The modern day evangelist, however, is defined differently. The evangelists of our day are those preachers who carry on an itinerant ministry of preaching in many different churches and places. The Bible clearly delineates a difference between pastors and evangelists in Ephesians 4:11: “And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some pastors and teachers.” The evangelist has a special gift and calling from God. He also has a unique work.
The Bible teaches this in II Timothy 4:5. “But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.” The Bible also gives examples of evangelists. In Acts 21:8 God calls Philip an evangelist. Not only is there a person named an evangelist, but there is a philosophy nurtured by the evangelist.
This philosophy must be biblically centered and boldly contended. Why does he do what he does? What motivates him? What are his priorities? How does he fit in today’s church? These questions can be answered simply by looking at four focuses of the evangelist: his purpose, his pulpit, his pastor, and his priorities. If an evangelist will ever be effective in the ministry he must realize his biblical purpose. The evangelist has a twofold purpose outlined in Ephesians 4:12: to evangelize and edify.
First, he is to evangelize the lost world. The term evangelist itself comes from a Greek word euangelistes. This term is a simple definition of a preacher of the gospel. It may also be defined as one who brings the good news. Another closely related word is euangellion which is translated gospel in the New Testament ( Van Gelderen 6 ).
The evangelist must start with personal evangelism. Obviously, the evangelist must have a passion for souls. “Without a willingness to speak to individuals about the love and forgiveness of the Savior , he would have very little credibility in speaking to the crowds” ( Douglas 25 ). But, along with his own personal evangelism, he must also preach personal evangelism. He must motivate others to personal evangelism, as well as preaching the gospel himself. The driving force behind the evangelist should be the redemption of lost souls. This is his first purpose in the church. Secondly, the evangelist is given to the church to edify (build up) the saved. He must be a revivalist. Revival may be defined as a “new quality of spiritual life that comes through knowing the greatness and nearness of our holy, gracious Creator” (Lloyd-Jones 6).
Revival should be at the heart of the evangelist. This sort of revival will only come when the evangelist, first, is personally sanctified from sin. I Timothy 6:11 says, “But thou, O man of God, flee these things.” What is this man of God to flee? He must be pure from sin. “What we are is far more important than what we do. Indeed, if what we are does not satisfy the demands of God, then what we do is virtually worthless (Douglas 3 ).”
Also, this revival will come when the evangelist preaches sanctification. Throughout the Bible, God denounces sin and promotes repentance. The evangelist must motivate the people to cleanse their hearts from sin and turn to righteousness. This is the way he edifies the church. It is clear in Ephesians 4:11-12 that the evangelist and pastor-teacher should have this purpose in mind.
The growth and building of the church depends on the sanctification of its people. The evangelist must have a predetermined purpose, but he must also have a powerful pulpit. The evangelist is primarily a preacher. Unlike the pastor, the evangelist does not have a flock to oversee and administrate. Evangelist Kevin Brownfield described it this way: “The pastor is a general practitioner and the evangelist is a specialist.” Consequently, the evangelist must have a powerful pulpit ministry.
The evangelist may preach well over two hundred times a year. Thus, the focus of his attention must be on the preparation and delivery of sermons. These sermons must not be based on his own opinions, but on the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God. Paul told Timothy to “preach the Word” (II Tim 4:2). Through the following discussion of preaching, it will be assumed that the evangelist must preach straight Bible messages.
Based on this assumption, there are four ways an evangelist must preach: prayerfully, purposefully, passionately, and practically. The evangelist is a man preaching a message from God. What a sobering thought! The preaching will be ineffective and powerless unless the presence and power of the Spirit of God is evident.
Prayer is the essential ingredient to productive preaching. “Our poverty in prayer is the seedbed to failure” (Ravenhill 86). Prayer is the most neglected resource known to mankind. The evangelist must take hold of the resource available and storm the borders of heaven with prayer. What must he pray for specifically in this area of preaching?
First, he must pray for the preparation of his sermons in the following two ways: the long term preparation of studying God’s Word and writing new sermons, and the selection and preparation for each individual service he preaches. He should pray about what message to preach.
Secondly, he must pray for power and liberty in his preaching. The evangelist must have this grace from God alone. He cannot and will not be able to carry on within his own strength and power. He must be filled with Holy Spirit fire.
Third, the evangelist must pray for the people. Each time he goes to preach, he should have already interceded for the congregation. The response to his message may depend upon his prayers. Souls may be damned to hell as a result of his weak prayer life. The evangelist may as well not go into the pulpit unless he has spent a good amount of time in a season of prayer. He cannot pray too much. God’s work and his ministry will be strengthened when he calls out before the throne of God. The evangelist’s preaching must be prayerful.
