What is an Evangelist?

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You must have heard of the term evangelist, but have you ever met one?
What images comes to mind when you think of an evangelist? Maybe you are influenced by the Hollywood stereotypes?
Let me take on the task to bring out some clarity and explanation, what the characteristics are of an evangelist.

Historically the church has not been good in adapting the five-fold ministry; Apostle, Prophet, Evangelist, Shepherd/Pastor and Teacher. We read about this ministry in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians chapter 4:11;

“And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ: That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.” Ephesians 4:11

The Bible talks about the gifts of services, or positions, for the functioning of the body of the church. What we can see in today’s church, is that almost every church, uses only two of them and that is the Shepherd and the Teacher.
When you stretch out your hand, you can see your hand has five fingers. How useful is it if you only use two of your fingers and not all of them?
The gifts of services are five;
1. the apostle, 2. the prophet, 3. the evangelist, 4. the shepherd and 5. the teacher.
Many of us are a mixture of them all, but usually we are stronger in one or two of them.

We all should try to find our identity and passion of service. Because the most important thing is that we excel in what God has created us to be. If you are picked out to be in a team, the first question should be, what role should I play in that team? Ephesians 4 talks about how to build up the body of Christ. For example the Apostle is to govern God’s calling and DNA. The Prophet; he sees what God wants and where the congregation is heading at. “- Mind the gap” is what the prophet is telling the church, so the church and God’s people are not wandering away from God, and lose the focus. Read the Book of Revelation, chapter 2-3 and listen to what Jesus is addressing the churches. Or read the Prophets; the major ones are Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel.

How we portrait the evangelist

Most evangelists don’t always fit in completely in the congregation and its activities. And the church is not always good at taking care of the evangelists. That could be said of the apostle and prophet also. The leaders of the church sometimes don’t understand how an evangelist function. Some churches also tend to put the youth pastors to do the evangelization until he or she becomes a senior pastor. That is to downplay the role of the evangelist.
Many of us have a picture of an evangelist like “the American TV evangelist with a private jet plane”. Or the “annoying type” who stands and shouts in the streets.
Some of us may think “- I don’t want to be that person who talks or says too much or tries to convict others!”.
Therefor we must have a wider and deeper understanding of the role of the evangelist and how they operate. Because they have an important role as fisher of men.

The role of the evangelist

Street evangelistYou can say that the evangelist is the salesperson and the recruiter of new people into the church, that is their main objective. And that’s how they are created and gifted by God.

But there is something quite different with an evangelist compared to the others – it’s almost like they don’t like to be inside the church.
When they sit in church many times they think; “we should be out there!”, “what are we doing here?”, “people are getting lost out there!”.
Many of the evangelists enjoy more to be on the outside of the community activities, and not to be in the middle.
The most important thing for them is to win people to Christ.

An evangelist is almost like a cat with a territory. Sometimes they eat at home, sometimes at church, but most of the time they enjoy to be out there, with people, walking known areas where they can pick up people, to start conversations.
If you hold them too hard then it’s almost like they will die spiritually. Or they will not flourish. So beware if you say; “- now you have to be here and don’t go anywhere else!”.

The fishermen like to be out there fishing. That’s where you will find them, that is their passion. If the fisherman is not out there getting fish, he doesn’t regard himself as a fisherman. ”You can’t be a fisherman at the kitchen table.”
Try to see and empathy with an evangelist in that same way.

The evangelists like to be with other people out there, they are quite sociable, they can build bridges between people. They put themselves between God and the people – to draw them closer to each other. The Evangelist is the bridge builder.
Evangelists are designed to recruit but often not to minister. As soon as they have recruited one person, they want to find a new one.
This can be problematic for the one who is recruited, that the initial contact left them. The Evangelist is very important to them, for obvious reasons; it’s through the evangelist that they got to know Jesus and maybe also got the Holy Spirit.
Suddenly they feel they are not as important for the evangelist any longer.
So it’s important the evangelist don’t leave the recruited one too quickly or too early, until they can “eat solid food”.

The status of an evangelist should be lifted up. They are more than a youth pastor wanting to become a minister. An evangelist wants to present God to people, it’s an important and real pastoral service. To present God’s Goodness and Truth where it’s needed.
Further more, they are good in what they are doing. They are always on the hunt for new people, in and out of season. Many of them have a social intelligence and a feeling of what people need, where they are in life – and how to connect the Gospel to where the person is right now in life, and make it relevant in the present time.

