The entire word grouping of evangelical, evangelism, and evangelistic is loaded, isn’t it?
That word family conjures up in some minds images of bad TV preachers, divisive politicians, and out-of-touch congregations.
So for this post, I want to re-claim the root word as I then make a crucial distinction between a couple of its applications.
As a lot of you (preachers especially) know, the root word evangel comes from a Greek term (euangelion) that means simply “good news.” As New Testament writers applied the word, the euangelion carried with it the notion that the news was to be spread.
So it is good news that Jesus died and rose again and that’s news worthy of spreading. So far, so good.
In more modern times, the term evangelical is usually used to describe pastors and churches who subscribe to a somewhat specific set of beliefs. There is a wide variety within evangelicalism, ranging from fundamentalists on the far right to social justice advocates on the left, but in general evangelicals agree on most of the following tenets:
- The inspiration & authority of the Bible;
- The uniqueness of Christ — he is not “one of many,” he is the “one and only”;
- The reality of heaven and hell;
- The urgency of calling people to turn their lives over to Christ;
- The truth that Jesus really is coming back.
Again, I as pastor and Good Shepherd as a church live by all of the above and so can be comfortably labelled as “evangelical.”
But am I and are we evangelistic? Meaning: do we not only subscribe to the core beliefs but do we then engage in the practices of sharing our faith and calling for conversion? In these, we’re not as intentional as perhaps we could be. For several years, I’ve subscribed the the “subtler the better” approach to inviting people to faith. And that’s not all bad.
Except there come seasons of urgency in the life of any pastor and any church.
I believe 2011 is one of those for us at Good Shepherd. That’s why we’ve had recent services focusing on hell (The Forever Garbage Dump), the current series on the Holy Spirit, and an upcoming service with an overt invitation to “cross the line of faith.”
It’s why we are having friends and parents actually do the baptism of new converts.
So we are merging the evangelical with the evangelistic.
I pray it’s good news indeed.