The evangelist must also preach purposefully. When he steps into that pulpit he must have some goals in mind. The purpose of the evangelist, which was mentioned earlier, is a help in formulating these goals. Sin is the primary problem in our world, so the evangelist must have a goal to preach against sin. There are two approaches to preaching against sin. First, he should preach about redemption from the Adamic sin nature. Second, he should preach to Christians daily confession of sin and changing to become like Christ. He must not back down on any sin. It is essential that he preaches hard on sin. He also must have the goal of preaching about the Savior. As Hebrews 12:2 says, “looking unto Jesus” should be our focus.
Salvation comes only through accepting the Savior, and sanctification comes only through following the Savior. As a result of the church’s knowledge of sin and the Savior, the evangelist may now preach on service and surrender. The natural response to Christ’s love and sacrifice should be service (Romans 12:1-2). These should be the purposes of his preaching: to preach against sin, about the Savior, and about service to the Savior.
The Bible says, “For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God” (I Cor. 1:18). The evangelist must preach powerfully. Preaching is the tool that God has chosen to use to save the lost. How does an evangelist have power in his preaching? The first answer is prayer and was discussed earlier. Power in preaching comes only from the word of God; thus, the preacher must have exposition in mind. This does not mean he must always preach expository messages, but it does mean he must exegete every passage he deals with. Every point and application must be drawn from the text of Scripture, for “the Word of God is quick and powerful and sharper than any two-edged sword” (Heb 4.12).
He must also preach with evangelism in mind. He must view every lost soul hanging over the pit of hell ready to plunge into everlasting torment. This reality will cause the preacher to be passionate in his delivery. It is said of the great evangelist D.L Moody that he never preached for lost souls without tears in his eyes (Larsen 118).
The evangelist must preach with enthusiasm. In today’s culture and society people tend to have a short attention spans. The preacher must have excitement and energy to make the message hit the hearts of the hearers. No one likes to listen to a boring preacher. The evangelist must be expository, evangelistic, and enthusiastic in preaching the Word of God, which is the power of God.
The last characteristic of the pulpit ministry is practicality. The preacher must make the message of God meaningful and helpful to the hearer. The application of the truths and principles of Scripture is what will change people’s lives.
Preaching is not preaching unless the evangelist applies it in a practical way. How? First, he must add illustration to his sermon. It has been said that illustrations are like windows through which the truth can be seen. Long, drawn out, exaggerated stories have no place in the arsenal of illustrations. Personal, real, timely illustrations should be used. The evangelist will lose his excitement and enthusiasm as well as the attention of the congregation unless he becomes a good illustrator.
Secondly, he must apply the instruction of the Word to specific areas of people’s lives. He must hit each person between the eyes with application of the Word. Just a statement of truth will not do. That truth must be applied to everyday life. Lastly, the preacher must preach practically by appealing with invitation. The invitation is a necessity. “Preceding any valid commitment is personal decision” (Douglas 171). The evangelist must appeal for decisions in a public invitation. This is a practical way to make the commitments real and lasting to the people. Generally, people are more serious about their decisions when they make them public. Various techniques and methods may be used in the public invitation, but there is no dispute on the fact that there should be a public invitation.
Practical preaching is essential for the pulpit ministry of the evangelist. The purpose and the pulpit have been discussed. Now consider the pastor of the evangelist. The evangelist should have a local church home and an individual man who is his pastor. Why? Evangelist Brownfield said, “Without authority I am very dangerous.”
The evangelist’s personality tends to be very headstrong. He needs someone leading and directing him. Without this authority the evangelist may fall into things that he should have never been involved in. The evangelist’s pastor will provide a source of accountability for him. In the ministry of evangelism it is essential to have accountability.
The counsel and encouragement that he can receive from his pastor is invaluable. The evangelist also needs a pastor under whom he can sit to hear the preaching of the Word. The evangelist preaches so much that he does not get preached to very often. It is good for him to renew his focus and commit to doing more for Christ.
The local church is God’s method of evangelizing and edifying the saints, so the evangelist should be accountable just like all Christians to a local church ministry. The evangelist should also focus on the pastor of each local church on his itinerary. The evangelist’s whole ministry revolves around pastors of different local churches. He must have a definite strategy to minister effectively to these men. Tom Farrell said, “You minister to a man, and you’ve helped a man; but you minister to a pastor, and you’ve helped the ministry.” This is so true. The quickest and most effective way to help the church is through the pastor. The evangelist can have an incredible impact through encouragement and enlightenment. Many pastors are discouraged in the ministry and become ineffective as a result. The evangelist can lift the spirits of both the pastor and his congregation by having a positive attitude and joyful countenance. He should not ever be grumpy or unfriendly. Rather, he should be a joy to be around. Barnabas was an encourager in the Bible, and the evangelist must be a Barnabas.
