What Is Evangelism? – In The Transition Zone

Latino Church

In previous blogs I described in some detail the Anabaptist vision of the church.  Drawing upon the writing of many in the Anabaptist tradition, I described the church (using the word of Stanley Grenz) as an “eschatological covenant community.”[i]  By this I mean that the church is a special community, standing in covenant, serving as a sign of the divine reign of God. 

After offering this description of the nature of the church, I then went on to depict the purpose and mandate of the church. The purpose of the church, I declared, is to bring glory to God.  How does the church fulfill its purpose?  By obediently seeking to carry out the mandate entrusted to it by the Lord.  What is that mandate?    The mandate is three-fold.  The first aspect of the church’s mandate is directed toward God—worship.  The second aspect of the church’s mandate is the community directed task of edification.  The final element of the church’s mandate is directed toward the world—outreach. 

The primary focus of these next several blogs will be on this last component of the church’s mandate, namely outreach. At the conclusion of the last chapter I characterized the task of outreach in a two pronged fashion.   The first prong involves serving the world.  I spoke about the importance of the church engaging in acts of service on behalf of the world.  These acts of service might include social ministries such as feeding the hungry and sheltering the homeless.  In addition the church’s service to the world might also involve social action—attempts to foster structural changes aimed at producing a more just society.  

The second prong of the church’s outreach mandate is the task of evangelism—the verbalization of the gospel message.  This will be the focus of these final blogs on this topic.  My intention is to develop an understanding of evangelism based upon the ecclesiological foundation of Anabaptism.  Near the end of this series, I will offer several areas where I believe Anabaptism can bring renewal to the church in “the transition zone.”

Topic I will be writing about in upcoming blogs include the following:

                        What is Evangelism?

                        The Essential Elements of the Christian Gospel

                        Jesus the Risen Lord

                        Jesus the Proclaimer of the Kingdom

                        A Basic Account of the Gospel

                        The Goal of the Evangelizing Process

                        The Kingdom of God


                        Incorporation Into the Christian Community

                        Aspects of Christian Community

                        Anabaptist Ecclesiology and Evangelism in a Postmodern Period

                        Christian Community in a Age of Individualism

                        Separation from Secular Society

                        Making Jesus The Center Of Discipleship

What is Evangelism?

            The word “evangelism” is derived from the Greek word euaggelion, which means “gospel,” “good tidings,” or “good news.” The verbal forms of euaggelizesthai, mean “to bring” or “to announce good news.”  Normally, in the New Testament, euaggelizesthai is translated with a form of the verb “to preach.” The etymology of the word suggests that evangelism has something to do with proclaiming or announcing the message of the gospel.  This being the case, a more complete definition of evangelism will certainly address the following pertinent issues:  (1) the content of the gospel, and (2) the goal of the evangelizing process.   With the Anabaptist tradition and these pertinent issues in mind, I offer the following definition of evangelism.  Evangelism is the process by which Christian disciples ascertain the essential elements of the Christian gospel for the purpose of communicating that good news to others, inviting them to become Christ’s obedient disciples in the fellowship of His church. 

[i] Stanley J. Grenz, Theology for the Community of God, (Nashville, Tennessee:  Broadman and Holman Publishers, 1994), 604.

[ii] James Wm. McClendon, Jr.  Systematic Theology:  Doctrine.  Vol. 2. (Nashville, Tennessee:  Abingdon Press, 1994), 103.

[iii] These two aspects of the gospel are often referred to as the gospel about Jesus and the gospel of Jesus.  I am rejecting these terms because they have been used at times by Protestant to indicated that there are two gospels—the one of Jesus considered superior, and the Pauline perversion of the gospel referred to as the gospel about Jesus.  Such a view cannot be supported exegetically. See Maxie D. Dunnam, Congregational Evangelism:  A Pastor’s View.  (Nashville, Tennesee:  Discipleship Resource, 1992), 2.

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