Evangelism is the process of preaching or proselytizing the Christian Gospel. It is mostly associated with Fundamentalist Protestant sects of Christianity. It is based on the Greek word ευανγγελιον, meaning 'good news'. Though most, if not all, Christian sects stress the importance of evangelism, it is considered absolutely essential to Fundamentalist sects. It is also known as the Great Commission or "winning souls for Christ". Christians point to Matt. 28, 19-20 in the Bible as one of Jesus Christ's commands to his followers to "preach the gospel (ευανγγελιον) to all nations." Evangelism is the main driving force of Christian missionary activity, and as such has contributed to the violent deaths of uncounted numbers of people.Although the boundaries can blur, evangelical is generally considered distinct from “mainline” Protestant denominations. Adding to the confusion is the innovation of the emergent church.
- According to the National Association of Evangelicals website, denominations included are
- Reformed, Holiness, Anabaptist, Pentecostal, Charismatic and others.
- Historian David Bebbington identifies the characteristics of evangelicals
- Belief in being “born-again”
- Active expression of faith through mission
- Obedience to the authority of the Bible
- Stressing of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross
HistoryEvangelicalism has roots in 17th century England, Germany and Scandanavia and flourished during the Great Awakenings of the 18th and 19th century. Evangelicals including William Wilberforce were heavily involved in the social justice issues in the 18th century such as the abolition of slavery. In the United States, this divided the church as well as the country. In the early 20th century there were “modernists” who argued for accommodating modern knowledge and “fundamentalists” and some who did not feel part of either side. Some conservatives such as Aimee Semple McPherson continued to be involved in social action. Billy Graham attempted to continue this tradition. Outside the United States, evangelicals are not associated with the religious right, while in the US Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority upstaged the evangelical left.