Evangelism refers to declaring the “good news” (gospel) that Jesus died for humans. This term is a biblical term and is used to describe the activities of those individuals who are chosen by God to preach.
This same term is also used by various types of Christians to describe their own efforts to “share Christ” with people. Different groups of Christians have various ways of attempting to introduce people to Jesus and thus convert them. Many of these methods go far beyond a declaration of Christ and often involve a sharing of a Christian culture.
So, for example, many groups teach that an individual believer must confront people about the claims of Christ and share their own conversion story. Usually described by the word “witnessing” this is a doctrine oriented verbal approach to evangelism.
Other groups teach that the best way to bring people to faith is to show them the love of God rather than immediately speaking about Jesus. Thus we have various forms of “friendship evangelism” and “service evangelism”.
One question that has recently emerged is whether or not conversion should precede inclusion in a Christian community or not. That is, in most churches it is assumed that a person will come to faith before they “join” the church. In such a system the person who does not yet “believe” is considered a visitor. These churches can be “visitor friendly” or downright unfriendly, but in all cases it is belief that moves a person from visitor to member. These systems can often result in setting up doctrine as the doorway to inclusion. Only those that mentally agree with a set of propositions can pass the barrier to inclusion.
Many people are beginning to question this belief/inclusion system. The objection to it stems from the observation that it isn’t just mental belief and subscription to doctrine that characterizes conversion. The life of God in the person is the goal, and this life is more than a set of mental beliefs. Consequently the newer method being explored is to allow a person to become part of the community prior to their conversion. In fact, the idea is that by experiencing the community of faith a person can actually experience God and find Him. That is, inclusion precedes belief.
Catholic people can be evangelistic too. It may not be preaching oriented but it can be powerful. Here is an example: Juliene Dallaire (Mother Julienne du Rosaire) was born in the Notre-Dame-de-Jacques-Cartier parish in Quebec City, on May 23rd, 1911. She was baptized on May 25th, Ascension Day. During her first communion, she experienced the presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. While meditating the gospel passage of the Samaritan woman in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament at the age of twelve, she understood that God’s gift is Jesus in the Eucharist, and that He was calling her to be a missionary adorer with Him and through Him. To respond to this call, she entered the convent three times, but was unable to continue due to poor health. On Holy Thursday, 1942, she discovered the immense love through which Our Lord gives in the Eucharist and His desire that we may live by Love. She confided in cannon Cyrille Labrecque and he discerned that she had been called to found a religious congregation. On April 30th, 1945, the Dominican Missionary Adorers came to light. Mother Julienne du Rosaire constantly communicated to everyone the eucharistic fire which burned in her. At the twilight of her life she said: “My end is approaching, but it is very apparent, my mission of searching for worshipers is only beginning.” Following her last Eucharistic celebration, she died on January 6th, 1995, day of Epiphany, consumed by the desire to guide the magi of today toward the Lord of the Eucharist.
It seems clear that all the aspects of evangelism practiced today have some element of truth in them. It would thus be wise for Christians to learn from one another and be tolerant of the different directions that God may be leading them.