The Philosophy & Approach to Evangelism

by Christopher L. Smith
Approaches to evangelism may differ based on a church's philosophy.

Approaches to evangelism may differ based on a church's philosophy.

Across the Christian spectrum, churches approach evangelism from different perspectives. A church may have a philosophy behind its approach to evangelism rooted within the traditions of their faith. Alternatively, a church may have an approach rooted within more practical matters. Because of these extremes, evangelism can take on different forms.

Evangelism as Commanded

Churches that express a philosophy of being called to evangelism often express the need to evangelize in terms of the great commission. In the Great Commission at the end of Matthew's Gospel, Jesus commanded his disciples to, "[g]o therefore to all nations and make them my disciples; baptize them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, and teach them to observe all that I have commanded you." From this, their philosophy emphasizes going out and converting. Evangelism is emphasized over discipleship. Converting others to Christ is the goal to be pursued.

Evangelism for Survival

At the other end of the philosophical spectrum are those churches that do not feel theologically commanded to be involved in evangelism and who do not see evangelizing as a core part of a Christian's life. When these churches approach evangelism, they often do so from a self-preservation standpoint. The focus of evangelism under this end of the philosophical spectrum is about the gaining of members for the local congregation, whether this is needed for survival of a small congregation or for maintenance of the status and programs of a larger congregation.

Evangelism Within a Whole Church View

Churches more focused on being called to evangelism tend to emphasize an approach that is about bringing people to Christ. This approach means that the goal is to convert people who are not part of the Christian church into believers. As a result, members of these churches are often involved in taking the Christian message to those who have not yet accepted it, including missionary activities with an evangelistic purpose. When working with people of other faiths, religious tolerance is likely to be overshadowed by focused attempts at conversion.

Evangelism Within a Local Church View

Churches whose philosophy of evangelism is more motivated by survival tend to emphasize an approach that looks at evangelistic acts through a local church view rather than a more global view. This view will lead to an approach that is focused on getting people in the doors of the particular congregation, whether they are part of the Christian church or not. As a result, members of these churches may be more focused on what occurs in the local church than the more general Christian message. When approaching evangelism, these churches are more likely to consider "converts" from other churches as successful evangelism.

About the Author

Based in New York City, Christopher L. Smith has been writing since the 1998 publication of "Honest Talk About Serious Mental Illness." Smith brings professional experience in education, religion/spirituality and mental health, including as a licensed marriage and family therapist. Among Smith's graduate degrees is a M.Div. from Yale.

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