TITLE: Is every Christian an Evangelist?
DATE: 2nd June 2013
We continue with our reflections upon the subject of Evangelism. The Great Commission in Matthew 28:18-20 is an explicit command of Christ to all His disciples : ”Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you...”.
This commandment forms part of our church’s mission statement.
Today I want to focus on an important question: Is every Christian an evangelist? Many would say, ‘no’ because it is commonly thought that since evangelism is a spiritual gift, and that it applies only to those who have been gifted by God in this area. The problem is that the NT only mentions the word ‘evangelist’ three times:
1. It is mentioned among the foundational ministries of the church in Eph. 4:11.
2. Philip , one of the 7 deacons in Acts 6:1-7 is also called “Philip the Evangelist” in Acts 21:8. It is not difficult to see why. In Acts 8:4-8 we read how he preached Christ to the city of Samaria and in Acts 8:26-40 we read how he helped the Ethiopian eunuch to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ .
3. Paul exhorts Timothy in 2 Tim 4:5 , “do the work of an evangelist“. Timothy was the Pastor at Ephesus.
So then, how do we combine this specific call of an evangelist with that general call to evangelism? It is clear that if evangelism was only based on the work of a specific class of evangelists, the work of getting the witness about Jesus out into the world could have never happened as it did. The book of Acts reveals to us that every believer was busy testifying about Christ and the gospel. Acts 8:4,5 says : “Now those who were scattered went about preaching the word. Philip went down to the city of Samaria and proclaimed to them the Christ…”. From the very beginning, becoming a disciple of Jesus always included becoming a ‘fisher of men’ (Mk 1:17). This work did not belong to a class of gifted people. It did not belong to the bold and to the extroverts . This work belongs to everybody! Everybody who is truly born again can testify to Christ! Think about this in another way. Can any Christian say: “I am not gifted in prayer. I will leave that work to the spiritually gifted praying people!” ? Or can any Christian say: “I am not gifted in giving. I will leave that to the rich and the generous and to those who are gifted to give.”? Can anyone say : “ I don’t have the gift of faith. I will leave that to those who have received such a gift from God” , or “I won’t engage in personal Bible study – I will leave the spiritually gifted to teach me ?” You have never heard this said because you know that such arguments are ridiculous. But one does hear Christians saying from time to time “I am not gifted to be an evangelist”, and the implication is therefore – “leave it to those that are gifted”, thereby leaving the great commission to a few- a professional group of evangelists.
Let’s try to get the perspective right. Where the Bible does speak about the evangelist, one may assume that they have been gifted by God in a larger measure and with more visible success in this field. One may also assume that these are the ones that encourage and equip the saints for the work of such ministry (Eph. 4:11-12) since they are mentioned here in that context. So the point is that we as ordinary Christians do not need to be uniquely gifted to evangelize. But we need to be encouraged and we need to be equipped to do this work which, like praying and giving and worshipping, and exercising of faith belongs to all. After all, one of our main callings as followers of Christ is to help others to become followers of Christ!
So you need to see evangelism not only as a spiritual gift, but also as a spiritual discipline.
Every Christian an Evangelist
Nowhere is this point made clearer than in Acts 2:16-21, which is a quote from the prophet Joel 2:28-32 : ‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; even on my male servants and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy. And I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and vapour of smoke; the sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day. And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.’
The coming of the Spirit at Pentecost had one major purpose: to equip all kinds of believers with power to be effective witnesses to Christ, in all the world (Acts 1:8). The prophet Joel foresaw this, and the apostle Peter understood this when he spoke to the assembled multitudes on that Sunday, when the Holy Spirit came, and when the promise of Jesus to them was fulfilled (Acts 1:5). The people dwelling at that time in Jerusalem were enabled to speak in other languages. What were they speaking about in these other languages? Acts 2:11 tells us: “they were telling the mighty works of God“. What were the mighty works of God? They were the works that Jesus displayed in His life and in His death and in His resurrection. He came as the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world and to reconcile those who would believe in Him with Almighty God the Creator of mankind and of the heavens and the earth. Everybody was talking about this, and as a result of this first witness by the church, ‘those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.’ (Acts 2:41).
