Evangelism is the joyous witness of the People of God to the redeeming love of God urging all to repent and to be reconciled to God and each other through faith in Jesus Christ who lived, died, and was raised from the dead, so that being made new and empowered by the Holy Spirit believers are incorporated as disciples into the church for worship, fellowship, nurture and engagement in God’s mission of evangelization and liberation within society and creation, signifying the Kingdom which is present and yet to come.
In 1984, the General Board of American Baptist Churches USA issued a call “for a vigorous denominational program of evangelization”–a “joyous witness” that brings believers “into the church for worship, fellowship, nurture and engagement in God’s mission.”
Evangelism is a challenge and an opportunity. Even after 2,000 years of Christian ministry, tens of millions of persons throughout the world have not yet heard the Good News of salvation through Jesus Christ. The world is as much a mission field “ripe unto harvest” now as it was when Christ sent forth his earliest followers to reconcile a fallen creation to its Creator. Evangelism is the mission of sharing Christ and the truths He proclaimed with people who need to receive them.
And among those who have heard the Gospel message, there still is much to be done. While six out of seven adults in the United States claim to be Christians, only four in ten of those same adults can be found in church pews on any given Sunday. National surveys on biblical literacy continue to reveal a disturbing ignorance of basic Christian beliefs among many adults and youth.
The women, men and youth in congregations that accept God’s call to be inviting people are led to share with others how Christ has changed them and what Christ offers to everyone. Evangelism takes place at home, at school, at work, and in neighborhoods through door-to-door visitation. This personal sharing of our faith is the most important way American Baptists tell others about Christ. Preaching and teaching also are essential forms of evangelism taking place in our churches as well as in thousands of American Baptist-related schools, hospitals, community centers, camps, retirement homes and other institutions in the United States and around the globe.
While evangelism is done by individuals and single congregations, American Baptist regional and national mission boards are important resources in the endeavor. Each of the denomination’s 34 regions offers evangelism workshops and other training in the art of winning persons to Christ. The American Baptist Evangelism Team and American Baptist Home Mission Societies’ Office of Evangelism develop strategies to help persons share their faith. Denominational evangelism programs have included ABC-Find, which seeks to find ABC church homes for American Baptists who move, and Inviting New Neighbors, which helps churches use local newspapers, advertisements and other media to invite persons to worship with them. Regional Christian education workshops teach Christians how to teach others about Jesus Christ.
For American Baptists, evangelism is a worldwide endeavor. Overseas, American Baptist missionaries and volunteers aid in evangelistic efforts and support the work of evangelists ministering in their own countries.
Resources for evangelism have strengthened the effectiveness of that outreach. In 1824, American Baptists founded a publication society to produce books, tracts, and Sunday school curricula to spread the Good News about Christ. Educational Ministries, through Judson Press and a variety of biblically-oriented curricula, continues in this evangelical and educational tradition.