The conversion

How does people come to faith in Jesus? Let us look at Paul, who started out to persecute the early Christians;

” … suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven: And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest … and he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him, arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do. And the men which journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing no man. … And he was three days without sight, and neither did eat nor drink. … And Ananias went his way, and entered into the house; and putting his hands on him said, Brother Saul, the Lord, even Jesus, that appeared unto thee in the way as thou camest, hath sent me, that thou mightest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost. And immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales: and he received sight forthwith, and arose, and was baptized. And when he had received meat, he was strengthened. Then was Saul certain days with the disciples which were at Damascus. And straightway he preached Christ in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God.” Acts 9:1-20

Even if we hope to see the fast conversion that happened to Saul in Acts 9:1-20, the reality is very few of them who come to faith, come quickly or in a such dramatic way. Most people come to faith by a “warm feeling in their hearts”, similar to when you fall in love with somebody. That is what happened on The Road to Emmaus in Luke 24;

“Then He (Jesus) said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory?” And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself. Then they drew near to the village where they were going, and He indicated that He would have gone farther. But they constrained Him, saying, “Abide with us, for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent.” And He went in to stay with them. Now it came to pass, as He sat at the table with them, that He took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they knew Him; and He vanished from their sight. And they said one to another, Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures?” Luke 24

Most of us maybe just get the warm feeling in the heart like these disciples in Luke 24. That is exactly what happened to John Wesley, the founder of the Methodists, when he listened to Martin Luther’s preface of Paul’s letter to the Romans.
So the most common conversion for Christians is perhaps what we learn from Luke 24. We read about Jesus the fellow journeyer who asked the disciples questions, they answered, he explained. They found this person so amazing and attractive, before they understood it was Jesus, that they asked Him; “- Can’t you stay with us?” Jesus was the One who opened their eyes. “- Didn’t our hearts burn”, they asked themselves.

Very few jump from a non belief view, to a belief of faith. Although some of the better skilled evangelists are able to make that jump. One of the reasons is that the evangelist is goal oriented. They long to the point where their friend will give their life to Christ. When they see that the person is ready, they quickly come up with ideas of how to make that happen: it could be to take them somewhere or send them something or present them to someone.
Some of the characteristics of an evangelist is that they tend to to walk alongside a person and wait eagerly until they are saved. Remember conversions usually take time. An evangelist also likes to capture people with a story to make them think or to make the word alive, like the master Jesus did so often.

You take care of him!

Have you heard the story of the evangelist and the pastor, who went together to a cabin in the forest? The evangelist went out to hunt, so they could have something to eat, while the pastor stayed in the cabin.
After a few hours, then suddenly the pastor hears the evangelist screaming “- Open the door, open the door!!” The pastor opens the door and sees how a big bear is chasing the evangelist, who runs towards the cabin. And when the bear and evangelist is about to run into the cabin, the evangelist turn away from the door opening, so only the bear runs in the cabin. Then the evangelist closes the door, and shouts to the pastor “- You take care of him, and I will get another one!”.
Yes, that is sometimes how some pastors of a church experience the evangelist. They bring in some very difficult and troublesome people into the church, and leave these persons alone with the pastor …

Different kinds and methods

There are different types of evangelists and also the methods they use. Some like to reason with unbelievers, discuss, and argue. We can call them Convincers, who use arguments, why this is false and that is true. Logic and common sense. Like Apollos, in the book of Acts 18:24-24 – “spoke and taught accurately the things of the Lord”, “showing from the Scriptures that Jesus is the Christ”.
One method is to “serve unfinished food”. That is to ask questions to make the person think over a subject during a period of time. That is like sowing a seed. They wait some time, and then they serve another seed.
Then we have the Investors. They invest everything in only a few people but stay with them during the whole way. They usually only converts a few. It can be family members as their children. Many times they don’t see themselves as an evangelist.
The Converser’s method is to listen, having a dialogue instead of a monologue. Not anyone have that kind of patience, or time. But experience shows that taking your time and show interest in the person, can also make the other part feeling good to be heard, and therefor also are more keen to listen to the Gospel.
And then you have the Prayers who either go into private prayers for those they wish God to save. Or those who like to lay hands on people and pray for healing; “If you don’t believe in His words maybe you can believe in His miracles.”
You have another kind of evangelist and that is the Inviter. He invite others, to a specific preacher or to a certain message, which he perceive will be good for this person. In John 1:40-42 we read about Andrew;

“Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of the two who heard what John had said and who had followed Jesus. The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, “We have found the Messiah” (that is, the Christ). And he brought him to Jesus.” John 1:40-41

In John 4, Jesus talks to the Samaritan woman at the well. Here we can see how Jesus acts like an evangelist, but also the woman who play the role of an Inviter. God His Father, gives Him words of knowledge, so Jesus reveals the woman’s past, ask her questions, and she goes to invite the other villagers “- Come and listen!”

“… the woman went back to the town and said to the people, “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?” … Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I ever did.” So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days. And because of his words many more became believers. They said to the woman, “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.” John 4

Now maybe you can better understand the evangelist, who God equipped to bring out the good news, the Gospel. The church needs someone who is out there, so the church can grow and bear fruit.
Good news is only good news for you when you hear it – and act on it!
Remember, although the Gospel is the best news in the world, it isn’t good news for those who reject it, and throw away the Cornerstone.

“How beautiful on the mountains
    are the feet of the messenger who brings good news,
the good news of peace and salvation,
    the news that the God of Israel reigns!” Isaiah 52:7

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