I’ve often struggled with the definition of these two words. I was using them interchangeably up until a few years ago when I realized that particularly the word ‘outreach’ was too polarizing with a vast amount of definitions. Words do matter so I think it’s important to clarify the difference between these two concepts.
I recently stumbled across this post from Tim Challies on the subject and have posted a short excerpt below. The whole post is worth a read though.
Outreach vs. Evangelism
There is clearly a significant difference between outreach and evangelism. They are both noble actions and bring honor to God. It is important to realize, and this should be clear through the descriptions, that they are not synonymous. The greatest difference is that evangelism is primarily a message while outreach is primarily an action.
We should note that there may be an important link between outreach and evangelism. Often times we reach out to people to draw them into a place where we can evangelize to them. We may provide children with an opportunity to have fun so that we can invite their parents to come to our church where we will take the opportunity to share the Good News with them. It is the hope of any believer that his actions will cause others to realize he is somehow different and convict that person so he can ask what makes the believer different.