Evangelism is often viewed as going out and telling people about Jesus. That is true. But it is also more than that. When we go to people with the Gospel we also are inviting those who respond to become part of His family. Chris writes...
To participate is the grand call of God in the life of Jesus. We must be careful then, as we share the gospel that we do not get caught up in mere words. If our words do not offer the mutual participation in the obedience to God in our particular place and time we become a loud, noisy gong.
We cannot simply tell people about Jesus and when they respond ask them to politely sit and watch ministry going on for an indeterminate amount of time. Every Christian is called to minister and evangelize, making disciples who in turn make disciples. Our task is not merely to tell people about Jesus but to also invite them to engage in His Kingdom mission, a mission that is plenty big enough for everyone to participate in. When we tell people about Jesus but then don't really expect or allow them to participate in the mission of God, restricting those functions to professionals and excusing their inaction because they just aren't "gifted" in that way, we aren't giving people the whole story. (On a side note we need to honor all of the callings of the church and not just a few. A young mother raising her kids is doing something that is every bit, and probably more, important than the brother who is leading a discussion on Sunday.)
I just had this conversation the other day with a friend. If our "local church" culture creates barriers to full fellowship and participation, how can we really evangelize? Going out and telling people about Jesus when the people you are telling are not really people you will accept until the meet a certain set of criteria makes evangelism pretty hard. That is a big reason why it seems that the more traditions a church has that make fellowship difficult (formal membership, extra-biblical standards, closed communion, etc.), the less they tend to evangelize, relying instead on poaching other already like-minded Christians. I saw a lot of this among Reformed churches and am seeing the same thing among "conservative" Anabaptist groups. Anyway, interesting thoughts. Preaching the Gospel is about more than getting out of hell in the future, it is about being a part of the mission of Christ here and now.
(HT: Robert Martin)