I recently did a Twitter poll that stated that not all Christians were evangelicals. While some people disagreed with me, there were others that misunderstood me.
They asked questions such as: “How can you be a Christian and not share the gospel, i.e. do evangelism?”
While I was referring to a tradition within Christianity, evangelical Christianity or evangelicalism, they thought I was referring to an activity, that is evangelism. There is some overlap in that evangelicals are known for being evangelistic, but they are not the same thing.
The confusion is understandable. They both come from the Greek εὐαγγέλιον (euangelion), which refers to good news. The Greek prefix eu means ‘good’ and angelion means ‘message’ (the word angel refers to a messenger).
Evangelism refers top the sharing of the good news about Jesus. We often speak of the gospel, which comes from the Anglo-Saxon word, God-spell, which means good story. Evangelism is about communicating the message of the gospel to another. A person called to and gifted in that role is an evangelist.
Evangelicals and evangelicalism are bit more difficult to define. Originally it only meant non-Catholics and therefore was a synonym of Protestant. It is often still used that way by Lutherans. It was also used to describe the kind of Christianity shaped by the revivalism of the 18th century.
Most often, evangelicalism refers to a kind of Christianity that emerged out of fundamentalism in the United States in the mid-20th century. While it was born in the USA, it is a worldwide phenomenon. One of the most influential figures in 20th century evangelicalism was Billy Graham, an evangelist.
Evangelicals believe that others should be like them, those who are atheist, those who belong to other religions, and often those who belong to non-evangelical forms of Christianity. Those evangelism is very important to evangelicals.
But evangelicalism and evangelism are not the same thing.
Evangelicalism is the movement, evangelism is an activity that some participate in. To make matters more confusing, you can be an evangelical and not evangelize and you can be a non-evangelical and evangelize!
You will hear these two terms sometimes being used as synonyms in popular media. Be aware of the differences and figure out which one is really meant.
The post What’s the Difference Between Evangelicalism and Evangelism? appeared first on Stephen J Bedard.
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