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Every Christmas, our family gathers around the Christmas tree to open gifts. Before the wrapping paper is torn and ribbons are peeled off the packages, I always open my Bible and read a passage about the birth of Christ from the Old or New Testament. Afterwards, we bow our heads together and thank God for the greatest Gift ever given to man—Jesus Christ. Every year, people receive material gifts, but if you are a child of God, you know what it means to receive the gift of salvation (Rom. 6:23).
Did you know that the Bible teaches that God has given gifts to the church? These gifts are not wrapped with paper and tied with ribbons, but they are very essential to the ministry of the local church. These gifts are not found under a tree, but in Ephesians 4:11: “And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers.”
In New Testament times, God used apostles and prophets to lead in the foundational days of the church. The apostles were men who were personally called by Christ and saw the Lord with their own eyes. The prophets continued the ministry of their Old Testament fathers by foretelling events and boldly proclaiming the truth. Both of these gifts are extinct for very simple reasons. Since the ascension of the resurrected Christ, no one has heard Christ’s audible voice or seen Him with their eyes. The qualifications mentioned in Acts 1:21–22 cannot be fulfilled by anyone alive today. Prophets throughout the Bible gave advanced revelation and spoke with Divine sanction and authority. We now have God’s complete revelation in the Bible. Therefore, apostles and prophets are not functioning in the church today.
That leaves us with two distinct gifts: the evangelist and the pastor/teacher. Without a doubt, most Christians are familiar with the gift of the pastor, and rightfully so. Most churches have a pastor. Every church needs a shepherd to guide, to feed, and to lead. When a church goes without a pastor for an extended period of time, the devil will do his best to scatter the sheep. As a matter of fact, we would be very concerned about the health of a church if it did not have a pastor and use his gift. Just as a church’s well-being is hindered by not having a pastor, I believe the same is true when it fails to use an evangelist in his God-given capacity.
While many church members are familiar with the ministry of a pastor, fewer and fewer in our Baptist churches are familiar with the ministry of the evangelist. A number of pastors through the years have discounted the ministry of the evangelist because they knew of churches that were hurt or even split by unwise evangelists. Some have gone as far as to say that they would never use an evangelist again. Any pastor that believes that line of reasoning is on dangerous ground, and here is the reason. If church members used the same logic, they would eliminate the use of the pastor also. Some churches have been hurt by pastors who were hucksters or spiritually abusive in their leadership. Does this mean that we should not use pastors? Of course not! It is unfair and wrong to deny the legitimacy of the gifts of the pastor or the evangelist based on past failures and disappointments. God gave them to the church, and they should be used.
What is an evangelist? Some people believe that he is a preacher who travels around and preaches all the time. If that were the sole qualification, then there are a lot of pastors in independent Baptist churches that are also evangelists. Did you know that the Bible gives us the job description of the evangelist?
He is a preacher of the Gospel message. The very meaning of the word evangelist is a “herald of the good news.” The heartbeat of the evangelist is to preach the life-changing message of the Gospel and to see people saved. Only one man in the Scriptures is specifically called an evangelist—Philip (Acts 21:8). He clearly demonstrated his gift in Acts 8 as he was preaching in the cities of Samaria. God had him preach not only to the masses but also to the individual. If a church wants to reach souls for Christ, it should use the evangelist.
Some men have taken this description and said that the evangelist is just a soul-winner in the church. This great oversimplification humors me. We are all commanded to be witnesses of the Gospel (Acts 1:8). In the history of the church, it is obvious that the callings of apostle, prophet, and pastor were divine and required special enabling. The same is true of the evangelist. He is a specialist in preaching the Gospel and motivating others to share the old story, too.
Not only does the evangelist have a ministry to the lost, but he also ministers to the saved. In Ephesians 4:12, he is to help with the perfecting of the saints, the work of the ministry, and the edifying of the saints. More will be said about the revival ministry of the evangelist in the next article in “The Ambassador.”
Evangelists have had a great impact throughout church history. They have been a part of awakenings and revivals, started Christian schools and colleges, and been a blessing to many local churches and pastors. For that impact to continue, churches and pastors must return to using the gift of the evangelist. By God’s grace, Ambassador will continue to train evangelists and pastors who believe in the gift of the evangelist because the New Testament demands it.
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