evangelism

mission

[mish-uhn]

Organized effort to spread the Christian faith. St. Paul evangelized much of Asia Minor and Greece, and the new religion spread rapidly along the trade routes of the Roman Empire. The advance of Christianity slowed with the disintegration of the Roman Empire after AD 500 and the growth of Arab power in the 7th–8th century, but Irish and Anglo-Saxon missionaries continued to spread the faith in western and northern Europe, while missionaries of the Greek church in Constantinople worked in eastern Europe and Russia. Missions to Islamic areas and Asia began in the medieval period, and when Spain, Portugal, and France established overseas empires in the 16th century, the Roman Catholic church sent missionaries to the Americas and the Philippines. A renewed wave of Roman Catholic missionary work in the 19th century focused on Africa and Asia. Protestant churches were slower to undertake foreign missions, but in the 19th and early 20th century there was a great upsurge in Protestant missionary activity. Missionary work continues today, though it is often discouraged by the governments of former European colonies that have won independence.

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Evangelism is the Christian practice of proselytisation. The intention of most evangelism is to effect eternal salvation to those who do not follow the Christian God; others believe it is to inform others about the Kingdom of God. Evangelism is done in obedience to the Great Commission, a command from Jesus to his disciples to proselytise, according to accounts in the New Testament. Christians who specialise in evangelism are known as evangelists, whether in they are in their home communities or acting as missionaries in the field. Some Christian traditions consider evangelists to be in a leadership position, and they may be found preaching to large meetings, and in governance roles. Christian groups who actively encourage evangelism are sometimes known as evangelistic or evangelist.

The communication of Christian faith to new geographical areas and cultures is often referred to as evangelisation, or specifically, world evangelisation.

Etymology of evangelism and evangelist

The word evangelist comes from the Koine Greek word εὐαγγέλιον (transliterated as "euangelion") via Latin "Evangelium", as used in the canonical titles of the four Gospels, authored by Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John (also known as the Four Evangelists). The Greek word εὐαγγέλιον originally meant a reward for good news given to the messenger (εὔ = "good", ἀγγέλλω = "I bring a message"; the word angel is of the same root) and later "good news". The latter term gives rise to the word "Gospel".[cite]

Our modern word "Gospel" comes from the old English word, "Godspell." In old English "spell" meant "word" (we carry this meaning also in our word "spelling"). So in other words "Godspell" meant, "God word" or "Word of God." Therefore the Gospel is the good news found in the Word of God.

Evangelism or proselytism

While evangelism is usually regarded as converting non-Christians to Christianity, this is not always the proper usage of the word. If converting to Christianity includes services or material benefits it is called proselytism

On the other hand, converting Christians (e.g., Orthodox) who are not churchgoers to another Christian denomination is commonly seen as evangelism, not proselytism.

Catholic missionary work in Russia is commonly seen as evangelism, not proselytism. Archbishop Kondrusiewicz openly stated "that proselytism is absolutely unacceptable and cannot constitute a strategy for the development of our structures either in Russia or in any other country in the world."

Especially regarding claims by Orthodox church that spreading the faith and receiving converts amounts to proselytism Catholic church CDF issued document called " Doctrinal Note on some aspects of evangelisation" which states that evangelism is "an inalienable right and duty, an expression of religious liberty ...", document added that "The incorporation of new members into the Church is not the expansion of a power group, but rather entrance into the network of friendship with Christ which connects heaven and earth, different continents and age. It is entrance into the gift of communion with Christ ..."

Reasons for Evangelism

According to the Christian Bible, during his last days on earth Jesus commanded his disciples as follows:

Other translations render the phrase “make disciples of all nations” in the above quotation as “teach all nations.” Jesus is also quoted in the Gospel of Mark saying

These are two main passages of the New Testament from God that commands everyone who believes in Christ Jesus to preach the Gospel.

Evangelists

Sometimes, the regular minister of a church is called a preacher in a way that other groups would typically use the term pastor. The evangelist in some churches is one that travels from town to town and from church to church, spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ. Many Christians of various theological perspectives would call themselves 'evangelists' because they are spreaders of the gospel. Many churches believe one of their major functions is to function as evangelists to spread the evangelist belief that Jesus is savior of humanity.

The title of evangelist is often associated with those who lead large meetings like those of Billy Graham, possibly in tents or existing church buildings, or those who address the public in street corner preaching, which targets listeners who happen to pass nearby on the street. It can also be done in small groups or even on a one-to-one basis, but actually it is simply one who spreads the gospel. Increasingly, the Web enables anyone to become an Internet evangelist.

The term is also used in a non-religious sense to describe an individual who takes up a cause and convinces others to it (see technology evangelist). Guy Kawasaki, an author and venture capitalist, describes evangelists as individuals who promote a particular product. At Apple Computer, he was part of a team of Apple evangelists that convinced programmers to develop software on the Macintosh Platform. In The Human Fabric (Aviri, 2004), Bijoy Goswami describes the "Evangelist" as one of three core energies in people and society.

Perspectives on evangelism

Though there is some controversy concerning missionary activity and possible implications of "cultural imperialism", Christian D. T. Niles characterised evangelism as "… one beggar telling another beggar where to find bread."

Many modern TV "evangelists" are prone to scandal, like Jimmy Swaggart and several were under investigation in 2007 by the U.S. congress for their lavish lifestyles.

Evangelism and missions

Throughout most of its history, Christianity has been spread evangelistically, though the extent of evangelism has varied significantly between Christian communities and denominations. Evangelism and apostolic ministry often go hand in hand. As mentioned earlier, evangelism comes from the Ancient Greek εὐαγγέλιον (evangelion) meaning good news, often translated gospel; thus an evangelist is one who shares the "good news". An ἀπόστολος (apostolos) is literally "one who goes" and refers to the missionary calling. Since missionaries often travel to areas or people groups where Jesus is not yet known, they frequently take on an evangelistic role. But the apostolic or missionary calling is not necessarily the same (and it is a misnomer and misinterpretation to equate them), as there are many who serve in missionary, church planting, and ministry development roles who have an apostolic calling or serve in an apostolic role but whose primary duty is not evangelism.

See also

References

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