A particularly fruitful genre of Christianese is made up of terms that describe different kinds of evangelism. Here are definitions for three of the more interesting ones: beach evangelism, gastro-evangelism, and power evangelism.
For the past month I’ve been spending a lot of time researching all the various ways that Christians have combined the word evangelism with other words to describe a specific kind of evangelism. I’ve accumulated over 300 of these combination terms so far! Here are the first 100 or so words. You’ll see that every term actually contains the word evangelism.
culturally relevant evangelism
No doubt the average person could make an intelligent guess about what many of these terms mean, and in many cases they would be right on the money. But with some of these terms, the actual meaning of the terms as used by Christians isn’t so obvious. That’s the purpose of a dictionary: to explain clearly what a word means so that people don’t have to make guesses or accidentally use a word in an unidiomatic way.
Recently I shared definitions for drive-by evangelism and hit-and-run evangelism. For today, I tried to pick out three nicer ones: beach evangelism, gastro-evangelism, and power evangelism.
Beach evangelism is an example of an evangelism term that tells you where the evangelism is happening. Beach evangelism happens at the beach. That makes this term similar to airport evangelism, apartment evangelism, big-city evangelism, coffeehouse evangelism, college-campus evangelism, country evangelism, and downtown evangelism, all of which also specify the location where the evangelism happens. As you can read in the full definition below, beach evangelism usually takes place when the weather is fine and the beaches are crowded. It’s a common occurrence for churches and Christian colleges to organize large field-trips of young people and students to visit nearby beaches and share the gospel in a concerted effort.
Gastro-evangelism is an example of an evangelism term that tells you what tools the evangelists are using to share the gospel. In this case, the tool is food! Gastro-evangelism involves an offer of free food and beverages in order to strike up conversations with random people on the street or in a park. Sure, many of these people will just take the snack and hurry away. But some people might take the snack and stay to ask the evangelists what they’re doing and why. That might lead to some people having a chance to talk about the gospel.
Power evangelism is similar to gastro-evangelism in that the word “power” tells you what tool the evangelists are using. But it might not be obvious that “power” in this case refers to the power of the Holy Spirit. Evangelists who practice power evangelism are trying to use miracles and supernatural acts to touch people’s lives with the power of God and hopefully persuade some of those people to become Christians.
What kinds of evangelism are you interested in learning more about? What kinds of evangelism have you heard of before that don’t seem to make much sense? Post your thoughts and questions in the comments, and I’ll share more definitions of these evangelism terms in a future blog post.
beach evangelism n. Evangelism in which Christians approach strangers on the beach in order to share the gospel with them. Such evangelism is often done as an organized effort by church *youth groups and Christian schools during spring break or during the summer when beaches are busiest.
See also *beach reach.
• 1968 Salvation Army Year Book 103 : One result of the week-end was beach evangelism undertaken by a division with a ten-mile sea frontage. Youth councils were held in all divisions and 393 seekers knelt at the Mercy Seat. 1968 His 36 : The witnessing opportunities weren’t limited to individual conversations, Bible studies, picnics or even beach evangelism, but the chance to speak to the whole sophomore class was the climax of the two years. 1969 Presbyterian Survey LIX. 45 : “There was no preaching,” emphasized Bill York, Inter-Varsity Area Director for Virginia and director of the beach evangelism project. The staff and students just told what Christ means to them and talked personally with those interested. 1973 Latin America Evangelist 30 : Coming from a Christian family and early training in the Christian Reformed Church, Rosalie communicated her faith to others through beach evangelism, a coffeehouse ministry and other types of outreach by Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship groups. 1991 Jones Single Adult Ministry 198 : There may be evangelism teams involved in beach evangelism, door-to-door witnessing, or a gospel concert outreach series. 1995 Kuhatschek The Superman Syndrome: Finding God’s Strength Where You Least Expect It 97 : Hundreds of Christian students also descended on these two towns to engage in “beach evangelism,” also affectionately known as “cold-turkey” evangelism. 2010 McCracken Hipster Christianity: When Church and Cool Collide 97 : Weird and awkward evangelistic methods [include] … sock puppets, ventriloquism, mimes, sign language, beach evangelism, and modern dance. 2013 Joseph Women Living Well: Find Your Joy in God, Your Man, Your Kids, and Your Home 123 : I was a senior in college and with a group of Moody Bible Institute students on a mission trip to Key West. It was our spring break, and we were there to do beach evangelism.
gastro-evangelism n. Evangelism in which Christians give out free food (such as bottles of water, sno-cones, pizza, hamburgers) to draw strangers into conversation in order to share the gospel with them.
