Published October 2003
There are, it seems, as many definitions of the term "evangelism" as there are people doing the defining. For some, it means proclaiming the gospel to those who have not heard it. To others, it means making disciples of Jesus Christ. To others, it means working for the transformation of the world into the kingdom of God. For still others, it has principally to do with building vibrant, healthy congregations. Underlying this confusion is a fundamental inability to locate the practice of evangelism within one's overall theological convictions.
We will never understand the part that proclamation, disciple making, kingdom building, and church growth play in evangelism until we first ask a more important question: What does evangelism have to do with who God is? What is it we know about God that makes evangelism a central part of what it means to be Christian? In this comprehensive theology of evangelism, Scott J. Jones proposes to ground the practice of evangelism in an understanding of God's love for the world, specifically as seen in the incarnation of God in Christ. In Jesus, God took on all of what it means to be human. Because of this, evangelism must be a ministry to the whole person. The typical distinctions between soul-winning, social action, and church growth evaporate; individual conversion and acts of mercy are part of the same ministry of bringing persons more fully into the reign of a loving God.