This will be the first in a short series on Evangelism and Witnessing.
Recently among a group of college students (all who claim to be followers of Jesus), a discussion broke out. One of them confidently said, “We all need to be evangelists.” A few heads nodded. Then someone disagreed. Sides formed – for and against.
Is there truth to the statement that we all need to be evangelists? I’ll join that fray and express my opinion, which I believe will be grounded in Scripture. So, let’s start there.
The word evangelist appears in most New Testaments only three times. Twice, the writer is speaking of a specific person. Philip is referred to as an evangelist in Acts 21:8. And Timothy is told by Paul to “do the work of an evangelist” in 2 Timothy 4:5.
Those are quite specific references, and I think we can all agree that it would not be a good Bible study application to make these citations into broad commands to the Body of Christ. In both these cases, the work of an evangelist set these two men apart from other believers.
Isn’t it interesting that the verse in Acts is referring to Philip, who welcomed the missionaries, Paul and Luke, into his home as an evangelist? At no time was either Paul or Luke given such a title. Paul is usually referred to as an apostle, and Luke as his co-worker, but never as evangelists. Yet, there’s a probability that no one preached the gospel to more people in the first century than Paul.
That brings me to my first point. Thayer’s Greek Lexicon describes the Greek word εὐαγγελιστής (euaggelistēs) as the name, “given in the New Testament to those heralds of salvation through Christ who are not apostles.”
We find apostles and evangelists mentioned together in Ephesians 4:11 and 12. There, Paul writes, “And He gave some as apostles, 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” (NASB).
My second point will be made as we look closely at this verse from Ephesians. Note that the verse says that “some” of the people mentioned were given by God. In the common Greek of the first century, “some” was not a separate word but part of the noun (apostle, prophets, evangelist). The King James Version, New American Standard Bible, New Century Version, New English Translation, New Revised Standard Version, and World English Bible all use the word “some.” In the English Standard Version and New International Version, the translators opted to use the word “the” instead of “some.”
But here’s my point. Whether you say “the” or “some” evangelists, it’s pretty clear that these people were not everyone in the local church. As a matter of fact, all of these apostles, evangelists, and teachers were given by God to “equip the saints.” The majority of the Body of Christ is not functioning in one of these four or five roles. The majority is being equipped by the minority.
These are the three places where the word evangelist occurs. None of these are telling the “average Joe Christian” to be an evangelist. Just like no verse tells every Christian to be a pastor or a teacher.
Based on the three uses of the word evangelist in the New Testament and my two discussion points, I would strongly contend that we are not all called to be evangelists.
God called us all to be His people, but as His people, we have different roles, in the same way that we have different gifts. Paul made it clear that everyone does not have the same gift (1 Corinthians 12:27-30).
Let’s stop trying to make other people experts in the gift that God may have given us. Let’s enjoy our diversity as given to us by God and help one another function well in the gift that the Holy Spirit decided each of us to individually have.
In my next post, I will discuss whether my conclusion that we are not all called to be evangelists relieves us from telling others about our faith in Jesus.
I believe we are all called to be ‘evangelists’ just like every Soldier in the Army is called to fight, even if there job is clerk or supply. A decent comparison is ‘swimmer.’ I swam in high school and continue doing so in triathlons. We use the word for Michael Phelps also even though ‘swimmer’ jumps up several levels when applied to him. It may be semantics but I believe identity is powerful, such that if people believe they are not evangelists they will not evangelize.
I am much encouraged by this article “Are we all called to be evangelists”! It was the question I typed into my search engine after hearing a sermon this evening, that identified all present in the congregation as, (and urged us to be), evangelists. I was uneasy with the message and I believe that uneasiness was in the power of the Holy Spirit. My gut feeling is that this article is right and I thank the author for confirmation, (particularly as I never take my personal discernment without reservation). As a veteran I can bear witness that as a young man who joined the army I was not called to fight but to belonging, comaradery and adventure, (and the pay was not too bad either). The army was also an excellent escape from an unhappy home and poverty. Equally we had Padre’s who were not called to fight but to Minister to the rest of us. Even those who had to fight would of course have preferred not to have had to fight. I feel that yes, those called to be evangelists should follow their calling but for the rest of us let our light shine and if it attracts people to our Faith then all the better. I make no secret of the fact I am human and a Christian but, (like every other human and Christian), I am unable to reflect the full glory of Christ. There are pitfalls to convincing people not called in the power of the Holy Spirit.
I agree with you. We all do have the commission to spread the gospel, but some people are just not mentally capable of being evangelistic directly, so they do so in a supporting role. I’d say in a sense… it’s true everyone is supposed to evangelize because the commandment to spread the gospel is given, but it doesn’t mean you have to directly evangelize yourself.. I am autistic and have aspbergers.. a condition that makes people socially awkward around strangers.. I can’t memorize verses, but I understand what is taught. I understand the message of salvation.. but can’t express it in words..
People that lack mental illnesses forget these things and are stuck in a paradigm that well “since I can do it, it is clear everyone can do it because I know it can be done, because I can do it.”
For me.. I know my limitations, but I understand the importance of spreading the gospel.. so I do so in a supporting role rather than directly.
This was a great message and a great help to me !
This article helped me a lot on this subject. Thank you for writing/publishing!