ARE YOU AN EVANGELIST?
As you read this article you may ask yourself if you are an evangelist. Here are some questions to help you prayerfully decide if God is calling you as an evangelist:
- Am I sure that the Lord has spoken to me by a calling, or within my spirit, that I am to be an evangelist?
- Do I often feel heaviness about the pain and hopeless state of people separated from Christ?
- Do thoughts of others living without Christ come to me frequently?
- Do I have a strong desire to tell others about Jesus’ life, death and resurrection?
- Do I have a hunger to study God’s Word to gain a deeper understanding of the Gospel?
- Do thoughts of men and women spending eternity in hell away from God affect me greatly?
- Do I feel an urgent need to preach to those who are not saved?
- Have I had dreams or visions in which I am preaching to the lost, which compel me to want to evangelize?
- Do I see practical areas of need that make me want to help others, so I can also introduce them to Jesus?
- Do I feel burdened when I meet other Christians who don’t think or care about reaching the unsaved with the message of Jesus?
- Is showing others the way to Christ most important to me?
- Have I made plans to preach or share with others the Good News of salvation through Jesus Christ alone?
You may have answered “yes” to many of these questions. If so, it is very possible that God is calling you to the work of evangelism. This article will:
- examine who the evangelist is;
- discuss the nature of the evangelist’s work;
- identify the evangelist and those with an evangelistic calling;
- encourage, challenge and teach the evangelist;
- help pastors to identify and encourage evangelists, be effective in evangelism themselves, and grow the Church by winning new believers;
- give practical help in the practice of evangelism for leaders and their churches.
[Note: This article will use the terms “they”, “he” and “she” when speaking of the evangelist. Both men and women – now, and throughout history – have served in the role of evangelists and received callings from God to be evangelists.]
WHO IS THE EVANGELIST?
An evangelist is a man or woman chosen by God to spread the Good News (Gospel) of salvation through Jesus Christ. An evangelist is a speaker for God. He or she tells others about Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Savior. The evangelist tells in words the story of Jesus and the purpose of His life, death and resurrection.
An evangelist, in other words, preaches the Gospel. There is no greater message to preach. The Gospel is “the power of God to salvation” (Rom 1:16).
The story of Jesus Christ includes how He came into the world; lived a perfect, sinless life; died on the Cross; rose up from the grave; and forever lives. The purpose of Jesus’ death was to take upon Himself God’s judgment for the sins of all people, and to destroy sin’s power. Jesus conquered death and defeated the devil and all of the powers of evil. Jesus’ life, death and resurrection bring hope to all people and take away fear.
If you are an evangelist, you are God’s messenger with the most important news in the world!
AN EVANGELIST IS ONE WHO IS SENT
The evangelist is a messenger – one who is sent to make an announcement. Like John the Baptist, the evangelist announces Jesus to the people. “Gospel” is a word that means good news. So the evangelist takes a message of good news to people who need to hear it. It is the best news in the world, about how Jesus died on the Cross to bear God’s full wrath for our sins and thereby obtain for us forgiveness of sins, and give us eternal life.
John the Baptist was sent by God to the river Jordan in the desert (Matt 3:1-12; John 1:6-8,19-34). An evangelist will often be sent to a place where people do not know, or have not yet heard, about Jesus.
The term “evangelist” means a person sent with a message. God chooses evangelists to go with the message of Jesus and to tell it to others. Evangelism requires hard work – including diligent study of God’s Word, sacrifice, planning, courage, prayer and fasting.
THE EVANGELIST IS A GIFT
Read Ephesians 4:11,12: “And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.”
These verses tell us that Jesus gives evangelists as gifts. A gift is meant to be received with thanks and appreciation. Sometimes evangelists are not appreciated by pastors or churches. But people who come to Christ through the work of an evangelist thank God again and again for the gift He sent them—someone who told them about Jesus and explained to them how they could have salvation and new life through Christ.
The evangelist is one of the five servant-leader gifts given by Jesus (Eph 4:11). The evangelist is a gift to the Church because he or she brings people to Christ. People who are truly saved go into churches and learn how to follow and serve God.
The evangelist is also a gift to the people of the world. He or she tells them the wonderful news about the Savior, Jesus, who died and rose again. Through the preaching of the Gospel, people hear how they can have their sins forgiven and receive eternal life. The preaching of the Gospel is the core of the evangelist’s ministry.
A FUNCTION OR AN OFFICE?
Each of the five ministry gifts named in Ephesians 4:11 is fulfilled by people who are called to do a job for God. One is a pastor, one is an evangelist, and another may be an apostle.
