If you’ve been in the Church for more than a week, you’ve likely run across the term “evangelism”. While the word evangelism has been around since the 1100’s, secular marketing and other industries have been busy expanding its definition over the past 50 years. These days, there are evangelists for pretty much everything. We have
- Brand evangelists
- Technology evangelists
- Platform evangelists (has nothing to do with shoes)
- Customer evangelists
- Software evangelists
- Product evangelists
- Marketing evangelists
- Behavioral evangelists
- Internal evangelists
- Food evangelists
There are even “chief evangelist officers”. No kidding.
Well today, Church, we’re stealing evangelism back.
Can I Get a Witness?
At its very basest definition, evangelism is sharing good news.
For we Christians, this means sharing thee Good News.
You thought you were going to get a Wikipedia definition, didn’t you?
Well, honestly, you almost did.
But truth doesn’t need to be as dusty as an encyclopedia entry. The Gospel is simple, so let’s keep ourselves simple. Jesus came to set us free. Though He continues to intercede on our behalf to the Father (and on the Father’s behalf to us,) the work of the Cross has been completed. That redemptive, restorative power has been made available to us if we yield to it.
It’s in that yielding to the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives—in not loving our own lives (agendas, calendars, possessions, ambitions, relationships and yes, even our physical lives) over Him—that allows for the transformation. From this intimate place, evangelism is born. It’s not something we have to force. As we see in the Apostles and many others since, the Good News can become so large in us it becomes something we can’t contain.
And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death.” (Revelation 12:11)
WWW Love (Web Witnessing With Love)
Now let’s talk about the digital part. There are three means by which evangelism flows, whether offline or on.
The expression of our lives testifies to Holy Spirit indwelling—not just through our conscious effort—but through Kingdom identity and the spiritual buoyancy right identity brings, even in the face of crisis. Our right living (or supernatural conversion to right living) witnesses to family, friends and coworkers around us. Through identity evangelism, observers watch from a distance and are drawn (or repelled) by the Father’s growing light within us. While too passive to really be called a “method,” this form of evangelism is more about being the Father’s expression of love (2 Corinthians 3) than actively proclaiming the Word (though that may be present).
Eyes Wide Open
Especially in cases where the heart-shift of regeneration is quick and dramatic, those witnessing the transformation may feel uncomfortable, confused and repulsed. (Remember, Jesus did not come to bring harmony, but a sword, Matthew 10:34.) Still, we are being recast in His image and He is love. As conflict arises (and it certainly will), old ways may try to resurface (anger, pride, willfulness, etc.) If you don’t see it in Jesus, you’re not to see it in yourself. When an expression of the old flesh presents itself, don’t lose your identity to self-condemnation; press into Him more (prayer, fasting, worship) and grace will meet you there.
Digital Expression (Organic Sharing)
What does identity evangelism look like in the digital world? Well, what do your social media posts look like? What does your personal blog speak to? If people have no idea you’re a Christian, you may look too much like the world. I’ve actually seen church leaders promote violent action and horror movies on their social media channels. As in, they were excited to go and support some dark, demonic thriller with their time, money and attention and then disconnected enough from the concepts of holiness and righteousness to promote that fallen movie to their social network.
“If people have no idea you’re a Christian, you may look too much like the world.”
Are you sold enough on the Gospel to share encouraging Bible quotes with your social media followers? Do you share Bible lessons, praise music or spiritual insights currently feeding you? Do you share your church and volunteer activities online? Or are you a closeted, weekend warrior for God? We are called to be salt. We are called to be light to a darkened world. What good does it do if a person lights a candle and places the candle under a basket? (Luke 11:33)
If identity evangelism is passive evangelism, intentional evangelism is active outreach. Traditionally, intentional evangelism uses signs, tracts and personal testimonies through conversation. This form of evangelism tends to be more interruptive. Breaking into a person’s trance as they pass you on the sidewalk may or may not be welcomed.
