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Evangelism refers to the practice of relaying information about a particular set of beliefs to others who do not hold those beliefs. The term is often used in reference to Christianity.
Christians who specialize in evangelism are known as evangelists whether they are in their home communities or living as missionaries in the field. Some Christian traditions consider evangelists to be in a leadership position; they may be found preaching to large meetings or in governance roles. Christian groups who actively encourage evangelism are sometimes known as evangelistic or evangelist. The scriptures do not use the word evangelism, but evangelist is used in Acts 21:8, Ephesians 4:11, and 2 Timothy 4:5.
The communication of Christian faith to new geographical areas and cultures is often referred to as evangelization, or specifically, world evangelization.
The word evangelist comes from the Koine Greek word εὐαγγέλιον (transliterated as "euangelion") via Latinised "Evangelium", as used in the canonical titles of the four Gospels, authored by Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John (also known as the Four Evangelists). The Greek word εὐαγγέλιον originally meant a reward for good news given to the messenger (εὔ = "good", ἀγγέλλω = "I bring a message"; the word angel is of the same root) and later "good news".
The verb form of euangelion, euangelizo (transliterated "evangelism"), was used rarely in Greek literature outside the New Testament, making its meaning more difficult to ascertain. Parallel texts of the Gospels of Luke and Mark reveal a synonymous relationship between the verb euangelizo and a Greek verb "kerusso" which means "to proclaim".
While evangelism is usually regarded as converting non-Christians to Christianity, this is not always the proper usage of the word. If converting to Christianity includes services or material benefits it is called proselytism. Different denominations follow different theological interpretations which reflect upon the point of who is doing the actual conversion being the Evangelist or the Holy Spirit or both. Calvinists only believe the soul is converted if the Holy Spirit is effective in the act.
Catholic missionary work in Russia is commonly seen as evangelism, not proselytism. Archbishop Kondrusiewicz openly stated "that proselytism is absolutely unacceptable and cannot constitute a strategy for the development of our structures either in Russia or in any other country in the world." Especially regarding claims by Orthodox church that spreading the faith and receiving converts amounts to proselytism Catholic Church Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued document called "Doctrinal Note on some aspects of evangelisation" which states that evangelism is "an inalienable right and duty, an expression of religious liberty ...", document added that "The incorporation of new members into the Church is not the expansion of a power group, but rather entrance into the network of friendship with Christ which connects heaven and earth, different continents and age. It is entrance into the gift of communion with Christ...."
In recent history, certain Bible passages have been used to promote evangelism. William Carey, in a book entitled, 'An Enquiry into the Obligations of Christians to Use Means for the Conversion of the Heathens' popularised a quotation, where, according to the Bible, during his last days on earth Jesus commanded his eleven disciples (the apostles) as follows:
Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."
— Matthew 28:19,20 NIV
However, recent scholarship by Chris Wright and others has suggested that such activity is promoted by the entire Bible, or at least the wider term 'mission', although the meaning of the word 'mission' and its relationship to 'evangelism' is disputed amongst Christians.
Reception and Controversies
Evangelism is not always received positively. People who are not interested in converting to Christianity may find such interventions by religious preachers and their respective movements to be patronizing and bothersome. Saint Stephen was one of the first evangelists to be killed by people who rejected his words.
Dramas such as Heaven's Gates, Hell's Flames have gained enormous popularity since the 1980s. These dramas typically depict fictional characters who die and learn whether they will go to heaven or hell. Other entertainment-based Christian evangelism events include sporting exhibitions, wherein professional athletes entertain crowds. At some point a gospel presentation is usually given.
In the 1970s, The Power Team spawned an entire genre of Christian entertainment based on strong-man exploits mixed with a Christian message and usually accompanied by an opportunity to respond with a prayer for salvation.
The Christian music industry has also played a significant role in modern evangelism. Rock (and other genres) concerts in which the artist(s) exhort non-believing attendees to pray a prayer for salvation have become common, and just as common are concerts that are focused on activity not necessarily on prayer and conversion, thus forming an environment that is not driven by conversion, but instead relaying of a message.
Sometimes, the regular minister of a church is called a preacher in a way that other groups would typically use the term pastor. The evangelist in some churches is one that travels from town to town and from church to church, spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ. Many Christians of various theological perspectives would call themselves "evangelists" because they are spreaders of the gospel. Many churches believe one of their major functions is to function as evangelists to spread the evangelist belief that Jesus is savior of humanity.
The title of evangelist is often associated with those who lead large meetings like those of Billy Graham, possibly in tents or existing church buildings, or those who address the public in street corner preaching, which targets listeners who happen to pass nearby. It can also be done in small groups or even on a one-to-one basis, but actually it is simply one who spreads the gospel. Increasingly, the internet enables anyone to become an Internet evangelist.
The New Testament urges believers to speak the gospel clearly, fearlessly, graciously, and respectfully whenever an opportunity presents itself (see Colossians 4:2–6, Ephesians 6:19–20, and I Peter 3:15).
Throughout most of its history, Christianity has been spread evangelistically, though the extent of evangelism has varied significantly between Christian communities, and denominations. Evangelism, apologetics and apostolic ministry often go hand in hand. An ἀπόστολος (apostolos) is literally "one who is sent" and refers to the missionary calling of being sent into the world. An example of an interplay between Evangelism and Apologetics can be seen in the USA when upon door to door Evangelism the prospect is an unbeliever and challenges the Evangelist wherein the Evangelist then follows into the role of the Apologist in defense of their faith with the hope that Evangelism may be restarted. Since missionaries often travel to areas or people groups where Jesus is not yet known, they frequently take on an evangelistic role. But the apostolic or missionary calling is not necessarily the same (and it is a misnomer and misinterpretation to equate them), as there are many who serve in missionary, church planting, and ministry development roles who have an apostolic calling or serve in an apostolic role but whose primary duty is not evangelism.
- Catholic action
- Catholic charismatics
- Charismatic renewal
- Emmanuel Community
- Evangelical Catholic
- Evangelical environmentalism
- Good news (Christianity)
- Internet evangelist
- Open-air preaching
- Romans Road
- Worldwide Faith Missions
Notes and references
- ^ Bible as a Second Language, webpage, retrieved November 5, 2008
- ^ "Hindu extremists accuse world's largest floating book fair of Christian proselytism". asianews. 28 April 2006. http://www.asianews.it/view.php?l=en&art=6025. Retrieved 10 January 2009.
"Curb proselytism in Andhra Pradesh". News Today. 4 July 2006. http://www.hvk.org/articles/0706/44.html. Retrieved 10 January 2009.
- ^ "Russia's conversion does not require leaving Orthodox faith: Catholic prelate". Catholic World News. 14 May 2007. http://www.catholicculture.org/news/features/index.cfm?recnum=51118. Retrieved 10 January 2009.
- ^ "Vatican defends duty to evangelize and accept converts". Reuters. 14 December 2007. http://www.reuters.com/article/topNews/idUSL1463542120071214?feedType=RSS&feedName=topNews&rpc=22&sp=true. Retrieved 10 January 2009.
- ^ "Doctrinal Note on some aspects of Evangelism". Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. December 3, 2007. Archived from the original on December 20, 2007. http://web.archive.org/web/20071220172248/http://www.catholic-ew.org.uk/PDF%27s/evangelisation_note_english_141207.pdf.
- ^ Wright, Christopher (2006). The Mission of God. IVP Academic. ISBN 0830825711.
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