I just got done reading a book that someone challenged me to read. I was hesitant to read it, but broke down and thought I could learn and grow from the book. It wasn’t a bad read and I was challenged in my leadership in a couple areas because of the read.
The thing that really bothered me about the book, and I am seeing it more and more throughout Christianity is that there really is no difference between outreach and evangelism. What I mean is this, evangelism is equated with filling the pews on a Sunday morning and nothing more. That to me is outreach, not evangelism. Non-christian organizations conduct outreach in order to get a larger customer base – they do not conduct evangelism. I am not saying that the church becomes like organizations that just conduct outreach to expand their customer base (I am very opinionated about this and will address this is a different post).
Now I define evangelism and the engagement of it as follows: to equip people to go on mission with the Gospel of Jesus Christ throughout their world. This means there should training and equipping in the different styles of sharing the faith so that people can reach out for Jesus in organic ways. Great equipping resources include: Organic Outreach (becoming my favorite), Evangelism Explosion, Contagious Christian, and even apologetics courses. I believe that when this is happening, the church will grow because the focus is building the Kingdom and not filling the pews.
It was very frustrating to read this book with this view because I am seeing that this is becoming more the view and approach to what is defined as evangelism in the western church. I understand the reason why – “if they come to church we can share the Gospel.” But this short circuits the Lord working in and through individuals to grow while they share their faith. I also believe that this is contrary to the scriptural command to GO and make disciples. Evangelism = sending people. Evangelism = sharing the Good News of Jesus. Evangelism is not filling the pews. Evangelism is not attractional ministry.
So the challenge for all of us is this. If you are follower of Jesus, know and understand the Gospel of Jesus Christ and pray for opportunities to share this with others in your sphere of influence. And YES invite people to church with you, but please do not mistake this for evangelism because it is not.