Imagine you have the secret of life in your grasp, the answers to all life’s questions — and the best news yet? You can spill that secret over and over, and it only gets bigger and better, not just for you but for everyone else, too. Good news: As Christians, we do have that “secret,” only it’s not a secret at all, but a truth meant to be shared.
The sharing of that truth — the good news of Jesus — is called evangelism.
What Is the Meaning of The Word Evangelism?
Evangelism means preaching, announcing, or otherwise communicating the gospel, our salvation. It’s delivering the message that Jesus Christ is not only the Son of God but also gave His life as a sacrifice for our sins. In doing so, He ensured eternal life for anyone who believes.
As we are told in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” And again, as Jesus tells us in John 14:6, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Accepting that good news and then telling others about it, so they know too, is the definition of evangelism.
Where Does the Word Evangelism Come From?
Evangelism comes from the Greek words euaggelion — a good message, or gospel — and euaggelizo — to announce, declare, bring, or preach this good news. Notice the word “angel” tucked inside the word — an angel is a messenger. Those who practice evangelism are indeed delivering a message: One of extraordinarily good news, life-giving and transformative, with eternal ramifications.
While the word “evangelism” isn’t mentioned a lot throughout the Bible, its theme is woven throughout the New Testament. All four gospels — Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John — are rooted in evangelism, and scholars often refer to the writers as “the evangelists.”
For Jesus had a message, one He came to earth to deliver, teach, die, and rise again for every single one of us. And we are tasked to deliver that message both by Jesus and every other apostle in no uncertain terms.
What Is Evangelism and What Is its Purpose?
Evangelism, which is spreading the gospel, is important to Jesus. As the Bible tells us, Jesus came so that we may live. Jesus wants everyone to know this truth so they, too, can be part of God’s holy kingdom. His directives to evangelize are peppered throughout Scripture.
In Matthew 28:19-20, Jesus tells us, “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.” We are to spread this good news everywhere — to the ends of the earth — secure that He is with us always.
Jesus says much the same thing in other verses: Matthew 9:37-38, Matthew 10:7-14, Matthew 12:30, Luke 19:10, and Luke 12:8, to name a few. In Mark 16:15, Jesus tells us to preach the gospel “to all creation.” The purpose is so others will know, too, and believe — and in that believing also receive eternal life.
As Jesus tells His disciples in John 5:24, “Very truly I tell you, whoever hears My word and believes Him who sent Me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life.” It is a gift available to all.
What Does the Bible Say about Evangelism?
In addition to Jesus’ own words about the importance of evangelism, His apostles said — and did — much the same. We know from the Book of Acts that after Christ’s resurrection, the apostles were filled with the Holy Spirit and scattered across the land, preaching the word (Acts 8:4-25).
In Romans, the apostle Paul spends time instructing the early church about the desperate need for evangelism so all can be saved. As Paul asks, “How, then, can they call on the One they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the One of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?” (Romans 10:14).
The message must be sent and delivered for it to be received, Paul writes — no matter the cost or risk. The apostle Peter urged us to “always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have” (1 Peter 3:15).
We also see examples of evangelism throughout the New Testament, particularly in the Book of Acts. For example, Acts 2 tells us how Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, preached boldly to the crowd, and about 3,000 people believed and were baptized (Acts 2:41).
In Acts 8, the Holy Spirit prompted Philip to approach an important Ethiopian official who was riding in his chariot south on a desert road toward Gaza. Philip obeyed, and when he heard the official reading the book of Isaiah, he used that to strike up a conversation that ultimately led to sharing the good news with the man — who believed and was baptized (Acts 8:26-40).
Also, in Acts is the story of how Paul and Silas shared the gospel with their jailer after a violent earthquake. The jailer believed, “he and his whole household” (Acts 16:34), and Paul and Silas baptized them all.
Should All Christians Evangelize?
Jesus was clear in His directives: We are to love God, love others, repent of our sins, and believe in Him, and spread this Good News throughout the land. God’s salvation was never meant to be a secret. Jesus preached to thousands in the name of the Father, warning, teaching, and healing them. Then He willingly died a very public, tortuous, humiliating death on a cross, flanked by criminals, as a sacrifice.
As He said in one of His final words on the cross, “It is finished” (John 19:30), a common term at that time in referring to the payment of a debt. With those words, Jesus was essentially saying, His death canceled out, or “finished,” our sin-debt. We had been redeemed.
Then, after His resurrection but before His ascension to heaven, Jesus told the apostles He was sending an “advocate” to be their helper. That advocate, the Holy Spirit, would help them carry out their assignment.
As Jesus said just before ascending to heaven, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).
That wasn’t a suggestion but a command: You will be my witnesses. You will spread my message. You will tell others so they, too, can live.
How to Evangelize Well in Different Situations
There are a number of approaches or methods of evangelism, as varied as any other form of communication. But the Bible tells us we’re the vessel: Through the power of the Holy Spirit, we are able to communicate the message of Jesus Christ without fail.
Keep in mind that words are not the only way to share the Good News. At some point, you will need to tell someone the gospel in a way they can understand and accept it as truth. But often, your actions can be an opening when it comes to people who adamantly oppose your faith — such as an atheist, someone who does not believe in God — or someone living a lifestyle in direct opposition to God’s ways. In these cases, servant evangelism — like food ministries, healing, or disaster response ministries—can be an introduction.
Scripture urges us to remember that when we believe and are counted among Christ’s followers, it is important that we represent our faith well. Jesus reminds us to “let your light shine” before others so they can see our good works and God can be glorified through us (Matthew 5:16). Paul, in 2 Corinthians 5:20, tells us we are “Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making His appeal through us.”
In addition, we must be nice to people in order to win them to belief and wise about seizing good opportunities to share the gospel. Paul says we should “be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone” (Colossians 4:5-6).
In Paul’s letter to his young mentee Timothy, he urges, “And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will” (2 Timothy 2:24-26).
Further, we must stay rooted in the Word of God and in our faith and the godly instruction we have received (2 Timothy 3:14-16). Not only does this help us in times of temptation, but it also helps us stay reminded of and filled with the Spirit so we can be used by Him at any moment.
Finally, we must be bold and confident about our faith. Our confidence is contagious, just like the Holy Spirit. In Acts 4:13, the leaders were struck by the boldness of Peter and John’s outreach and witness and knew without question the apostles had “been with Jesus.”
That boldness helped the church explode as more and more believers, attracted to that fervor, also believed and were themselves filled powerfully with the Holy Spirit. Believers began to pray for boldness (Acts 4:29-30); they knew it worked.
Other Bible Verses about the Importance of Evangelism
In addition to the above, here are a few more verses about why evangelism is important:
Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ (Romans 10:17).
For when I preach the gospel, I cannot boast, since I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! (1 Corinthians 9:16).
Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God (John 1:12).
“This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples” (John 15:8).
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Jessica Brodie is an award-winning Christian novelist, journalist, editor, blogger, and writing coach and the recipient of the 2018 American Christian Fiction Writers Genesis Award for her novel, The Memory Garden. She is also the editor of the South Carolina United Methodist Advocate, the oldest newspaper in Methodism. Learn more about her fiction and read her faith blog at jessicabrodie.com. She has a weekly YouTube devotional, too. You can also connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and more. She’s also produced a free eBook, A God-Centered Life: 10 Faith-Based Practices When You’re Feeling Anxious, Grumpy, or Stressed.
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