What is the work of an evangelist? Ephesians chapter four tells us to do the work of an evangelist and I seek to understand exactly what it is.
- D. from Baltimore, MD
Spreading Good News (Part 1)
Actually, it is 2 Timothy 4:5 which you must be thinking of. Paul is speaking to his spiritual son, Timothy, and admonishes him: "But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry." The indication here is that evangelism is one of his spiritual gifts and Paul wants to make sure Timothy operates in it to the fullest extent.
Evangelism is both a call to all disciples of Jesus Christ and a special ministry gift of the Holy Spirit. All are called to evangelize yet not all have the gift of evangelism. First let me explain what it is. The root word, evangel, is Greek and means bringing the good news ("gospel" means "good news").
We are told to "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation." (Mark 16:15) This command is for all believers so all of us have a part in evangelizing the world. Some are missionaries and go and preach the gospel directly to foreign nations and people groups. Some translate the Bible into known languages. Some give finances so that the gospel can be preached. Some spread the gospel by faithfully living out their Christianity in their neighborhood, workplaces and homes. Every way that we witness for Christ is evangelism.
Yet, there is more. How is the gift of evangelism different from the call (often called the Great Commission) to all the disciples of Jesus?
The Evangelist (Part 2)
An evangelist is someone who has been given a special empowerment by the Holy Spirit to evangelize. Within this gift there is room for various levels of gifting including holding the "office" of Evangelist.
Ephesians 4:11 speaks of what we often call the Five Fold Ministry: "And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ." I will simply say that the "office" level gifts encompass the mantle of authority for governance within the Body of Christ.
What would be some indications to a person that they have the gift of evangelism from the Holy Spirit? Evangelism is one of the easiest gifts to spot. Those so gifted are fixed and focused on people being saved. The salvation of a soul and the burden for the lost is priority one.
When an evangelist preaches, they nearly always end with an invitation to receive Christ, even if there is every indication that they are preaching to the choir. Their thinking is: what if there is one out there who is not yet saved?
Evangelists can communicate the plan of salvation with clarity and conviction. They always have creative ways to present their message based on the age or life style of their audience. They seek to build relationships with unbelievers. They challenge people to faith in Jesus Christ everywhere they go. Sharing the gospel is like rolling off a log for them and because the Holy Spirit anoints them for it, they are often favored with success.
Think about Billy Graham, the most famous evangelist of our time. He presents the gospel in a very straightforward manner, without manipulation or emotional trappings. Who could account for his success in the numbers of people who flock to Christ under his ministry except for the gift of the Holy Spirit working through him?
The book of Acts follows another with that special gift. His name was Philip and he successfully evangelized many (see Acts 8) including the Ethiopian eunuch. In Acts 21:8 he is known as "Philip the evangelist."
Remember that the Holy Spirit is the gift giver. "But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good." (1 Corinthians 12:7) Paul's advice to Timothy is true whether you have the gift of evangelism or another gift. "Fulfill your ministry!"
Note: For more information on Evangelists and all the other supernatural gifts read Holy Spirit Gifts - Building Blocks of the Church.