Evangelism is the practice of attempting to convert people to a religion. The term is used most often in reference to Christianity and Islam, since those two religions mandate that their followers make efforts to recruit as many people as possible into their faith. However, the term may be used for the practice of attempting to convert people to any religion, even if that religion does not specifically require that its followers engage in evangelism. For this reason, there are "evangelists" in Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, and other religions, even though those religions are not "evangelical" by nature. The term is sometimes used as a metaphor in a non-religious context as well.
The intention of most Christian evangelism is to convert those who do not follow the Christian God to Christianity for the purpose of effecting eternal salvation. Evangelism is done in obedience to the Great Commission, a command from Jesus to his disciples to proselytise, according to accounts in the New Testament. Christians who specialise in evangelism are known as evangelists, whether they are in their home communities or acting as missionaries in the field. Some Christian traditions consider evangelists to be in a leadership position, and they may be found preaching to large meetings, and in governance roles. Christian groups who actively encourage evangelism are sometimes known as evangelistic.
The word evangelist comes from the Koine Greek word εὐαγγέλιον (transliterated as "euangelion") via Latin "Evangelium", as used in the canonical titles of the four Gospels, authored by Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John (also known as the Four Evangelists). The Greek word εὐαγγέλιον originally meant a reward for good news given to the messenger (εὔ = "good", ἀγγέλλω = "I bring a message"; the word angel is of the same root) and later "good news".
The verb form of euangelion, euangelizo (transliterated "evangelism"), was used rarely in Greek literature outside the New Testament, making its meaning more difficult to ascertain. Parallel texts of the Gospels of Luke and Mark reveal a synonymous relationship between the verb euangelizo and a Greek verb "kerusso" which means "to proclaim".
Our modern word "Gospel" comes from the Old English word "Godspell." In Old English, "god" with a long "o" meant "good," and "spell" meant "word" (we carry this meaning also in our word "spelling"). So in other words, "Godspell" meant "good word," specifically the good tidings concerning Jesus Christ.
Evangelism or proselytism
While evangelism is usually regarded as converting non-Christians to Christianity, this is not always the proper usage of the word. If converting to Christianity includes services or material benefits it is called proselytism. On the other hand, converting Christians (e.g., Orthodox) who are not churchgoers to another Christian denomination is commonly seen as evangelism, not proselytism.
Catholic missionary work in Russia is commonly seen as evangelism, not proselytism. Archbishop Kondrusiewicz openly stated "that proselytism is absolutely unacceptable and cannot constitute a strategy for the development of our structures either in Russia or in any other country in the world." Especially regarding claims by Orthodox church that spreading the faith and receiving converts amounts to proselytism Catholic church CDF issued document called "Doctrinal Note on some aspects of evangelisation"  which states that evangelism is "an inalienable right and duty, an expression of religious liberty ...", document added that "The incorporation of new members into the Church is not the expansion of a power group, but rather entrance into the network of friendship with Christ which connects heaven and earth, different continents and age. It is entrance into the gift of communion with Christ ...
And how gratefully proud were these humble men on that day when the Master refused to accept a certain rich man as an evangelist unless he would sell his goods and help the poor. When the people heard this and beheld the twins among his counselors, they knew of a certainty that Jesus was no respecter of persons. But only a divine institution--the kingdom of heaven--could ever have been built upon such a mediocre human foundation!
- Bible as a Second Language, webpage, retrieved November 05, 2008
- "Hindu extremists accuse world's largest floating book fair of Christian proselytism". asianews. 28 April 2006. Retrieved 10 January 2009. "Curb proselytism in Andhra Pradesh". News Today. 4 July 2006. Retrieved 10 January 2009.
- "Russia's conversion does not require leaving Orthodox faith: Catholic prelate". Catholic World News. 14 May 2007. Retrieved 10 January 2009.
- "Vatican defends duty to evangelize and accept converts". Reuters. 14 December 2007. Retrieved 10 January 2009