Pastor Steve Sjogren is coming to Austin in late October. The popularity of the Christianese phrase servant evangelism is due in large part to Sjogren, so in honor of him, here’s the current draft definition of that word.
servant evangelism More rarely: service evangelism; servanthood evangelism. An evangelism model in which evangelists create opportunities to talk with (and possibly witness to) non-Christians by providing a free service (as washing cars or raking leaves) or gift (as a cold drink, a snack, the newspaper, a dollar bill). Since 1993, this model has been strongly associated with pastor Steve Sjogren and is described in his books Conspiracy of Kindness (1993) and 101 Ways to Reach Your Community (2000).
For some notes on a possible distinction between service evangelism and servant evangelism, please see *service evangelism.
• 1982 Krass Evangelizing Neopagan North America 111 : Jesus’ evangelism was servant-evangelism. 1984 Armstrong Pastor as Evangelist 163 : Such an evangelism calls for a particular style that is quite different from the sometimes overly aggressive approaches employed by some well-intentioned churches. I have called it “service evangelism,” which expression is intended to suggest not that service is evangelism but that service and evangelism are concomitant aspects of ministry. I considered calling it “servant evangelism,” but that connoted something slightly different, placing the emphasis more on the service of evangelism. I wanted to convey the idea not of a servant doing evangelism (although that is certainly a valid concept) but of an evangelism that is service-oriented, the purpose of which is not just saving souls but saving lives and helping people. 1993 Sjogren Conspiracy of Kindness 17 : People often ask me to explain servant evangelism in a nutshell…. This is the definition we use in our church: demonstrating the kindness of God by offering to do some act of humble service with no strings attached. 1998 Reid Introduction to Evangelism 209 : Servanthood evangelism is a combination of simple acts of kindness and intentional personal evangelism\zfourdots Servant evangelism often involves a whole group washing cars, offering sodas at a park, etc.
See also *confrontational evangelism; *friendship evangelism; *lifestyle evangelism; *outreach; *street-corner evangelism.
1. Syn *servant evangelism.. Since the publication of Steve Sjogren’s book Conspiracy of Kindness (1993), which popularized the term servant evangelism, the term service evangelism is often used as a synonym for *servant evangelism. Before 1993, the term service evangelism predominated. Given the similarity in sound and meaning of the two terms, some people today use the terms interchangeably.
In Sjogren’s Conspiracy of Kindness, the term servant evangelism occurs 69 times and service evangelism occurs only once—in the one-line introduction to appendix 2 in the back of the book: “Let these statements help you step out with confidence into service evangelism.” The use of service evangelism here was probably an editorial accident, since the book so consistently uses the term servant evangelism everywhere else. Note that in the 1998 citation below, the book reviewer uses the term service evangelism despite the fact that Sjogren so consistently uses the term servant evangelism; the reviewer evidently considers the similar-sounding terms to be interchangeable.
• 1998 Arnold Small Group Outreach 96 : Service evangelism made a splash with the publication of Steve Sjogren’s book Conspiracy of Kindness.
2. An evangelism model in which Christians seek out opportunities to serve people in the community, particularly non-Christians. See 1983 citation below for more.
• 1979 Armstrong Service Evangelism 65 : Service evangelism is motivated by a genuine interest in others, not by self-interest. The purpose is to be a friend, not to gain a statistic. It is not, “What can they do for our church?” but “What can our church do for them?” That requires listening more than telling. The approach is incarnational rather than propositional. It is a matter of being there are caring, instead of going there and unloading. 1982 Conn Evangelism: Doing Justice and Preaching Grace 54 : Members are encouraged to move into the neighborhood where the church centers its ministry and exercise their gifts for service-evangelism. 1983 Johnson Evangelism Primer 50 : Service evangelism provides a positive approach. The training in a P.R.O.O.F. Seminar (Probing Responsibly One’s Own Faith) equips lay people to knock on the doors of strangers and inquire how the church may be of service. After an extended period of listening, these service-oriented visitors share a personal witness of faith, offer a word of prayer, and invite the persons visited to attend the church. 1984 Armstrong Pastor as Evangelist 163 : Such an evangelism calls for a particular style that is quite different from the sometimes overly aggressive approaches employed by some well-intentioned churches. I have called it “service evangelism,” which expression is intended to suggest not that service is evangelism but that service and evangelism are concomitant aspects of ministry. I considered calling it “servant evangelism,” but that connoted something slightly different, placing the emphasis more on the service of evangelism. I wanted to convey the idea not of a servant doing evangelism (although that is certainly a valid concept) but of an evangelism that is service-oriented, the purpose of which is not just saving souls but saving lives and helping people. 1992 Hybels Honest to God? 36 : Dorcas … tremendously impacted her city by doing deeds of kindness. She made garments for the poor and forgotten, and distributed them in the name of Christ. She may never have knocked on a door; it’s unlikely she ever preached a sermon. Yet through her acts of service she pointed people to the God who could transform human hearts and fill them with love (Acts 9). Dorcas was a service evangelist.
3. The inclusion of evangelistic elements in a social ministry.
• 1959 Mennonite Quarterly Review (vols 32–33) 161 : To many of us who have pastored or labored in Mennonite missions, it has become evident that “preaching evangelism” (revivals, mass crusades, etc.) has lost much of its past effectiveness as a chief method for a local church. Through our deeper encounter with the Biblical, historical, and theological meaning of evangelism, and through our experimentation in cities like Chicago, we have come to see that there are other ways to win people to Christ than by formal preaching, ways which can be studied under the broad heading of visitation evangelism, fellowship evangelism, teaching evangelism, and service evangelism. 2005 Unruh, Sider Saving Souls, Serving Society 36 : Service evangelism entails evangelistic interactions in the context of social ministries. Example: offering a devotional before a soup kitchen meal.