In the field of social services, of which I have been vocationally related for the last seventeen years, outcomes are an important element in determining what actions are needed. So, likewise with evangelism—if an outcome of evangelism is “personal decisions for Christ,” then activities of soul-winning, witnessing, crusades, and salvation-centered preaching are reasonable; if numerical church-growth is the outcome, then activities that promote such “growth” are acceptable; and, as I posit in Wasted Evangelism, if addressing the issues of poverty and social-righteousness are outcomes, then social action is a valid evangelistic activity. It is not entirely clear that the New Testament presents the concept 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 understanding of evangelism 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. The parable of the Sower who sows, which fits within this framework, offers a narrative definition of evangelism that includes social action outcomes.
*Adapted from the chapter entitled “Wasted Evangelism” on Mark 4’s parable of the Sower who sows in Wasted 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.