Formation and Evangelism: Caveat and definitions

Before I start explaining my thoughts, I want to say this loud and clear: I’m not against evangelism. I love seeing people who are good at sharing the Gospel sharing it with those they come into contact with. It’s truly an art.

I don’t, however, believe that everyone needs to do that. This is a distinction of Dave’s and I’ve found it immensely useful. There’s a difference between evangelism and witnessing. Evangelism encompasses acts done with the specific intention of converting people (in this case, to Christianity). Witnessing, on the other hand, is a lifestyle. It is the living of a distinctly Christian life. It is being genuine and authentic to one’s belief in Christ through his or her lifestyle, the choices they make, etc. Hopefully, people will notice this. Sometimes, they don’t. I’m not sure I would, if I were not a Christian and my friends were, but I can be dense like that sometimes. Living the life of a witness also means being willing to share about Christ when it is appropriate in the context of the rest of a daily life lived for him.

All Christians are called to be witnesses. Evangelism is a specific task (for lack of a better word) that some witnessing Christians are called to live out on top of that. Others have the specific tasks of pastoring, writing, speaking, keeping accounts, doing taxes, nursing, etc.

I know that this is, so far, text-light. I’m not quoting a lot of scripture or anything else. Most of that is because I don’t have these things memorized and I don’t have them readily available on the computer and in the location where I’m doing most of my writing. So if there’s a specific point that you’d like to see where I’m coming from in the text, let me know and I’ll dig it up.

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4 Comments

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4 responses to “Formation and Evangelism: Caveat and definitions

  1. To quote your own post, could one not also say that evanglism…

    “is the living of a distinctly Christian life. It is being genuine and authentic to one’s belief in Christ through his or her lifestyle, the choices they make, etc. Hopefully, people will notice this. Sometimes, they don’t…. Living the life of [evangelism] also means being willing to share about Christ when it is appropriate in the context of the rest of a daily life lived for him.”

    Given this definition, I’m having a hard time distinguishing between evangelist and witness, except the title.

    I understand the “evangelist” is part of the fivefold (or fourfold to some) ministry of Eph 4, but I think that the church today gives too narrow a definition of who an evangelist is and what she does.

  2. My point is that what that quote says is not evangelism, but witnessing. Maybe this will help. A biblical definition of evangelism seems to indicate living with the specific intent to share the gospel as much as possible, while living the life of a witness seems to include an openness to sharing the gospel if the topic or the person seems open to it, but focuses more on living, in general, Christian-ly.

  3. Not sure if this helps or hinders, but St Francis of Assisi is often quoted as saying, “Preach the Gospel at all times; use words of necessary.”

    Modern scholarship tends regard this as a later invention, probably based on his recorded words in Chapter XVII of his Rule of 1221, where Francis told the friars not to preach unless they had received the proper permission to do so. Then he added, “Let all the brothers, however, preach by their deeds.”

    Nonetheless, it seems to have a great deal to say about witnessing. I think my very favourite passage in Scripture about witnessing is John 4, where the Samaritan woman Jesus met at the well went off to her people, and before even beginning to get her tangled sex-life straightened out, witnessed so effectively that “many Samaritans from that city believed in him because of the woman’s testimony…”

    Grace. It’s all about the incredible economy of grace. Without grace, evangelism is so much tub-thumping, and witnessing, an exercise in self-righteousness!

  4. “…use words of necessary.”

    Sorry! Typo! I meant “IF necessary.”

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