Note: This is part of our current series “Correcting our Misconceptions about Evangelism” adapted from Larry Moyer’s book 21 Things God Never Said.
Misconception: Not all believers are expected to evangelize, just those gifted in evangelism.
Amy’s opinion was that God does not expect every believer to evangelize. She believed He only expects those who are gifted in evangelism to share the good news.
No one denies that evangelism is important, or even essential. The question is, For whom is it essential? To understand this misconception, five questions need to be answered.
1. Where does such a view come from?
The biblical support often cited is Ephesians 4:11. We read, “And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers.” People interpret that to mean, “Since God has gifted people as evangelists, only those with such gift are expected to evangelize.”
2. What is Ephesians 4:11 saying?
Undeniably, this verse says God has gifted people within the church. Their purpose is stated one verse later, “For the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.” The goal is to equip believers so that together the work is accomplished. The responsibility God has given the church is not fulfilled by one person or even a few people. Instead, all believers are to use their spiritual gifts and labor together. Who are these gifted people God has given to the church?
The apostles included the twelve disciples, who were appointed by Christ (Acts 1:21–22). First Corinthians 15:8–9 indicates that Paul was also an apostle. Others had the gift of apostleship, though not the office, because they carried the gospel message with God’s authority. Among those were James (1 Cor. 15:7, Gal. 1:19), Barnabas (Acts 14:4, 14, 1 Cor. 9:6), Andronicus and Junia (Rom. 16:7). Possibly included were Silas and Timothy (1 Thess. 1:1, 2:6) and Apollos (1 Cor. 4:6, 9).
Prophets revealed God’s will to the church before the Scriptures were completed. Most Bible scholars teach that the apostles and prophets helped form the foundation of the early church. The gifts of apostleship and prophesy were no longer needed after the first generation of believers.
Evangelists such as Philip (Acts 8:5, 26–40, and 21:8) were to spread the gospel. Also included would be those today who share the gospel with non-Christians at home and abroad. Pastors and teachers are listed together. Most scholars conclude that they refer to two functions of the same person. Pastoring is done by comforting and guiding. Teaching is done through instructing in God’s ways.
Thus Ephesians 4:11 teaches that specific people are given the gift of evangelism. As noted in a previous chapter, that gift could be defined as the special ability to communicate the gospel to sinners and to equip the saints for evangelism. They have a gift and responsibility before the Lord to share the gospel and equip believers in evangelism.
3. Do others have the responsibility to evangelize?
“Yes,” for two reasons. One is the context of Ephesians 4:11. The gift of evangelist is given “for the equipping of the saints.” God wants evangelists to equip other believers to share the gospel. Ten or even 10,000 evangelists can only reach so many. If they multiply themselves by equipping other believers, they can reach thousands, if not millions more.
Therefore, a believer does not have to have the gift of evangelism to evangelize. He or she can be equipped by someone with such a gift. Each year our association trains thousands in personal evangelism and evangelistic speaking. Those trained are going to places across the world.
Second is the nature of discipleship. Upon trusting Christ as our personal Savior, God invites us to be His disciple. Salvation is free and is given to us the moment we trust Christ. Discipleship involves a cost.
Christ’s caution in Luke 14:26 was, “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple.” Loyalty to Christ must come before loyalty to anyone else.
Disciple means “learner.” In Matthew 4:19, we find the first thing Christ taught the first disciples He called. He said, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” If one is to be a disciple of Christ, he must in some way be involved in evangelism. Concern for lost people should characterize a disciple of Christ.
That concern may be expressed in various ways. Some give financially so that the lost might be reached. Their monetary investments bring spiritual dividends. Other believers may promote an evangelistic outreach. They help orchestrate an event that proclaims the gospel to hundreds, even thousands. Still others may distribute evangelistic literature. They proclaim the gospel through the printed page. Those who pray for evangelistic workers are greatly needed. As others speak to men about God, they speak to God about men. The point is, disciples of Christ must be involved in evangelism in some way.
Come back Friday, and I’ll answer the fourth and fifth questions!