Are evangelism and witnessing the same? Are they not “subsets” of the Great Commission?
The Great Commission is found in Matthew 28:19-20.
Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. (NASB) Matthew 28:19-20
Here our Lord Jesus Christ calls us “to go.” The Greek word order is remarkable because Jesus emphasizes the act of “going.” He wants us to go! Where does He want us to go? He wants us to go to our neighbor next door, our fellow worker, our barber, and our friend, for example. We are to go! And in our going, we are to make disciples in all the nations. The making of disciples starts with “evangelism,” includes baptism and ends with “teaching them.”
Evangelism and Witnessing
Evangelism is a subset or a part of the Great Commission. It is a broad term that includes verbal witnessing as well as life style witnessing. In recent years some have encouraged us to do “Life Style Evangelism.” Some have forgotten that we are a witness – all the time! The only question is, “What kind of witness are we?” The concept is to win others to Jesus not just by our words, but also by our conduct (Col. 4:5). Jesus made a strong statement about the effect of a Christian’s walk on others – a real Christian walk.
By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another. (NASB) John 13:35
Verbal witnessing refers to telling others about Jesus. This is a subset of evangelism. A person witnesses to others when they tell others about Jesus’s death, resurrection and ascension back to heaven. We call it the good news. Here are the key points in the good news.
For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep; then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles; (NASB) 1 Corinthians 15:3-7
And after He had said these things, He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. (NASB) Acts 1:9
Jesus died for our sins. God is holy and we are not! That is the major difference between us and God. God has a wonderful plan for our life – it is spending eternity with Him because our sins are forgiven when we depend on Jesus as our Savior. We are sinners and He is not. We are deceitful, dishonest, and fickle. God is not. He is holy. After a person depends/trusts in Jesus for the forgiveness of their sins, the next step is an act of obedience – baptism.
Discipleship To Maturity
The heart of discipleship is teaching. Some churches and Christians miss this point. Some Christians consider the Sunday morning sermon to be enough Bible study for the week. Recently, I heard about some church leaders who wanted their young adults to stop reading and studying their Bible so much and spend most of their time having fun. They missed the point. Being a Christian is not belonging to a Christian social club. It is about knowing Jesus like we know our friend. It is about longing for His Word because that is how we know Him.
. . . like newborn babes, long for the pure milk of the word, that by it you may grow in respect to salvation, if you have tasted the kindness of the Lord. (NASB) 1 Peter 2:2-3
The Holy Spirit wants us to long for God. We find Him in the Word of God. Growth in the knowledge of God through His Word is a mark of a growing Christian. A mature Christian is not measured by chronological age but by their victory over sin, love and knowing “Him who has been from the beginning” (1 John 2:12-14; 4:21).
Witnessing is a subset of evangelism and evangelism is a subset of discipleship. Let us ask the Holy Spirit to help us mature as Christians. Shall we ask Him to help us long to know God and not be satisfied with the externals of spirituality such as “fellowship,” “Christian music,” “Christian objects,” or “church.” True Christian maturity is to “know Him who was from the beginning” (1 John 2:12-14). That requires us to search for Him in scripture and mediate on Him!