Lord’s Library editors explore various Christian topics by comparing witnessing vs. evangelism to help you gain an understanding.
Too often, even in Christian circles, people use the words witnessing and evangelism interchangeably. In the broadest terms, it’s easy to understand why. However, there are definitely deeper layers of meaning behind each word that set them apart. Learning and understanding the differences between Christian witnessing vs. evangelism will enable the proper use of each word, in context. Knowing the differences can also ensure that you are aware of whether you are witnessing or evangelizing, and maybe being armed with the word meanings will inspire you to get out there on your own.
According to the 1828 Webster’s Dictionary, witnessing is defined as: “Seeing in persons; bearing testimony; giving evidence. That same dictionary defines evangelism as “The promulgation of The Gospel.” With this in mind, Lord’s Library editors created this resource to help you understand Christian witnessing vs. evangelism for effective comparison. We first offer a comprehensive definition of the two terms, followed by a detailed compare and contrast where our editors outline the key differences. The text highlighted in blue is meant to offer an at-a-glance reference.
Christian Witnessing vs. Evangelism
What is Witnessing? Witnessing Definition
People today value real stories and genuine interactions with others. In light of this, witnessing becomes a powerful tool to bring others into the faith. Sometimes, hearing the personal story of another will resonate with someone in such a way that they will come to embrace the faith themselves.
Witnessing stretches further than what one says, though. One can also witness through their actions. Christians are called to be the hands and feet of Christ, ministering to others as He would serve them. When one does this, they reflect Christ’s love to others and in turn, act as a witness to His Word.
The word “witness” invokes courtroom imagery. When a crime has taken place, witnesses help to prove the innocence or guilt of the suspected party involved. The authors of the Gospels Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, serve as witnesses to Christ’s life and ministry, death on the cross, and resurrection according to the Scriptures. They tell us of all the wonderful, loving, and miraculous things He did during His time on earth and how he conquered death.
As seen in verses such as 1 John 1:1, they come right out and declare themselves as witnesses to the life and ministry of Jesus Christ:
“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life;”
Another prominent example of witnessing occurs in Acts 2 when Peter shares his personal witness amongst a large group of people and many came to faith in Christ. This shows that when one shares their experiences with others, it can have a major impact for God’s Kingdom. See all the mentions of witnessing in the Bible to learn more.
Witnessing is similar to evangelizing, but a little more nuanced. While evangelizing is spreading the story of Jesus Christ and what He’s done, witnessing focuses more on a personal story and journey in faith.
When one evangelizes, they proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ; culminating in the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. When one acts as a witness, they speak about what Jesus has done personally in their life. This can include personal background, journey to faith, and in what ways Jesus has transformed them.
What is Evangelism? Evangelism Definition
To truly understand the word “evangelism,” one must first look to its roots in the Koine Greek of the original New Testament. “Evangelism” comes from the words euaggelion, meaning “good news,” and euaggelizo, meaning “to announce, declare, or preach the good news.” In light of the meaning of these foundational words, throughout the Gospels, the writers of them are referred to as “the evangelists.”
So, what does the Bible say about evangelism? And what does it mean today? It means that evangelism is the act of sharing the good news about Jesus! One evangelizes when they tell others about Jesus and what He has done for humanity on the cross. After Christ’s death, resurrection, and ascension, this is what we Apostles did according to the Bible. The Apostles travel throughout the world preaching The Gospel of Jesus Christ.
The Bible calls on today’s church to do the same as the Apostles did in their day. One can find this calling in Matthew 28:19-20; a passage known as “The Great Commission”:
“Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.”
In these verses, Christ calls Christians to spread the message of His love across the world via different strategies and techniques, in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. While each individual has their callings in the Lord, this overarching commandment is a common purpose as the body of Christ.
Jesus says much the same thing in other verses, and, there are even evangelism strategies outlined in the Book of Acts. Here are just a few additional examples:
Matthew 9:37-38: “Then saith he unto his disciples, The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few; Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest.”
Matthew 10:7-14: “And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand. Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give. Provide neither gold, nor silver, nor brass in your purses, Nor scrip for your journey, neither two coats, neither shoes, nor yet staves: for the workman is worthy of his meat. And into whatsoever city or town ye shall enter, enquire who in it is worthy; and there abide till ye go thence. And when ye come into an house, salute it. And if the house be worthy, let your peace come upon it: but if it be not worthy, let your peace return to you. And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when ye depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust of your feet.”
Matthew 12:30: “He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad.”
Luke 19:10: “For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.”
Luke 12:8: “Also I say unto you, Whosoever shall confess me before men, him shall the Son of man also confess before the angels of God:”
In Mark 16:15, Jesus tells Christians to preach The Gospel “to all creation.” The purpose is so others will know, too, and believe — and in that believing also receive eternal life through the finished work of Jesus Christ.
There are many ways Christians can live out this calling to evangelize. The first, and perhaps easiest, is to wear your faith on your sleeve and share the good news with family, friends, and others you come across. And don’t forget to consider Your Story Evangelism when sharing The Gospel. Another way is to participate in the ministries of the church. Almost any church you find will have outreach ministries to preach and minister to the people of the surrounding community. Lending your God-given skills and perspective to these ministries is a wonderful way to evangelize. In light of modern technology, there are also many other innovative ways to spread The Gospel.
Many have succeeded in online ministries via blogs, YouTube channels, and social media. There is even a whole category of great evangelism books and online evangelist training courses to consider if you want to become an expert.
Christian Witnessing vs. Evangelism; What’s the Difference?
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