The word evangelism means different things to different people. It has been used for everything from sharing the gospel with non-Christians to making society a better place to live.

How do Christians arrive at a biblical definition of evangelism? There are two Greek words used in the New Testament to consider. The first is the word euangelion, from which we get the English word evangel, meaning “good news.” In the New Testament, it most often refers to the specific good news about Christ and is often translated “gospel.” It is used in Acts 20:24 where Paul said that his task was, “to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.” Paul gave the historical content of the gospel message in 1 Corinthians 15—Christ died for our sins and rose from the dead.

The second word is euangelizo, the verbal form of the same word, from which we derive our word “evangelize.” Since euangelion means “good news,” euangelizo means “to announce good news.” In the New Testament the word is usually translated “preach the gospel” and refers specifically to the gospel of Jesus Christ.

We also need to consider the New Testament context for “evangelism.” There was an intent or purpose behind the proclamation. In Acts 18:4, Paul “reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and persuaded both Jews and Greeks.” The one who evangelizes in the New Testament doesn’t just announce the good news. He seeks to persuade his audience of the truth by calling them to respond to the good news (Luke 5:10; Acts 14:15; Acts 18:13; Rom. 10:14–15; 2 Cor. 5:20; 1 Peter 4:6). While recognizing that God is ultimately responsible for the results, we should endeavor to be used of God in persuading people of the truth of the gospel and their need to trust Christ.

Giving information alone is not evangelism. An invitation alone is not evangelism. The New Testament definition of evangelism includes both information and invitation. The biblical definition of evangelism is presenting the good news of Christ with the intent of seeing the hearer come to saving faith in Christ.