I remember several years ago overhearing two pastors discuss evangelism vs. missions and which should be the focus of the church. One pastor thought all the focus had to be on evangelism. After all, are we not about the Great Commission and sharing the Gospel? The other pastor argued it had to be about missions. After all, didn’t Paul and others take many missionary journeys? Paul and his companions were always on mission.
I am not sure how each pastor defined these terms in their own mind, but evangelism is spreading the Gospel by preaching or personal witness. Missions involves the calling to go out and spread the Word of one’s faith. Those terms seem very similar to me, yet maybe different in context.
Organizationally we may separate them as evangelism does involve equipping and training, which is a biblical mandate (Eph. 4:12). Missions involves going out and being involved; this too is a biblical mandate (Matt. 28:19-20).
In the church I grew up in, it seemed when you said the word “evangelism,” the picture which came to mind was going door to door creating anxiety in many minds. Whereas the word “missions,” a picture which came to mind was sending a check to the Cooperative Program, Annie Armstrong Easter offering, Lottie Moon Christmas offering, and state mission offering. Maybe a local mission project from time to time might be included.
In my mind, you cannot separate evangelism and missions. They go together. If we refer to the definition of the two terms, if you are evangelizing, you are on mission. If you are going on mission, what is the point unless you see the opportunity to preach or share your personal testimony? I don’t know about you, but I don’t need something else to do for the sake of doing it. But ministry the work of motivates us to be on mission and evangelize. Because of our going and doing, we have the opportunity of serving and sharing.
That is why I love the disaster relief ministry. I see how it models the ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus was on mission and Jesus evangelized. As you read and study His ministry, very often you see how He met the physical needs of someone, which would then open the opportunity for Him to share their greatest need, their spiritual need.
Often people will ask me when we are on a disaster response helping clean up after a storm, “How much does this cost?” I often will answer with, “It has already been paid for.” This confuses them for a moment, but that answer opens the door to share the Gospel, as Jesus paid it all.
I remember the story in the Bible when Jesus “had to go to Samaria.” (John 4:4). He had a calling to go there (missions), and an opportunity to share the Gospel (evangelism). Jesus called Zacchaeus down from the tree and went to his house. Jesus went to his house (missions) and shared the Gospel (evangelism). Because of His mission, He changed lives with the Good News.
If we are to be followers and ambassadors of the Lord, then we should do as He did. And obey as He did. We are to “go” as we are sent; “do” as we are given opportunity; “be” what He has made us; and share the reason of our hope: Jesus Christ.
Going and sharing. Sharing and going. Evangelism and missions. They go together. And as we go, we will reach the world for Christ.