What is Evangelism?
This blog is part of a series written by individuals from across Church Army and beyond. In this series, we will explore the concept of evangelism, what it means, and its significance in today’s world. This blog was written by Elli Wort, Head of Initial Training for Church Army UK & Ireland.
I’ve recently had the unusual experience of training people in evangelism and doing some evangelism at exactly the same time.
I’ve been running Church Army’s Faith Pictures course at my church in York, where I was expecting to help members of the congregation work out how to share their faith stories with others. But among the group were also some people who come to our church’s Warm Welcome space: people who aren’t Christians, and who are vulnerable or homeless. So this gave me a unique space to mix theory and action in one go.
Talking of theory, one of the best descriptions of the theory or theology, of evangelism I’ve ever found is Inside Out: the Report of Church Army’s Theology of Evangelism Working Party (published in 2004).
Inside Out argues that there should be a purpose and intended result to evangelism. Evangelism is about making Jesus Christ known, and we want to enable people to serve Christ as King and Lord. And this isn’t just about individual salvation: we want to see changed lives which will contribute to a changed world. Inside Out is also clear that evangelism not just involves words and actions, but also presence: ‘deeds make words credible, words help deeds communicate the love of God, while presence makes that love relevant to local contexts’.
So, does this theory actually work in practice? Is this what I found evangelism actually to be, when helping Christians share their faith as well as sharing our faith with people who aren’t Christians?
Well, no-one made an explicit confession to serve Jesus as King and Lord, but the Warm Welcome members certainly made lots of connections, seeing where God had been present in their lives and where God is at work in the world around us. And I certainly saw how the mix of words, action and presence works in practice: these warm welcome members were at Faith Pictures because they knew the church was a real presence in their lives, and how it showed love by providing food, community and a warm space throughout winter.
I also noticed how doing evangelism changed me personally. I would have been very much in my comfort zone to run the Faith Pictures course with Christians: actually sharing my faith with others pushed me outside my comfort zone and grew me as a person. When we do evangelism, it doesn’t just change people’s lives and change communities, it changes us as well.