EVANGELISM. It’s a topic many people enjoy hearing about. It’s one of those subjects that makes us feel encouraged as we listen to the stories. It makes us feel thankful for all the faithful Christians who are working to further advance the kingdom of God. Unfortunately, too few of us will go beyond this. When confronted with an opportunity, we make excuses as to why we shouldn’t bother anybody. We may become nervous and try to avoid any awkward moments. We may become afraid of how the other person will respond. Then again, maybe it’s because we simply don’t understand what evangelism is really all about. It’s my hope that, as we dive into the Scripture, we can unpack what it teaches on the subject and then apply it to our lives.
The word translated as “evangelist” is only used only three times in all of the New Testament and literally means “a bringer of good tidings”. The three passages it can be found in are Acts 21:8; Ephesians 4:11; & 2 Timothy 4:5.
On the next day we left and came to Caesarea, and entering the house of Philip the evangelist, who was one of the seven, we stayed with him.Acts 21:8
And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers,Ephesians 4:11
But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.2 Timothy 4:5
Based on Ephesians, we can clearly see this is an important and distinctive role given from God, just as were apostles, prophets, and, presently, pastors and teachers. In Acts, we see Phillip is described as the evangelist. Notice the definite article. There was no confusion that Phillip was given this particular role by God for the purpose of equipping the saints and building up the body of Christ. Interestingly enough, in all of Scripture, Phillip is the only person who is personally identified as being an evangelist in the official sense (chapter 8 of Acts covers some of his works as an evangelist). The closest other spot we come is the passage in 2 Timothy.
If I were to make the statement that not all people are called to be pastors, I’m fairly certain there would be unanimous approval from everyone reading this. What about teachers? Aren’t we warned that not many should become one (James 3:1)? Considering pastors and teachers are official roles, does it stand to reason that not all are called to fill the official role of evangelist? I would say this is a valid statement. So, does this exempt Christians from evangelism? Does it exempt those Christians who do not fill the official role of teacher from going out and teaching others? Not at all! Look again at 2 Timothy 4:5. Notice that Paul is not actually referring to Timothy as an evangelist. Though the same word is being used here, we can see it is only being used as a reference point. Paul is not saying Timothy is filling the role of evangelist. He’s telling him he needs to do the work of an evangelist. Timothy was called to do a great many things though filling the official role of evangelist was not one of them. Some are spiritually gifted in specific ways and God places those people in unique positions. Pastors and teachers fit that bill as well. Evangelists are no different. That being said, there was no confusion that he was to perform the duties of evangelism nonetheless.
To further drive home this point, we need to look at another word. Whereas the word translated as “evangelist” is used only three times in the New Testament, its root word is used 55 times and is translated multiple ways. It is translated as “preach” 23 times, “preach the Gospel” 22 times, “bring good tidings” 2 times, and other methods another 8 times. The very foundation of the word is clearly one of great importance. In fact, without it, we can’t even accomplish the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20).
Though not all are called to be teachers, all Christians are called to teach to some degree. Christ Himself has commanded it! So how are we to accomplish this? How do we make disciples of all nations? How can we make disciples of all nations unless they first hear the good news (Romans 10:14)? How is this accomplished? Through evangelism (Romans 10:15)!
The word translated as “bring good news” is none other than the root of evangelist. I love how the KJV words it: “How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!” It actually uses the same Greek word twice in the one sentence. Though some have the supernatural gift of evangelism so that they may fill the specific role, God has told us He counts it as a beautiful thing when His own share His gospel with the lost. Perhaps many can relate to Danny Akin when he says, “I don’t have the gift but I do have the responsibility.“
Sadly, evangelism has steadily been reduced to the other guy’s job. It’s taken a back seat to the struggles of daily life and the already tight time constraints. As the bride of Christ, my fear is that we’ve simply lost our evangelistic fervor. How can this be when Scripture tells us the very souls of men are at stake? I love the way Charles Spurgeon had a zeal for evangelism. He understood God’s sovereignty yet he also understood God’s natural method for bringing new saints to Himself. Spurgeon said, “We believe in predestination; we believe in election and non-election: but, notwithstanding that, we believe that we must preach to men, ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and ye shall be saved,’ but believe not on him and ye be damned.”