Some teach that the gifts mentioned in this passage are offices, or positions of authority. They claim that this gives a pastor or an evangelist the right to command others in the Church.
The Bible does not teach this. The pastor or evangelist is not to be a king over God’s people. But the Bible is clear that they are to become leaders who train others, as Paul writes, “for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry [service]” (Eph 4:12).
Jesus’ way in ministry, and His example for us, is to serve others. “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).
LEADERS ARE SERVANTS
Jesus had the attitude and actions of a servant (Phil 2:4-12). To be a godly leader in the Church means to take the way of the Cross, to die to personal ambitions and plans (read Luke 9:23; Galatians 5:16-25; Philippians 2:3-11). Christ–like leaders live as servants to others, with true humility.
Pastors, evangelists, teachers, apostles and prophets should demonstrate lives devoted to serving others. The five ministry gifts are for leader-servants – those who serve others as Jesus served.
A CALLING, NOT A TITLE
The five gifts mentioned in Ephesians 4 involve the actions and functions of those called, not their titles. They are called to lead and to train other Christ-followers.
For example, the pastor will care for the believers, nourish them with the Word of God, and counsel them. The pastor is gifted and called by Jesus to do so. The pastor will answer to God for how he/she treats and trains the sheep.
Evangelists also have a work to do. Their calling and gifting also come from Jesus. They are uniquely appointed to preach about Jesus and the Cross of Jesus. Each servant-leader is especially equipped in his/her area of calling. The pastor can deal with problems and relationships in the church. He will make sure the people are growing and healthy spiritually. He will also use discipline at times, like a shepherd, to help his flock. He will not misuse his position in order to control people or take advantage of them for his own gain or ambitions.
Evangelists are often gifted with discernment and boldness to challenge demon spirits and other powers that oppose the Gospel work where they are sent to preach. They can preach the Good News with power, often with signs from heaven to confirm their message. They can expect results when they preach in obedience to God because they are doing the work of their calling, and speaking the truth of the Gospel (Rom 1:16).
NOT A TITLE
People who love titles will insist on being honored for the title. They soon think that they are more important than others. But Jesus said, “Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Matt 18:4). Read more about what Jesus said to His workers and followers concerning humble service in Mark 9:33-35 and John 13:3-15.
It is often thought that just gaining a title qualifies you to lead others. Some think that they must be shown great respect if they have the title, “Evangelist”. There are men and women, however, who love Jesus and who share Christ with people in many towns and villages. They do not have a title or great recognition, but they are true evangelists who are doing the work.
Paul brought many people in Corinth to a saving knowledge of Jesus. Paul told them that they were his letters of recognition. His work and calling were shown by the many people who believed in Jesus Christ (read 2 Corinthians 2:14-3:3 and 1 Thessalonians 2:19,20).
The Epistle of James teaches us to show our faith by our works, not by words only (Jas 2:14-20). It is wrong to think that a title alone makes you an evangelist.
The ministry Jesus gives is not a title. Ministry is service. It means hard work, dedication to your calling and submission to the will of God. Ministry is not gaining a title so that you receive honors from other people. This work done by the evangelist is the ministry that pleases God and will bring honor from God Himself.
The Bible teaches, “Let another man praise you, and not your own mouth” (Prov 27:2). Let others recognize your gifting by your work and fruit, not by your self-given title.
Jesus said, “You will know them by their fruits” (Matt 7:16). A pastor is known by his genuine care for and sound teaching of the sheep; he leads and protects the people of God. The evangelist is known by leading sinners to Christ and bringing them into the Church.
ONE OF FIVE LEADERSHIP GIFTS
Evangelism is a mighty and beautiful calling. But no person should be full of pride because of their calling, since it is given by Jesus.
The evangelist is one of the five leadership gifts given to the Church, with a specific job to do. Pastors and believers should recognize the evangelist as a gift, and treat him/her well, providing for evangelists just as pastors are given honor and financial support for their work (1Cor 9:14; 1Tim 5:17). An evangelist should, in return, be expected to lead and serve in the work of evangelism.
Christians and leaders must recognize that every Christian is a necessary part of the Body of Christ (1 Cor 12 and 14; Rom 12:3-8). Each Christian is important and has work to do for God in this world.
It is better to think of the five people-gifts in Ephesians 4:11,12 as those who work hard to carry out God’s plans. They serve with a unique gifting because they obey Jesus. They achieve results because they are appointed by Jesus. This is a much better way to think about these leaders, rather than as officials with titles and authority to tell others what to do.
