Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Are Evangelists for Sinners or Saints?


The answer I receive to that question is overwhelmingly that the evangelists are for sinners (those who are not yet following Jesus). It seems our concept of an evangelist is formed more by powerful names and personalities than by what the Bible teaches. The mention of Billy Graham, Aimee Semple McPherson, Luis Palau, D.L. Moody, Greg Laurie and many others elicit images of powerful orators who preach the Gospel of Jesus to crowds. There is no doubt that the people mentioned above are evangelists, but as evangelists is their primary biblical role meant to preach the gospel to sinners?

Every believer is commissioned by Jesus (Matthew 4:19, John 20:21) and empowered by the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8) to tell the good news as a way of life. In this way evangelists are to be preaching the gospel to sinners. However, according to Scripture, the main charge of the evangelist to proclaim, teach and equip the saints--not sinners. Many ask the question, "Why do saints need an evangelist? After all, they have already been “evangelized?” That is a good question. Before we take a look at the answer, let’s take a look where we get the teaching that evangelists are primarily for saints, not sinners.

“11 And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ…” Ephesians 4:11-12 (NASB) (emphasis mine)

In these verses we learn that God gave some as evangelists for the equipping (building up) of the saints (the body of Christ) so the saints will be doing the "work of service." In the case of the evangelist they are to equip the believers to be living and sharing the Good News of Jesus. It is clear that the main role of the evangelist is for the saints, not sinners.

So, back to the question of why saints (the church) need evangelists. There are at least three clear reasons. 

Primarily they are to equip believers to be freely and fearlessly sharing the Good News with their lives (Ephesians 4:11-16). 

Secondly all believers need to be reminded of our desperate need for Christ at all times. The Gospel needs to be preached to ourselves so we don’t forget. It is easy in every generation to forget all that Christ has done for us. Distractions, apathy and trials all seek to steal our gaze away from Christ. When we remember how indebted we are to Jesus, we often end up looking for opportunities to share the Good News out of our gratefulness. 

Thirdly, a constant reminding of the truths of Scripture that guarantee freedom, power, authority and even the right words to speak to others is vital and essential for all believers. Most every believer needs continual, strong encouragement to be listening to Jesus and sharing His truth. This third reason is often overlooked but is of paramount importance in the life of any community of believers.

In recent history, saints have looked to evangelists to do the “heavy lifting” to proclaim the Kingdom of God, relieving them from the responsibility that is fully their privilege (2 Corinthians 5:14-21). In my opinion, relying on evangelists to be the proclaimers has served to weaken the church at large and has caused the sowing of seeds to be greatly diminished. When evangelists are doing their main role of equipping saints to be confident with the Good News of Christ, more seeds will be sown which means there will be more communicators of this Good News (2 Corinthians 3:4-6).

My next post will explore more deeply why the church needs evangelists.

I would to hear your thoughts about what I’ve written. Is seeing the evangelist’s main role for saints, not sinners new to you? How could you see this understanding affect the church you are part of and the church at large?