Evangelism today tends to be equated with great campaigns, but this type is not to be found in the Bible. People support it because it produces thousands of decisions. However, many of these are superficial and do not last. The invitation system encourages people to come forward to make an immediate public profession and to believe that they are now Christians. They are told that it is sinful to doubt. Yet our faith must be in Christ not in our decision. Evangelists attempt to do the Holy Spirit’s work for Him. But superficial decisions harden people’s hearts against the gospel leaving them thinking that they are Christians when they have never been born again. Many others turn away from Christianity thinking that they have tried it and found it false.
The base for evangelism
New Testament evangelism is based in the local church and is an ongoing activity. In Acts 2 we find 120 Spirit-filled believers speaking the gospel to all. At first, the church was confined to Jerusalem. God then allowed persecution with the effect that the Christians were scattered abroad “preaching the word” (Acts 8:4). The word used for “preaching” here is the one from which we get the term evangelise. It means “gossiping” the gospel. In the following verse we are told that “Philip went down to Samaria, and preached Christ unto them” (Acts 8:5). This word for “preached” means to herald or proclaim.
Paul began his evangelism in the synagogue where he had a ready-made congregation of people who had a background knowledge to which he could appeal. For example in Ephesus three months were spent reasoning in the synagogue and then, with the opposition increasing, he moved to the hall of Tyrannus where he continued for two years (Acts 19:9-10). As well as the public preaching he went from house to house (Acts 20:20-21). In Athens the Apostle spoke daily in the market to those who would listen and even preached to the Areopagus (the council for judging in matters of religion) when the opportunity arose. As a base for our evangelism we need a sound church where the great themes of the gospel are preached.
All must evangelise
There is a tendency in our day to leave everything to the experts but in a healthy church every Christian is an evangelist. To leave evangelism to the minister would be a disaster. The woman of Samaria, without any training, was a most effective missionary: “Come, see a man which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ?” (Jn.4:29). “Many of the Samaritans of that city believed on him for the saying of the woman” (4:39).
The requirements for an evangelist