The evolution of a word

‘Evangelism’ is one of those words which probably sends a shiver down the spine of those inside and outside the church in equal measure. Years ago Rebecca Manley Pippert described it as ‘something you wouldn’t do to your dog, let alone your best friend’, and Adrian Plass describes some painful examples of it outside his local chip shop in his first Sacred Diary. Listening to a discussion at #medialit11 today, I am reminded of the word’s origins.

  • Originally the word described the duty of  a runner, who would be sent back from the front line to the folks back home to tell them how the battle was going.
  • Later the Romans took the word over, and monopolised it as an official announcement of the birth a new (and godlike) Caesar
  • The Christians then monopolised it again, melding both former meanings into one – whereby it became both the announcement of a battle won, and the fact that there was a new supreme ruler on the block – namely Jesus.
Which of these definitions are in our minds when we discuss the word today, I wonder?