We, as Christians, have a duty to proclaim Christ crucified. We have a duty to evangelize to the lost. To some, it comes easy. To others, it is a work and a chore. Regardless, we are all called to perform this work just as Paul charged Timothy. After all, it isn’t called work without good reason. It may not always be easy but it is always critically important. John MacArthur makes a very valid point regarding the method of evangelism. He states, “It is also important to note that the purpose of evangelism — whether by an ordinary Christian to a neighbor, by a pastor to the unsaved in his congregation, or by an evangelist to the general public — is to carefully but simply help unbelievers become aware of their sinfulness and lostness and to proclaim Jesus Christ as the only Savior and Lord. Any human manipulation in that process, no matter how well intentioned, always becomes a barrier to genuine belief.“
In John 4, we see this was the method Christ used in evangelizing to the Samaritan woman at the well. While speaking to her of living water and never thirsting, he also made it abundantly clear that she was living in a life of sin. This was done by pointing out how she was living with another man out of wedlock as well as what were likely multiple previous marriages. There was no promise of health, wealth, and prosperity. There was no sinner’s prayer. It was a clear cut method of lovingly pointing out her desperate need for a Savior while telling her the way to eternal life. Psalm 90:8 says, “You have placed our iniquities before You, Our secret sins in the light of Your presence.” There will come a day when the unsaved will hear of their inability to save themselves. Would you rather they hear it from you first or from God Himself on the Day of Judgment?
To take another look at Spurgeon’s example, he took this approach quite often. He was not afraid of how others would respond. He was more concerned with how God would judge. In his sermon, “Compel Them to Come In,” regarding those who simply feel they cannot believe or perhaps find it to be an inconvenient time, he stated, “No, my friend, and you never will believe if you look first at your believing. Remember, I am not come to invite you to faith, but am come to invite you to Christ….Our first business has not to do with faith, but with Christ. Come, I beseech you, on Calvary’s mount, and see the cross. Behold the Son of God, He who made the heavens and the earth, dying for your sins. Look to Him, is there not power in Him to save? But did I hear you whisper that this was not a convenient time? Then what must I say to you? When will that convenient time come? Shall it come when you are in hell? Will that time be convenient? Shall it come when you are on your dying bed, and the death throttle is in your throat — shall it come then? Or when the burning sweat is scalding your brow; and then again, when the cold clammy sweat is there, shall those be convenient times? When pains are racking you, and you are on the borders of the tomb? No, sir, this morning is the convenient time.“
It’s this kind of passion that needs to be rekindled in the church. Under the oversight of the elders of a local church (and not divorced from it as a solo project), we need to recover our heart for the lost. Then, we need to take action and evangelize. Sadly, this problem isn’t new to our culture. In fact, Jesus himself addressed the situation and even gave the remedy.
Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.”Matthew 9:37-38, NASB
I once attended a 9Marks conference where it was proclaimed that “no church is accidentally evangelical. It must be intentional.” If we are met with resistance, it shouldn’t discourage us. After all, we aren’t saving anybody. We’re simply going fishing (Matthew 4:19). God does all the work in salvation but He has commanded us to preach His word to the lost so that He might then follow through and perform His miraculous work. Trust that God is in control and remain faithful. As the old hymn says, “Trust and obey.” Evangelism shouldn’t be the arduous duty that this day and age makes it out to be. It doesn’t need to be feared nor should it be limited to weekly church events where there’s safety in numbers. Evangelism is a joyful privilege that encompasses our entire lives. It’s an opportunity to preach Christ crucified and extend the offer of eternal life to all who will believe. Is there no sweeter encouragement? Sadly, not all will see the glory of Heaven but, rest assured that not a single one of God’s elect will see the fires of Hell.
Closing with one final quote from Spurgeon, “That is why we preach! If there are so many fish to be taken into the net, I will go and catch some of them. Because many are ordained to be caught, I spread my nets with eager expectation. I never could see why that should repress our zealous efforts. It seems to me to be the very thing that should awaken us to energy — that God has a people, and that these people shall be brought in. When I cease to preach salvation by faith in Jesus, put me into a lunatic asylum, for you may be sure that my mind is gone.“
~ Travis W. Rogers