Digital Expression (Paid Promotion)
If the digital expression for identity evangelism is simply sharing your reasons for the hope inside you (along with pictures of your children and the evening’s dinner), digitized intentional evangelism is actively promoting those posts. This means paying to promote the Gospel message (or content that leads to the Gospel message) across television, radio, email and Internet marketing channels (blogs, social media, email, forums). That messaging may take the form of shareable graphics, instructional videos, podcast interviews, blog articles and other brilliant, Life-giving content.
Simply sharing your love for God in comments or images on your channels is the first step, as seen in identity evangelism. However, on some social media channels, as little as 7-13% of your followers see your posts. (Open rates for email blasts can be even lower.) This means very few of your channel subscribers are seeing your content. Most channels allow you to boost your content (for a fee, of course). Just as you would buy tracts, print flyers or take your time to street evangelize, here you simply put dollars behind Kingdom messages you produce or discover.
Platform evangelism is preaching the Gospel message from the platform you’re given, whether from the pulpit at church, the office boardroom, on the playing field or in the classroom; wherever your influence lies. Essentially, you are leveraging your authority or position in a given setting to influence thinking and culture. You have the observer’s captive attention. Now deliver the message with love, respect and wisdom.
Digital Expression (Influencer Marketing)
Yes, platform evangelism is similar to intentional evangelism in its digital expression, however there are a couple distinct differences.
First, platform evangelism leverages your social currency (your influence) or that of another, while in intentional evangelism, your audience may not even know you.
Second, platform evangelism may or may not be paid by you. An itinerant preacher who gives a powerful message while visiting a church may be recorded and promoted by that church years after their actual visit. (No pressure!)
Where and When to Evangelize
If you have concluded it’s possible to operate in different stages of evangelism at the same time, you are right. These forms of evangelism overlap considerably in places.
Well? Which form of evangelism do you think is the greatest? Is platform evangelism best, where you have the potential to reach millions? Or maybe it’s the more intimate path of intentional evangelism?
I feel the greatest of these is identity evangelism. Surprised? Without first becoming love, we’re taught we become “a clanging cymbal” (1 Corinthians 13). Even if you were the last person on earth, your identity in Him would still be the most important thing to press into.
The Christian walk is one of transformation. It is a walk of spiritual restoration, not by our hands or efforts, but of His. He is the Master Potter; we are the clay (Isaiah 64:8). When we charge ahead of Him and His plan for us, we risk doing damage to ourselves and others. I’m sure you’ve heard stories about evangelists who—being short on character—make very public mistakes, only to lose their position and their flock’s respect. We are refined by Him and made ready for more and more responsibility, in His time.
Final Thought: How Not to Evangelize
Is everyone going to be an evangelist? Well, no. And there is a danger in that, unfortunately. Not only is there that whole “spew you out of my mouth” message to the lukewarm church of Laodicea (Revelation 3:14-22), but we are also counseled by Jesus that “whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.” (Matthew 10:32-33)
Is every Christian called to evangelism though? Yes. This is the Great Commission, after all. Jesus told us to go forth to all nations. (Matthew 28:19, Mark 16:15, Luke 9:2) Indeed, He modeled this His entire itinerant ministry.
As mentioned earlier, you may be relieved (or slightly convicted) to hear that evangelism is actually a natural by-product of Christ within you. That means you’re not biting your lip, trying to evangelize. You’re not putting a checkmark in your proclamation box.
In fact, it may be more elegant to say we don’t evangelize (verb) as much as we become evangelists (transformation). Your evangelism will be a result of your over-the-bar heart position for the Gospel to the extent it lives in you. If you’re yielding to the Holy Spirit, dying to the Cross daily, the ensuing love affair that takes you over simply bears good fruit (Matthew 7:15-20). In 2 Corinthians, Paul writes:
You are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read by all men; clearly you are an epistle of Christ, ministered by us, written not with ink but by the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of flesh, that is, of the heart. (2 Corinthians 3:2-3 NKJV)
So there we have it. We become living epistles. It all begins with identity evangelism, the fruit of His artistry in us.
Now go spread the news about the joy you have found.
Wilson, Ross. November 26, 2012. How to Build Brand Evangelists with 3 Winning Examples. Ignite Social Media. Retrieved from https://www.ignitesocialmedia.com/social-media-strategy/how-to-build-brand-evangelists-with-3-winning-examples/.