Evangelism is part and parcel of sound preaching. Here we look at what an evangelist does and who can be one.
by Dr Amos Sekhaulelo
Ever since Protestantism came to life it has taught that there are three ways to distinguish a true church from a false church. These are: the sound preaching of the Word of God, the use of the sacraments according to Christ’s principles, and the faithful exercise of ecclesiastical discipline. Where does evangelism of the unsaved fit in the true church?
What is an evangelist?
The name evangelist was sometimes given to men who served as itinerant preachers. Having preached the gospel in one place, they would soon move on to another (Acts 8:5-26). Their departure made room for a pastor or teacher. There are three offices in the apostolic church: ruling elder, teaching elder and deacon. Being an evangelist was not a separate vocation or calling. This is confirmed by the fact that Philip, the evangelist, was a deacon (Acts 6:5) and Timothy, the evangelist, an elder (1 Timothy 4:14; I Thessalonians 3:2). Simply put, evangelism is part and parcel of sound preaching. The church which fails to evangelise the unsaved cannot be said to be proclaiming the whole counsel of God.
Who can be an evangelist?
Every believer, whether he be a lay person or in office has a duty to witness and testify about the saving grace of the Lord in his life, both in word and deed. However, preaching and proclaiming the message of the gospel calls for preparation and commitment. Jesus has commanded us to go into the world and take His message of salvation to all nations. If the church wants to fulfill this mandate of Christ, then far more attention should be paid to the specific preparation of evangelists. With the current rise and popularity of cults, false teachings, and non-biblical philosophies, it is imperative that evangelists be grounded in the Word of God so that they can discern error from truth.
The foundation of an evangelist
Throughout the history of mankind, God’s written word has proven itself to be a powerful tool of evangelism, and will continue to do so. God has said, “my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty” (Isaiah 55:11). Other Scriptures that underscore this point are 2 Timothy 3:14-17; 2 Thessalonians 2:15 and Hebrews 2:1.
The authority of evangelism therefore rests on the authority of the Bible. This implies that the evangelist must not only have a conception of human nature and behavioural patterns of the congregation, but it is absolutely essential (in order to give the proper biblical message) that he has a solid theological foundation. Thus, the evangelist must be assured within himself that his authority to proclaim the good news comes from the Triune God, the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit as revealed by God in his eternal Word.
True Christian faith rests on the content of the gospel. In other words, behind the concept and urgency of the gospel message, there lies a doctrine of God. Paul was convinced of the need to have a balanced biblical theological foundation for evangelism (2 Timothy 3:14-15). One implication of that command is that far more attention should be paid to the specific preparation of evangelists. There are many ways and means of receiving such a foundation. Preparation can be done through a various number of Bible schools and colleges. It is not so important to measure the preparation in terms of time spent. However, it is of immense importance to have a solid foundation and be grounded in the fundamental doctrines of our faith.