Pentecost was first the corporate witness of those present to a watching world, who initially thought that they were drunk. This was followed by the Spirit empowered preaching of Peter, a direct, clear, evangelistic sermon which moved many people to repent of their sins by turning to Christ God’s Mediator for the forgiveness of their sins, testifying to the same in baptism and being added to the church, the sign of God’s kingdom on earth.
But notice the emphasis of Joel’s prophecy: ‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; even on my male servants and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy.
Try not to get lost in the words prophecy … dreams … visions… Rather ask yourself : What is all this for? And the answer is plain – all flesh, that is sons, daughters, young men , old men, male servants, female servants, all who are born of the Spirit, are empowered to bear witness to the Lord Jesus Christ and to the mighty works of God. Pentecost was not primarily about tongue speaking. It was not about being able to dream dreams and seeing visions . These are all secondary matters. You have to ask yourself: What was the purpose of these abilities? The answer is that prophecies, dreams, visions (or if you would like to add -sermons and testimonies) are simply tools which the Holy Spirit chooses to use in testifying to the person and work of Christ. The rule in 1 Corinthians 14 is this : the plainer the speech , the easier the testimony is to understand. The primary concern is that an effective witness is brought to sinners.
The effect of that witness in Acts 2 is seen in this statement: ‘…they were cut to the heart.’ (2:37). And what was the response? “…Brothers / sisters what shall we do (in response to this) ?” I want you to see that this is not a movement of evangelists , or of pastors and elders- that is people who would naturally lead by example. I want you to see that alongside these spiritual leaders (and we need them to lead us!) there is an army of people that are equally committed to testify about Christ.
What then is the relationship between the pastor or the evangelist and the rest of the church? The context in Eph. 4 makes this clear. The pastor- teacher, the evangelist, the prophet and apostle exist to encourage and equip the saints for the work of ministry (Eph. 4:12). The ministry of sharing the gospel of Jesus does not belong to the pastor or to the evangelist. It belongs to the whole church, of which pastors and evangelists are a part.
Evangelism is a natural response to the good news! You cannot help but share it.
This is at once a liberating truth, but also a worrying concern.
The liberating aspect is that you do not have to wait for anyone to give you permission to share the gospel with all you come in contact with. If you have been born again , then tell the world ! May the Holy Spirit seal this truth to your hearts, brothers and sisters, and be bold!
The worrying concern is that there seems so little desire to share the gospel , the truth as it is in Jesus ( to borrow a phrase from Eph. 4:21) SO THAT evangelism is no longer a lifestyle in our modern church. There is little exporting of our faith. This is not right and it is certainly not normal .
To illustrate this from the testimony of the Thessalonian church: Paul says :”… not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone for the everywhere…” (1 Thess. 1:8). Understand this : The gospel had come to them ‘ not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction…’ (1:5) but it worked through them and influenced their world and beyond – everywhere! That is Christian evangelism, and this fact l has led to the quick expansion of the early church (see Paul’s testimony in Rom 15:19). The point is this: No one forced them to evangelize. This was the spontaneous expansion of the church through people who were utterly convinced that the world was in a terrible spiritual crisis, and they believed that Jesus was who He said He was; they believed that He was the only solution to everyman’s dilemma . And so I say to you: The Christian without an evangelistic or a missionary heart is an anomaly!
What is an evangelistic- missionary heart?
Here are a few pointers :
· 1. a heart that regularly prays for the lost in this world. Join us as we pray for the world every Sunday night! Join us for our week of prayer for Missions and revival this coming week.
· 2. a heart that has a loving concern for the eternal welfare of every person we meet ;
· 3. a heart that seeks to turn every conversation with the lost to a gospel conversation – be it ever so brief or long ; in different ways and contexts and yet the same message.
· 4. a servant heart that spends itself for others for the sake of Jesus ;
· 5. a gracious heart, and yet a provocative heart that causes the lost to examine themselves to seek answers to ultimate questions.
· 6. a heart that brings light into a dark world ; a heart that ‘ salts’ this world’s putrefying effects.
· 7. a heart grounded in sound doctrine , and which also knows how to make Jesus attractive to the world.
a 8. a holy heart that issues in a holy life and a good testimony
We have to conclude that a Christian with no passion for the lost is in serious need of self examination and repentance. How is the Holy Spirit applying this to your own conscience today?