for evangelism, Jesus commands the disciples to go and make disciples of all nations. Many missionaries have used this as a battle cry, and we’ve taken Christianity basically everywhere. So now what? It seems like Christians have infiltrated nearly every occupation, race, political affiliation, and really every geographical location. (There was even a Christian on the Lost island, but unfortunately he was killed by the Smoke Monster in season 3…)

So it seems like the original idea of evangelism worked. I don’t know to much about Christianity oversees, but it seems like everyone in America knows about Christianity, about Jesus and the Church. I would bet that a high percentage of everyday Americans could give a pretty basic theology of Christianity and be fairly accurate. So if the definition of evangelism is “telling the world about Jesus”, then why do we still need evangelism? It sure seems like people who stand on street corners with a bullhorn or handing out tracts or going door to door aren’t telling anybody anything new.

I believe we either have to redefine evangelism or do away with it all together. Because the problem is, the people that are still evangelizing are really annoying and not doing so great for our image. Evangelism as we know it must fundamentally change, because everybody already knows who Jesus is, or at least they know about the Jesus that has been presented to them. Whether or not this portrayal is correct is incredibly important, but I don’t want to address it at length. here…another time, perhaps.

But what I will say is this: as cliche as it sounds, the Church in America no longer needs to tell people about Jesus, the Church needs to show people Jesus. And I’m not talking about just the little things like helping people move or sitting by the awkward guy at lunch. I mean corporally, the Church needs to show the world who Jesus is by feeding the hungry, eradicating poverty, clothing the naked, caring for creation, etc. You know, the kind of world change things we could accomplish if we cared enough to try. The way I see it, the Church is an enormous body of people that are supposed to be united around one Person, who taught compassion, love, and peace. If any group in the world has the potential to fix the world’s problems, it’s the Church.

To quote a favorite author of mine, or rather to paraphrase him, people who “evangelize” typically ask two questions: “If you died tonight, do you know where you would go?” and “If the world ended today, what would happen to you?” When really, the better questions are,  “If you lived for 50 more years, what kind of person would you want to become?” and “If the earth was around for another 500 years, what kind of world do we want to create?” That’s the kind of evangelism that the world needs, if you can call it that.

But that’s just me. What do you think?

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7 thoughts on “Do We Still Need Evangelism?

  1. Good points, Kevin! For me, it is helpful to look at where we got our word for “evangelism”. This word comes from the Greek word euangelion, which means “gospel”. By adding the ‘-ism’ we’ve given action to this word and turned it into a verb. So, how we practice and live is essential to evangelism. I would say that in evangelism we are attempting to participate in a culture (a very specific, holy, and Christ-oriented culture), and invite others to join us.

    Some of the ways I think about this are here in an older post of mine: http://jmplatter.wordpress.com/2010/01/23/where-you-would-go-if-you-die-today/

    I enjoy your thoughts and look forward to future posts!

  2. I agree that in America there is really no need for evangelism. What about in the countries in the world that don’t know about Christ or Christianity. I may not be very far in my studies but I have learned that there are some unreached people groups in the world. So towards that effort I would say that we should continue evangelical training. It is important that the whole world knows of Christ. At least that’s what I think the Great Commission meant.

  3. Agree that our actions say more than our words, but that is not new is it? I think Evangelism took a wrong turn when it became fear mongering. I think we need to be ready to share the relationship we have with Jesus at least as readily as we would any cherished earthly relationship. To me, that is evangelism. So we need to know who we love and why. That said, there are still huge numbers of people even in the USA who, while they may know something of who Jesus was and the basic tenets of Christianity do not realize the benefits or implications of a committed relationship with Him.

  4. well, apart from the stuff i suggested in my second to last paragraph, i think that on an individual level, Christians just need to be less concerned with getting people to pray a sinner’s prayer and more concerned with relationships. i heard a great sermon on it once, and the point was that the more Christians are involved in the lives of non-believers, if they are seeking, the more they will discover the various aspects of Christianity. And a lot of times, and I’ve read very interesting stories about this, people will come to a point where they say, “I think I’ve been a Christian for a few days now, because I really buy this whole thing.”

  5. i completely agree, but i also think we make a mistake before that point. i think we’re in way too big of a rush to get people to the altar to have a crisis experience that we don’t let people “count the cost” like Jesus talked about… we tell them one aspect of Christianity that sounds good and then emotionally deceive people into a decision without telling them the rest of it. Not to day that we do this intentionally or with evil intentions, but this it seems to pan out. and then we don’t disciple them. seems like a flawed system to me.

  6. Well written. I think we miss the boat because we don’t make disciples, we make new Christians and let them figure the rest out on their own. Discipling them makes disciples. getting them “saved” aint enough. Just my thought… Don’t disagree with anything you wrote, for the most part.

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