Saturday, July 15, 2006

No Missions Without Evangelism


What is the difference between evangelism and missions? Often when we speak of missions, we mean reaching across cultural barriers to speak the good news of God's forgiveness. Some people would define missions in terms of mercy ministry, but I would have to quibble with this definition. My own definition for missions is evangelism that takes the message of the grace of God to every nation tribe and tongue. Every tribe and tongue means those both near and far. Missions means taking seriously the cultural dynamics of the hearers of the message of God's grace. It means respecting the hearers of the message and taking their needs seriously.

For most people, evangelism is an unobtainable duty, something that they just don't know how to do. To explain the good news of God's grace in a winsome way is just not within their natural skill set. This is why the work of evangelism must be done in community. So evangelism must take place in a multi-layered fashion. The individual Christian must know the basics of what the good news is and be able to tell their story. Then the congregation must make it a priority to make it welcoming to those who are not believers. This means in part, planning special times when the individual can invite their friends and neighbors trusting they will hear the good news but not be embarrassed. Finally, denominations, parachurch organizations and mission societies must help churches band together for this task. The individual must have a infrastructure that they can depend upon if they are going reach out to others. It is sort of like a soldier going into battle, they can take risk of well-being and life, knowing their buddy will help them out, there is a communications channel call for help, there is a medivac unit and hospital if they get hurt, there is a supply company bring to the front lines food, ammo and other necessities. (I'm not saying those we would tell about the grace of God are our enemies.) The individual risks rejection and failure when they explain the good news. The message is precious and so is the relationship. If the message is rejected by this person that they care about, there is a risk the relationship may sour. It is necessary that a person who is willing to take the risks involved with evangelism be given training, motivation, purpose, and aid.

Evangelism means tellings the story of Jesus. The most common issue in evangelism that I encounter in discussing who Jesus is and what his grace means is the issue of power. To most of the people who I know who do not trust in the work of Christ as a means of forgiveness of sin, they do not do so because of power issues. If they acknowledge that something is a sin, then they are concerned this issue can be held over them. Those who define the problems are those who hold sway in a debate. These power issues are complex and are not easy to overcome. An essential element evangelism takes humility.

Without healthy evangelism, there is no missions.

Statistically, the activity that most successful in evangelizing is church planting. Please take my survey on church planting.

Technoratic Tags: church planting, evangelism, Christianity, humility, missions
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