The difference between evangelism and missions
What is the difference between evangelism and missions?
Why is differentiating between evangelism and missions important?
I think it's important because it's easy to lose missions if you define everything as evangelism. They are similar but there are distinct differences and they must be realized. It’s puzzling when a pastor says, "Everybody or every Christian is a missionary," unless he defines what missionaries do, and it is certainly involves more than evangelism, however evangelism is a big part of what missionaries do. Everybody should be doing evangelism. Evangelism which takes in soul winning and witnessing should be performed by everyone in the body of Christ to some degree. Not everyone can be a missionary in every sense of the word, but every Christian should be involved in the great commission, but that does not mean that every Christian should be compelled to go to a foreign country and live as a missionary.
So here's the distinction:
Evangelism is sharing with anyone/everyone anywhere the gospel. You don't have to lead them to Christ, but you should attempt to reach them with the gospel of Jesus Christ, politely, prayerfully, and under the influence of the Holy Spirit; if the door is open. Evangelism, witnessing, soul winning go hand in hand. It should be happening even if it does not appear as though our witness is having any kind of an effect. We all need to be involved in this activity on some level, on a continual basis.
This may involve:
- Street preaching
- Door to door witnessing
- Giving out tracts
- Sharing your testimony to someone you meet on the bus
- Sharing the gospel via the various means of technology
- Inviting someone to church
- Or simply sharing with a neighbor, friend or family member about saving grace of God in the person of His Son the Lord Jesus Christ
For those who can not go it may involve:
- Purchasing tracts or other resources
- Inviting someone to hear
- Bringing someone to hear
- Letting someone know where the fish are
Evangelism is planting seeds and it may bring forth fruit or it may simply be planting the seed, or watering the seed, or planting, watering, and witnessing the fruit! Whatever the impact it is all of God, and God will do the saving and God should always get the glory! So sharing the gospel with anyone is evangelism. It could be your mother or your father. It could be a Christian or maybe someone who is alleged to be Christian, but usually we think of it as somebody who is clearly not a Christian. It would be wonderful if we could share the whole gospel with the person to whom we are attempting to evangelize but you may not always have that ability. Than we should simply share as much about Jesus Christ and His saving grace as God grants the opportunity.
Now missions is similar, but it also different! Missions often involves doing, this but it frequently involves doing it cross culturally, cross ethnically, cross geographically and perhaps cross demographically and economically. It often involves learning a language, learning new cultural things in an environment where there is not a visible witness of God's people, God's church, or any effective means of hearing about God method of salvation. In mission work usually the goal is to reach individuals without access to the gospel. Many times these people groups are unchurched or unevangelized because their spiritual exposure is often to false religions, heathen worship, cults of total absence of a clear gospel message. And there are still many places like this on the planet.
So evangelism is speaking the gospel to everyone, especially those in your sphere of influence. Missions is realizing that there are cultures and linguistic groups where the truth about God and His salvation in His Son Jesus Christ is non existent. And therefore we must make a special effort to learn languages, learn cultures, do all of the anthropological, methodological thought that is necessary in order to be effective in reaching them for the Glory of God.
Some interesting personal notes
I spent 15 years in full time ministry working at the Baltimore Rescue Mission primarily as chaplain. I considered myself a missionary. Was what I was doing mission work? We were reaching a people group who access to the truth and many had heard the truth and some had embraced the truth to some degree. However we were reaching a people group that did require special gifts, abilities, and a unique calling of God to reach them, and by the grace of God give them an opportunity to embrace fully all that God had for them and was willing to do through them.
I currently work for the United States government. My agency supports several missions around the globe. They define these satellite locations as missions. They do not use the term mission in the same sense as the body of Christ. When they speak of missions they are referring to an institution or facility situated in a developing country established for purpose of providing all the resources needed to assist in the growth, development and well being of the people, land and environment of the area where the mission exist.