This article is an electronic version of an article originally published in Cultic Studies Journal, 1985, Volume 2, Number 2, page 309. Please keep in mind that the pagination of this electronic reprint differs from that of the bound volume. This fact could affect how you enter bibliographic information in papers that you may write.
What is Evangelism?
When Christians talk about the activity of evangelism, they are referring to the practice of telling others about the person of Jesus Christ. The Lausanne Covenant, a paper which grew out of the 1974 Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization, defines evangelism as such:
To evangelize is to spread the good news that Jesus Christ died for our sins and was raised from the dead according to the scriptures, and that as reigning Lord, He now offers the forgiveness of sins and the liberating gift of the Holy Spirit to all who repent and believe. It is the proclamation of the historical, biblical Christ as Savior and Lord with a view to persuading people to come to Him personally and so be reconciled to God (italics added).
As this definition indicates, evangelism is an inherently persuasive activity. The goodness of the gospel is declarative and imperative. It is information and offer. Therefore, Christian communicators inevitably find themselves involved in seeking to convince others of the truth of their message. Christian communicators do this with a sense of sober responsibility, for they know that eternal destinies hang in the balance.
The Christian communicator, then, is an unashamed and conscientious persuader unashamed because of the good news of our message and conscientious because of the urgency of our message. We can do nothing less than seek to bring others to a verdict concerning Jesus Christ. We communicate to influence others to embrace the same Jesus who has embraced us.
Our persuasive efforts are grounded in humility and integrity. We recognize that to know the truth does not mean to possess the truth. As missionary D.T. Niles states, “evangelism is one beggar telling another beggar where to get food. The Christian does not offer out of his bounty. He has no bounty. He is simply a guest at his master’s table and, as evangelist, he calls others, too.”