Both words raise suspicious eyebrows in casual conversation. When I speak of evangelism, I mean something very specific: sharing the good news that Jesus is Lord and Salvation from sin and death can be found in him. Sharing that news, inviting others to faith in Jesus, showing that his eternal Kingdom was permanently established at his death & resurrection, and letting all know that at the final judgment, Heaven and Earth will be reconciled and be forever in the bodily presence of God – that’s what I mean by evangelism. It is not voting republican, attending Liberty University, advocating for Israel, or being a patriotic American. Evangelism is announcing the inevitable in-breaking of the Kingdom of God.
My understanding of apologetics is explanation/defense. Dictionary.com defines it as the defense or proof of Christianity. I have always been a bit suspicious of “proofs.” When Jesus walked the earth, his miracles led to confrontations with religious leaders and ultimately, he was crucified even though people saw 5000 fed with a few loaves, and the dead raised (Lazarus in John 11). The “proofs” did not lead to faith then, so why do great thinkers in Christian history since the resurrection think that their reasoning will lead doubters to faith?
Can evangelism and apologetics work together not just to defend Christianity (as if God’s truth needed defending), but also to enlighten skeptics to the point that they would be open to giving their hearts to Jesus and submitting to Him as Lord? In the end conversion and transformation are works of the Holy Spirit, but God invites us to play a role. We know how missions/works of compassion and social justice open the hearts of doubters. We know many come to faith when a friend invites them to church. Can evangelism and apologetics team-up and be bridges from unbelief to faith?
The answer is … I don’t know. I will seek this out in my own reading, and I would love to hear your feedback on this. What do you think? You can email me (firstname.lastname@example.org), or contact me on Facebook, twitter, or comment on my blog (http://honesttalkwithgod.blogspot.com/).