There is a tendency to define evangelism etymologically and stop there. Since the Greek noun euaggelion means “good news” and the Greek verb euaggelizō means “to proclaim the good news,” evangelism, then, is simply “proclaiming the good news.” With this definition, proclamation-centered activities are the valid forms of evangelism: Preaching, teaching, witnessing, or sharing a testimony. The hoped for outcomes of a proclamation-centered evangelism are individual-centered and number-oriented: confessions of faith, increased church attendance, etc. However, does the Gospel narrative itself allow this definition to go unchallenged?
The narrow, proclamation-centered definition only succeeds if solely based on word-studies and isolated proof-texts. It is not entirely clear that the NT presents “a vision of evangelism merely from verbal consideration” related to the etymology of the word “evangelism.” The early church, especially reflected in the Gospels, seems more interested in creating a narrative so future church generations could imagine what it means for the gospel of the kingdom to have been inaugurated. Any attempt to develop a coherent theory of evangelism must begin with the implications of the presence of the kingdom, which is wholly constitutive of the gospel.
*Adapted from the introduction to Wasted Evangelism: Social Action and the Church's Task of Evangelism.
Chip M. Anderson, advocate for biblical social action; pastor of an urban church plant in the Hill neighborhood of New Haven, CT; husband, father, author, former Greek & NT professor; and, 19 years involved with social action.