The Difference between Apologetics and Evangelism

by Rob Lundberg

As an elder in our church and as an apologist, I am reminded that there is a difference between the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20) and what I call “the Apologetic Mandate” (1 Peter 3:15-17).  This difference is found from conversations with folks on both sides of the scale have some confusion between evangelism and apologetics.  One group thinks that apologetics is irrelevant and that you just need to give the gospel.  The other group says you must do apologetics as a means of evangelism.  Both of these groups are way off kilter.

First off let me say, that we are called and commanded to do the task of apologetics.  We are also called to do the work of an evangelist (2 Timothy 4:5).  So what is evangelism and what is apologetics?

First off let me qualify apologetics with the term “Christian apologetics”, which is the branch of philosophy that is devoted defending the reasonable content of the Christian faith with particular references to those criticisms of that content that comes from outside and even inside the Christian faith. In other words, apologetics answers questions and objections that people may have about our Christian beliefs.  There may be times where apologetics may be a part of a evangelism, but it is not evangelism in the purest sense of the usage of the terms.

So what is “evangelism”?  One of my professors from seminary put it this way.

“Evangelism involves the presenting of Jesus Christ to men and women that under the conviction and leadership of the Holy Spirit, they will confess their need for the Savior, repent of sin, and trust Christ as Lord and serve Him in one of His churches.”  (Gray Allison, Winsome Words for Willing Witnesses).
John Stott, at the Lausanne Convention in 1974 confirms Allison’s definition with the following, “To evangelize. . . does not mean to win converts. . .but simply to announce the good news irrespective of the results.”  Stott and Allison are not in conflict with one another.  The gospel is good news!  What is that good news?  What is the gospel?  The gospel is found in 1 Corinthians 15:3-5, “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scripture, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas (Peter), then to the Twelve. . .”

The gospel is not about sharing your testimony.  It is not imposing the truth or the f-a-c-t-s of the gospel upon someone.  It is not about social action as noble and needed as social action is in a corrupt global world.  Lastly it is it not about accruing results…

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RECOMMENDED RESOURCES:  Tactics: A Game Plan for Discussing Your Christian Convictions / The School of Biblical Evangelism: 101 Lessons: How to Share Your Faith Simply, Effectively, Biblically… the Way Jesus Did / More apologetics resources >>>