Feedback on "What is Evangelism?"

December 10, 2008

Thanks for your comments and feedback on this little series of posts on "The Gospel Course." My friend P.J. Tibayan wrote in and said: "I like the definition of evangelism and think that it is accurate.  I think the "so that" helps us remember what we’re aiming at.  I do want to say, however, that putting the "so that" in the definition might make someone think they are failing at evangelism when the aim is not realized.  So though I’d use that definition, I’d be quick to emphasize that our responsibility, and therefore the standard of failure or faithfulness, is explaining the news clearly so that they understand the news.  We aim at true conversion, but we understand that we are not responsible to convert, but to faithfully witness with love and honesty."

Thanks P.J. Yes, I fully agree. J.I. Packer discusses this very issue (in a typically helpful manner) in his chapter "Puritan Evangelism" in A Quest for Godliness (page 291). My definition of evangelism in The Gospel Course, is swiped from him.

Here it is again. "Evangelism is – To bear witness to Jesus Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit, so that [1] people may come to put their trust in God, through Christ; [2] to acknowledge Him as their Savior; and [3] to serve Him as their King, [4] in the fellowship of His Church."

The Anglican document Packer quoted (dating from 1918) put it this way: "so to present Christ Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit, that men shall come to put their trust in God through Him, to accept Him as their Saviour, and serve Him as their King in the fellowship of His Church." Packer says this is a good definition "with one word changed (‘may’ for ‘shall’, so that evangelism is defined in terms of purpose rather than results)."

So, he’s making the same point that P.J. makes, and I concur heartily with both Dr. Packer and P.J. My "so that" in the definition is deliberately included to indicate our purpose, not the invariable result of faithful evangelism.