Where Have All the Evangelists Gone?

By Rick Toburen, Coordinator of Ordination and Consecration

Over the past few years, I have had the privilege of working with many godly young men and women who are pursuing full-time ministry with the Alliance.  They all embrace our Central District passions of developing Godly leadership, Holy Spirit dependence, and missional living.  However, almost every one of them struggles with living out that last one: missional living.

All of us are to be active in the Great Commission – reaching the lost.  No one is exempt, yet it is also true that the Lord has uniquely gifted some for evangelism.  This has me thinking:

In Ephesians 4, Paul teaches that God has given five different kinds of gifted people to the church to help build and equip her - And it is He who gifted some to be apostles, others to be prophets, others to be evangelists, and still others to be pastors and teachers. We are generalizing here, but our churches tend to be filled with gifted shepherds and teachers.  It further seems like the apostles tend to plant churches as missionaries overseas or in the states and don’t tend to stick around the local church long as they move on to the next new thing.  Prophets sometimes are avoided in the church.  Depending on the posture of the prophetic person, who likes to be told that their life isn’t measuring up to the Word of God?  I know I certainly don’t!  So in my observation, they tend to not stick around the church either.  And then there’s the evangelists.  These are the ones who can help the church with missional living.  They tend to be naturally gifted in this area. Unfortunately, it seems like this group of men and women are lacking in the church today.  Where have all the evangelists gone? I do not see them as much as I think we should.  Consider the following thoughts:

  • The gifted evangelists may be frustrated by the lack of passion within the local church to reach out to the lost so they look elsewhere; typically to a parachurch organization or other outreach ministry.

  • The evangelists have left the church because they may feel shunned.  We sometimes can feel guilty around them for not being more active in engaging the lost ourselves with the gospel.  And because we do not like to feel guilty, we inadvertently make them feel unwelcome.

So what can we do as the body of Christ to embrace these gifted people and utilize their gifts more effectively? Here are some suggestions:

  • Every church leadership team and elder board should pray that God would raise up leaders who are gifted evangelists, then invite them to be on our teams. This will naturally bring balance.  Most leadership teams I have seen in the church are heavy on the side of the teaching and shepherding gifts from Ephesians 4. The evangelist will bring a different perspective, creating balance.

  • During the gathering times of the local body of Christ, I see shepherding gifts and teaching gifts in use.  Why not add the evangelistically-minded gift to the mix? Sharing stories of missional opportunities can encourage others to “go and do likewise.” We are motivated by stories of hope, grace, and transformed lives.

Likewise, the evangelist needs to be aware of two potential problems they can inadvertently bring to the table:

  1. Evangelists need to remember that they are called by God not only to reach the lost but also to “encourage the body.” Unfortunately, if encouragement is lacking, they can leave some feeling guilty for not measuring up. They are to be inspiring and equipping, not hammering and harping.

  2. They tend to be so natural and good at living on mission and sharing the gospel, that equipping others can be a difficulty.  Most evangelists I know never share the gospel the same way twice! It flows naturally and creatively from them. But therefore, it can be hard to replicate.  Bill Bright, the founder of Cru, realized this and developed a simple tool to equip others.  Good idea!  (Four Spiritual Laws – there are numerous other good tools available as well.)

In the Sermon on the Mount, shortly after the Beatitudes in Matthew 5, Jesus talks about letting our light shine.  He concludes His thoughts with this comment:

Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16)

In my opinion, the bride of Christ (the church) is decent at letting her light shine before men with all kinds of good works.  However, do the people of the world who see those good works glorify our Father in heaven?  Or, do they glorify us, the organization we represent, or the church? In other words, we need to be sure that even beyond just shining for Jesus (which is wonderful) we also need to bring people to a point of decision for Jesus.  This is where it’s helpful to allow the evangelist to encourage us and help us explain that the light that people see on the outside is because of the light we have on the inside.   It can be theirs as well.