Evangelism isn’t always understood, or it often has a bad image. Let me make a few points concerning Christian evangelism.
Evangelism can be simply defined as sharing our faith, or telling others about Jesus. There are several aspects to evangelism: sharing our faith, welcoming visitors to our congregation (hospitality), and making disciples (spiritual formation, equipping the saints). We can share our faith by inviting an unchurched friend to church or a church event, or telling someone about our faith when there is an appropriate opening.
Evangelism is an important aspect of the Christian faith. Evangelism goes back to Jesus, who spent most of his time inviting, welcoming, and teaching. Evangelism was a new concept then, since the Jews did not evangelize. 1,700 years after Christ, John Wesley became a traveling evangelist, doing those same things throughout England: inviting, welcoming, and teaching. Wesley was not converting people to Christianity, but his efforts were in the realm of spiritual formation. The people of his day were going through the motions, but there was no spiritual vibrancy. Wesley’s goal was to bring people into his prayer societies where they would pray, study the Bible, and keep one another accountable.
So evangelism runs deep, both in Christianity and in Methodism. There are hindrances to evangelism today, but we mustn’t let those hindrances become barriers to us. We have a higher calling that transcends these hindrances – we have a charge to keep that comes from God. The Apostle Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 4:1-2, which seems to have a certain sense of urgency about it:
In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I solemnly urge you: proclaim the message; be persistent, whether the time is favorable or unfavorable; convince, rebuke, and encourage, with the utmost patience in teaching. NRSV
So let us take on that same sense of urgency, knowing that so many people, right in our own circle of influence, need Jesus. We can be used by God as his life-saving instruments – snatching people from the grip of the world’s ways and helping to change their lives forever. What a privilege it is to serve God in this way.