The word evangelism has taken on some negative connotations in the last few decades. Perhaps that is because evangelism hasn't been handled effectively or it isn't carried out for the right reasons. During my time in Iowa City and in D.C. it was fairly common to find people standing on street corners handing out brochures or telling the passing people that they were sinners. The neighborhood I lived in D.C. was nice so my friends and I would walk around between classes or in the evenings just to get some exercise. One evening a few friends came back to the seminary with an interesting story. While they had been walking, a church group had pulled up alongside them in their car and began asking them questions about their faith. As good seminarians they gave a witness to Jesus Christ but this church group wanted them to know the 'true' religion. So as my friends walked away. The car followed them, continuing to evangelize them on the true religion. Now at this point my friends were getting a bit irritated that they were being followed after they felt their faith had been belittled. They had not experienced this form of evangelism as effective at all. In fact they joked that if this group was doing drive-by evangelism they had better start taking their umbrellas in case the group started doing drive-by baptisms.
.While getting the message of Jesus Christ out into the world is an important part of Christianity, it should be done out of the love of Christ that exists within us. This means more than shouting the gospel message to anyone who passes by. It means living out the message of Jesus Christ and being willing to walk beside one another in the faith. The word evangelism actually comes from two Greek words: eu - good, aggelon - message (or I tell a message). Evangelism is simply sharing the good news of Jesus Christ.
In John 1:43-51 we have an example of evangelism. First we have a direct call from Jesus to Philip. Jesus offers Philip a very simple invitation: follow me. Jesus' call to Philip was simple but this simple call meant a life of sacrifice. Jesus calls, follow me. Philip was called to walk alongside Jesus, to live as Jesus lived. Philip isn't given a specific call, just come along. This isn't the point of evangelism I am talking about, this is the initial invitation into a relationship with Christ that is offered to all people. No the evangelism I am talking about is when Philip finds Nathanael and tells him about Jesus and then invites him to check out what he is talking about. He invites him saying "come and see". Philip doesn't tell Nathanael that he has to believe right away anything specific about Jesus. He just invites Nathanael to come along and check things out for himself. Philip invited Nathanael to walk alongside him as they grow in their knowledge and relationship with Jesus. This is an example of evangelism that is all about relationships, relationships to each other and to Jesus Christ. Evangelism in its simplest form is sharing the message of the God you love with others.
When was the last time you were so excited about something that you had to tell someone else? When was the last time you were so excited about what God is doing that you had to tell someone? When was the last time you said, "come and see" as Philip did?