• 2007 New York Times (2 May) : The number of student religious organizations at Colgate has grown to 11 from 5 in recent years. The university’s Catholic, Protestant and Jewish chaplains oversee an array of programs and events. Many involve providing food to students, a phenomenon that the university chaplain, Mark Shiner, jokingly calls “gastro-evangelism.” 2009 Roose The Unlikely Disciple: A Sinner’s Semester at America’s Holiest University 158 : There are at least two other groups of Christian evangelists here. One group, a youth team from a Florida church, has set up a shaved-ice machine on the sidewalk. They’re making sno-cones for the Razzle’s patrons, which almost seems like cheating. (Some Christians call this “gastro-evangelism.”)
power evangelism n. Also power-encounter evangelism. Evangelism that uses exorcisms, healings, and other miraculous displays of God’s power as a means of validating the truth of the gospel; evangelism that emphasizes the use of charismatic gifts while sharing the gospel.
See also *power encounter; *Third Wave.
• 1985 Wimber, Springer Power Evangelism 46 : I call this type of encounter power evangelism, and, I believe, it was one of the most effective means of evangelism in the early church…. Power evangelism is that evangelism which is preceded and undergirded by supernatural demonstrations of God’s presence. Through these supernatural encounters people experience the presence and power of God. Usually this occurs in words of knowledge, … healing, prophecy, and deliverance from evil spirits. 1986 Wagner, Arn, Towns Church Growth: State of the Art 297 : Spreading the gospel with accompanying supernatural signs and wonders. 1991 Bubeck The Satanic Revival 62 : We have heard and read in recent years about “power encounter evangelism,” “power encounter deliverance,” and “power encounter church growth.” Most of this writing comes from the mission fields where the populace fully recognizes evil spirits and evil powers. 1993 Phillips, Coote, eds. Toward the Twenty-First Century in Christian Mission: Essays in Honor of Gerald H. Anderson 50 : The “signs and wonders movement” [is] associated with the ministry of John Wimber (Vineyard Christian Fellowship) and the writings of C. Peter Wagner (School of World Mission, Fuller Theological Seminary). Their calls for “power evangelism” (exorcism and manifestations of the gifts of the Spirit) to accompany gospel preaching bear a strong affinity to Pentecostal ideas. 1998 Tenney The God Chasers: My Soul Follows Hard After Thee 114 : John Wimber helped us to understand “power evangelism,” where we mix anointing with the program. In this form of evangelism, we might pray for someone to be healed on the street instead of just witnessing or giving out tracts. 2000 Radmacher Salvation 94 : I often hear people today praying for “pentecostal power” and talking about “power evangelism,” which in their minds is “signs and wonders and miracles.” 2003 McLaren The Church on the Other Side: Doing Ministry in the Postmodern Matrix 36 : Yes, I am aware of “power evangelism,” “power encounters,” “laughing revivals,” and the rest. They have their place. 2005 Comiskey The Spirit-Filled Small Group: Leading Your Group to Experience the Spiritual Gifts 147 : The term power evangelism is often used to describe the reaching of nonbelievers through the demonstration of God’s reality today—just like what occurred in the book of Acts. 2012 Hamon When God Takes Over: Stories of Hope on the Streets 30 : They’ve made their point: God sent his Son, not a leaflet. They usually then go on to say that they are more into “presence evangelism” or if they are even more articulate and more academic [they] use the phrase “incarnational evangelism.” If you don’t know what that means ask a theologian and he will tell you that it is something about God living amongst us. We do have the responsibility of being a representative of God.