FRUIT IN MINISTRY
Pastors, teachers, evangelists, apostles and prophets who work hard to fulfill their calling and to please God will make the Church strong and healthy. It is far better to serve with integrity and diligence than to hold a title and accept flattery. James 3:16 states, “For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there.” It is God’s will for those with specific callings among the five leadership gifts to work together, each in his own calling, and get results for God.
Seek to win souls to Christ and work well with others, and everyone will know that you are a true evangelist. Your work will give testimony for you.
PASTORS AND EVANGELISTS ARE MEANT TO HELP EACH OTHER
Pastors and evangelists have different jobs and callings, but both are workers together in the world for Jesus Christ. Pastors and evangelists should value and honor each other’s gifts and calling. One calling is not more important than the other; both are necessary.
Pastors and evangelists have different functions. They should seek to help each other in the Gospel work. Some have said that the pastor is the most important leader in the Church. This is not true. All New Testament leaders are important and very valuable to God and His purposes. Remember that Jesus calls and gives such men and women to the world. While Jesus was on earth, He functioned as an apostle, an evangelist, a pastor, a teacher and a prophet. Now he has left those same works for others to do (Eph 4:11,12).
The evangelist helps the pastor by bringing new Christians into the church. The church grows. The evangelist knows that the pastor will teach the new believers and help them become strong in Christ. The pastor helps the evangelist by praying for him, by encouraging people to help him in his work, and by supporting him with money and resources.
The pastor and evangelist are mutually submitted to one another, preferring one another in love (Rom 12:10; Eph 4:1-6). One does not tell the other what to do. Both are under God’s authority.
SOME ARE PASTOR-EVANGELISTS
In some places many people are saved in a short time. They need to be taught and grow in their life with Jesus. Evangelists who preach the message of Christ and win believers may need to take care of these new sheep in God’s fold until pastors can be found to care for the new believers.
Some men and women have a “double calling” to lead sinners to Jesus and then also teach the new believers. They are passionate about making disciples for Christ.
You may be a pastor who has a strong calling in evangelism. If you are busy bringing in souls for Jesus, you are living out the message of Paul the apostle to Timothy the pastor: “do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry” (2 Tim 4:5). God has planted you in a place to care for His sheep, and you can also do a strong work of evangelism in that place. Perhaps God wants you to plant a church in another city or town. Your gifts in evangelism can help you get many people saved. But be careful that you are not training to be pastors those who are called to be evangelists!
THE EVANGELIST IS A SPECIALIST
God has spoken to specific men or women to preach and tell the message of salvation. The evangelist says “yes” to serving God in this way.
Every Christian is commanded to share their faith in Christ with others (Matt 28:18-20; Mark 16:15; Luke 24:46-48; Acts 1:8). Every Christian should joyfully tell about who Christ is and what He has done for them. All Christians should win others to Jesus Christ!
But the evangelist has a special calling to do this. The evangelist is trained and equipped in the specific ministry of bringing souls to Christ. An evangelist has been given the life-long calling to “catch” men and women for Jesus. Jesus said to Peter, “Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men” (Mark 1:17).
THE EVANGELIST IS GIFTED
God has given gifts and tools to evangelists to equip them in their work. Evangelists can preach with authority and power because that is part of their gifting from God. Miracles often take place when an evangelist is ministering – but it is the Gospel itself, not miracles, that saves (Rom 1:16; 1Cor 1:21-24).
God can teach the evangelist how to preach so that people will understand the Gospel and believe. If you are an evangelist, you can ask God to give you tools and understanding to do your job better.
THE EVANGELIST IS IMPORTANT
There would be no Christians today in your country if someone had not come to preach the Gospel. Thomas the Apostle was the first to travel to India to share the Good News. The Ethiopian eunuch of Acts 8 carried the Gospel into Africa. Evangelists may well have included Roman soldiers and merchants who carried the message of Jesus into Europe and Britain.
Lost people cannot be saved unless they are made aware of the Gospel of salvation through Jesus Christ (Rom 10:14,15).
THE EVANGELIST SHOULD BE SUPPORTED AND ENCOURAGED
An evangelist is a person, man or woman, with a God-given zeal to share the truth of salvation with as many people as possible. This may bring hardship to the evangelist. God often sends the evangelist to remote places, or to places where the Gospel is resisted.
The devil fights against the work of a true evangelist. Satan opposes evangelism because he knows the great power of the Gospel to save people from hell, transform their lives and set them free from sin and demon spirits.
