People often ask me questions in person or by letter, Some of the most frequently asked questions concern the evangelist. I believe the evangelist is the most misunderstood and, perhaps, the most misused and abused gift God has given to the church. I thought that I would try to answer some questions about the gift and role of the evangelist.
WHAT IS AN EVANGELIST?
By definition an evangelist is a preacher of the Gospel though not an Apostle.
The Gospel means the “good news.” That is, the good news of God’s gift of salvation through Jesus Christ. The ability God gives to an evangelist is something that he cannot generate within himself. It is a gift given by God and is especially tailored to preaching the Gospel and to winning people to Christ. It is a gift to persuade, reason, and explain. But there is more. God gives an evangelist a burden and a vision that may be somewhat different from others. The apostle Paul’s burden and vision was to win Gentiles to Christ. An evangelist often has a large vision and sometimes a vision that grows and matures. The evangelist may have a burden for a certain group, an area, an entire country, for the masses, or he may have a vision to reach those who have never heard the Gospel.
God uses the evangelist in the greatest way when his purpose is single-minded toward the winning of the lost. One of the greatest needs we have is the need for spirit-filled evangelists; men who have a broken heart, who shed tears, who spend hours in prayer, who study of the Word of God, and who have a tremendous burden and vision to see many people saved no matter the cost.
WHAT IS THE ROLE OF THE EVANGELIST IN THE MODERN CHURCH?
In order to understand the role of the evangelist today, it is imperative that we have a good understanding of the Great Commission. When Jesus commissioned us “to go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature,” He gave us an awesome responsibility! The Great Commission is for every Christian. That is, all of us who are saved are responsible to get the Gospel to everybody in the world in our lifetime. Then, the next generation is to start the process all over.
The evangelist is not only gifted by God, but also given as a gift to you, the saints, to help you carry out this soulwinning commission. It is not possible or necessary for everyone to have the calling or gift of the evangelist. You cannot be everywhere at once preaching the Gospel, but you can have a part in worldwide evangelism and the carrying out of the great commission through prayer, participation, encouragement, and financial support to gifted evangelist who have been given to help you reach the lost. Actually, the pure evangelization of the lost tends to be, in most Christian groups, a small part of their effort with little results for the money spent.
Billy Sunday was asked why he had such great success in his ministry in seeing thousands upon thousands attend his crusades and scores coming to Christ. The answer was that he took the same philosophy of the apostle Paul who said, “This one thing I do.” Sunday said that he did not get involved in other good and worthwhile projects, but he stuck to the one main goal of seeing as many people saved as he could.
You will notice that the denomination(s) or sect(s) which promotes and supports the evangelist and his ministry tends to grow and gain in influence, while the denomination(s) or sect(s) that de-emphasizes the evangelist, starves him out, or does away with the evangelist altogether soon becomes modernistic and dead, or legalistic, inward, isolated, and dead.
You really cannot do without the evangelist in God’s plan anymore than you can do without the pastor in God’s plan. What kind of shape would we be in today without godly pastors? It would be catastrophic! Yet, the same thing holds true for the evangelist. We readily see the importance of our pastor because of his involvement in our lives and the role he plays in our church. We gladly support the pastor, his family, and the church which is the ministry in which he is involved.
Herein lies the crux of the matter. We often hold the evangelist and our support of him and the ministry with which he is involved on a different plane than that of the pastor and church. Part of it is our culture. We have come to think that the evangelist’s sole ministry is to come to a church and preach. He receives a love offering and that is his income. Today in many circles the evangelist is nothing more than a hireling. That is, he is a preacher that we hire to come in and preach to our people to help support the pastor’s program or authority. No wonder our country tends to go downhill, our morals decline, and fewer people are won to Christ. That leads to the next question.
WHY SHOULD WE SUPPORT THE EVANGELIST?
I know a minister who taught that the evangelist should not be supported except when he would come to the local church to preach. This tends to be the view of a number of people. That is because there is a genuine misunderstanding of who the evangelist is and his job. There is a certain blessing with an evangelist travelling from church to church to preach. It is a method God has blessed. However, the ministry of the Apostle Paul and his team is more of the example of the overall burden and ministry of the evangelist.
The Apostle Paul, the apostle Luke, the apostle Peter, Timothy, Titus, and others were evangelists. Some were apostles and some were not, but they all did the work of an evangelist. They went with the intent of evangelizing an entire area. That kind of ministry takes financial support for the evangelists’ team and their ministry. The first missionaries were evangelists. You must remember that we are not only to get the Gospel out to the entire world, but we are to do it in our lifetime. You are not going to do that without evangelists who have a vision and a burden and are willing to pay the price to see that this happens. If an evangelist is to have that kind of vision, then he must also have that kind of financial support for both his ministry and family. It is good and necessary to support your pastor and church when that ministry helps you directly and the financial needs of the ministry are presented to you two or three times every week. However, it takes a different type of faith to support an evangelist and ministry whom you do not see or hear of on a weekly basis.