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If we're not cautious and clear, a sloppy definition of missions and evangelism will destroy renewal efforts.

The Great Commission Resurgence proposals within the Southern Baptist Convention have reminded us of the high priority of evangelism and local/global missions. The same is true of many denominations across the theological spectrum of beliefs as Christian leaders worldwide seek to regain strongholds of spiritual influence in North America and Europe. However, unless we’re cautious and clear, a sloppy, imprecise definition of missions and evangelism will destroy renewal efforts. Let’s define evangelism by what it is not and then by what it is.

Evangelism is not…

1. Evangelism is not denominational renewal, reconstruction, or even deconstruction.

Sometimes, these are necessary to advance the cause of evangelism, but they are not evangelism. Denominations and ecclesiastical structures need occasional, healthy upheaval. But unless we’re careful, we may end up thinking that one more meeting and a new way of doing things constitutes evangelism. Structural reorganizations may end up being commensurate with rearranging chairs on the deck of the Titanic.

2. Evangelism is not inviting people to church or an evangelistic event.

Inviting people to events is important, but it’s not evangelism — it is pre-evangelism.

3. Evangelism is not imposing our will or beliefs on another person.

We make no apologies for attempting to persuasively make the case for Christianity. But in the end, only God can change the human heart.

4. Evangelism is not personal testimony.

A personal testimony does not save a sinner. The Gospel does. It’s quite right to support a Gospel presentation with what the Gospel has done in one’s life. Yet, we must never confuse the Gospel itself with a personal testimony.

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Dr. Kevin Shrum has been in ministry for 29 years, currently pastors Inglewood Baptist Church in Nashville, Tennessee, and is an Adjunct Professor of Theology for Union University in Jackson, Tennessee.

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  • Whitetotheharvest

    This is a very good and timely article given the state of evangelism (or lack thereof) currently in our so-called evangelical churches.  Things are so desperate now for the gospel that an article is needed to define what evangelism is and is not; let alone do it.
    As to numbers, I think that numbers are vital in order to know whether your evangelistic efforts are effective.  You need to stop and reevaluate when your numbers go down or, worse, are non-existent.
    There are plenty of websites that will teach you how to be effective as a soul-winner.  Larry Moyers, who contributes to this site, has a great website containing his book on soul-winning, which I highly recommend. 
    Lastly, it is not enough for pastors or church planters to desire to have their congregants win souls.  They must become proficient at it themselves.  Then they will be able to teach others.