The evangelist prays for the sick and those with demons to be set free. The evangelist calls on people to repent of their sins and serve the true and living God. Evangelists often go to a place to bring others to Christ and prepare them for planting a church.
Pastors and churches should value evangelists and support their work with prayer and finances. We do not expect unsaved people to pay an evangelist for bringing them the Good News about Jesus. It is the privilege and the responsibility of Christians and of churches to support and encourage evangelists. The Church needs evangelists!
However, every minister should also be willing to work to help support themselves. The Apostle Paul did this by making tents (Acts 18:1-3; 20:34; 1Cor 4:12). Paul stated that it was right to receive support from others as a minister (1Cor 9:1-23). But Paul also declares that he did not depend upon this provision, “That when I preach the gospel, I may present the gospel of Christ without charge, that I may not abuse my authority in the gospel” (1Cor 9:18). Evangelists – and all ministers – must use wisdom and be led by the Holy Spirit in these matters, that no criticism or accusation can be brought against them or the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
JESUS PREACHED THE GOSPEL
As Jesus traveled around the cities of Galilee, people came from everywhere to be healed and to hear Him preach and teach.
“And Simon and those who were with Him searched for Him [Jesus]. When they found Him, they said to Him, ‘Everyone is looking for You.’ But He said to them, ‘Let us go into the next towns, that I may preach there also, because for this purpose I have come forth’ ” (Mark 1:36-38).
What was it that Jesus was preaching? Primarily, it was the Gospel! Jesus preached the Good News: “Now after John was put in prison, Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:14,15). Jesus was preaching as an evangelist!
Near the end of Jesus’ ministry, He was both teaching the people and preaching the news that people should repent and believe on Him to be saved: “Now it happened on one of those days, as He taught the people in the temple and preached the Gospel, that the chief priests and the scribes, together with the elders, confronted Him” (Luke 20:1). This verse shows that Jesus was preaching to unbelievers near the time He went to the Cross. The fact that Jesus preached the Gospel models to us the importance of the evangelism ministry.
THE APOSTLES PREACHED THE GOSPEL
Jesus sent the apostles to evangelize. “Then He appointed twelve, that they might be with Him and that He might send them out to preach” (Mark 3:14). Later, Jesus sent out 70 more for this work of telling the Good News (Luke 10:1,9).
PAUL PREACHED THE GOSPEL
The journeys of the Apostle Paul took him to many people who had never heard of Jesus. On his second journey, Paul and his team went to Macedonia because of a dream God gave him (Acts 16:9). In the cities there, he preached as an evangelist to the non-Jewish people.
After this, believers gathered together and Paul taught them as a pastor. His first work was to preach Christ to those who did not know about Him. Then churches grew up in these cities.
Paul then went to the next city and preached again as an evangelist. However, Paul sent Timothy, Titus or another member of his team back to teach and help the new disciples.
In Macedonia, Paul went to Philippi, Thessalonica, Berea, Athens and then Corinth (see Acts 16:9-18:11). Each time he first preached as an evangelist. The Book of Acts tells us that Paul stayed in Corinth for 18 months at the command of the Lord. He both preached as an evangelist and taught and led the people as a pastor.
MANY OTHER DISCIPLES PREACHED THE GOSPEL
Mary Magdalene was sent by Jesus as the first evangelist to tell the disciples that He had risen from the dead (John 20:17,18). Philip was called “the evangelist” (Acts 21:8). Others acted as evangelists before they became pastors.
Peter preached as an evangelist on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:14-36). He preached to people who knew about the true God but had not yet believed in Jesus. His sermon in Acts 2 gives the facts about Jesus and the explanation of the facts – that when Jesus died, it meant something important. Peter also told the people what they should do, now that they knew about God’s work through Jesus Christ (vs 37-39).
The four Gospels in the New Testament have a clear evangelistic message and purpose (Matt 28:18-20; Mark 1:1; Luke 1:1-4; John 20:31; 1John 1:1-4). Matthew, Mark, Luke and John each fulfilled an evangelistic function because they wrote the story of Jesus for everyone to read. They wrote the first four books of the New Testament. They tell how Jesus suffered, bled on the Cross and died for the sins of mankind. The Gospels also tell the world how Jesus rose from the grave to defeat death.
The writers of the New Testament epistles also fulfilled an evangelistic function. Paul, Peter, James, John, Jude and the writer of the Book of Hebrews explained the importance and truth of the Gospel. Every evangelist (and every believer) should diligently study the epistles to gain a thorough understanding of the Good News of salvation through Jesus Christ. The Scriptures are powerful, unfailing and essential resources God has given to every person.