He must find the needy pastors and lift their spirits and give them hope for the future. The evangelist must also enlighten the pastor. He must share with the pastor his observations of what he sees in the church. Of course, this must be done in a loving spirit and with much wisdom. The evangelist should not pick out his pet peeves and be overly critical of the church. Many times the pastor will ask for his advice and counsel in various areas. He must be honest but tactful. He needs to open the pastor’s eyes to things to which he may be blind. The pastor is the leader of the local church, and the evangelist is an asset, a helper, and a resource to be used. The local church is God’s institution, and the evangelist needs to support the local church by encouraging and enlightening the pastor.
The issue of the evangelist’s priorities is the last area to be discussed. This list is important because he will make decisions based upon his priorities. He must know what they are. It should be assumed that all his priorities add up to make his ministry, so the actual ministry is not an actual priority listed below. However, as stated before, there are many areas that need to be prioritized in the “nuts and bolts” of his evangelistic ministry. The priority list that follows will include only the essentials that have not been mentioned already.
Priority number one is his Father. The evangelist must have an excellent relationship with his heavenly Father. He must make this his ultimate goal in life. In order to keep this priority, he must have freedom from sin. One of his affirmations should be “I acknowledge my obligation, as a servant of God, to lead a life of holiness and moral purity, knowing that we exemplify Christ to the church and to the world” (Graham 74).
It is imperative for a preacher of the gospel to practice what he preaches. He must be seeing victory over sin, the flesh, and the devil in his personal life. He must be fighting daily for purity of mind and body. He must be ever cautious of his testimony before the lost world and the church. He should be above reproach in every way. He must be a man with a strong conscience and a tender heart to the Spirit of God. He must be a strong Christian before a strong evangelist. Not only should he be free from sin, but also he must have daily fellowship with the Savior. This fellowship hinges on the evangelist’s personal time with the Lord in prayer and Bible study. Tom Farrell said, “You must be a man in private before you will be a man in public.” Jonathan Edwards, before he preached his classic sermon “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” spent three days and nights fasting and praying. “When he came into the pulpit on the Lord’s day ‘he looked as though he had been gazing straight into the face of God'” (Larsen 119). This relationship with God must be first priority.
The second priority is his family. Many times preachers are so obsessed with the ministry that they neglect the greatest ministry: their families. The wife and children of the evangelist should have first place in his heart next to his heavenly Father. God will not bless a man who does not take his responsibilities at home seriously. The Scriptures say that a pastor must “rule his own house well.” This is a requirement on God’s list of standards for pastors and evangelists. The evangelist is away from home and family often; thus, it is imperative that his family be a priority. He may have this proper relationship by loving his wife and children as Christ loved the church. His wife must be precious to him, and she should know it. The key is communication. His children should know that he would drop everything for them if necessary. The key is planning time with his children. If this time is not planned it will not happen in a busy ministry. Not only must he love them, but he must lead them. The spiritual leader is Dad, the evangelist. He must lead in devotions, prayer, and fellowship with God. He also must deal with his children biblically.
Too often, preachers’ kids rebel and are a shame to the Lord and their fathers’ ministries. The burden must rest on Dad, the evangelist. He must not overlook sin in his children. “There is no area of life that is more important than your family” (Douglas 52). The evangelist will disqualify himself from the ministry of preaching if his family relationships are not priority.
The third priority is the evangelist’s finances. The evangelist lives basically off freewill offerings. Many evangelists, however, have used their position to manipulate and con people into donating large sums of money. This priority must be one of integrity and honesty.
The Bible is clear that one must provide for his family. The issue here is stewardship. The evangelist should be wise and accountable. He should also be a most grateful man, realizing that everything he receives is a gift from someone else. He also should be an incredibly giving individual. He should not neglect his tithes and offerings to his local church (another reason to be under a local church and pastor). Neither should he withhold gifts to those who are needy. He must have an outlet of blessing, “for it is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).
Finances are necessary for the spread of the gospel, but they must be handled wisely. The final priority on this non-comprehensive list is the evangelist’s friends. These friends are those, whether in or out of the ministry, with whom the evangelist chooses to come into close fellowship with. He should remember two basic principles when dealing with friends, especially those in the ministry.
First, he must not compromise. The evangelist must be willing to disagree agreeably on non-essential application issues. However, the evangelist must not budge or compromise on clear doctrine or commands of Scripture. The Christian community is pushing for a unification of all Christians into one church free from denomination. Many evangelists are falling, or choosing to go right along with people who promote heretical teachings and false doctrines. The evangelist must have enough knowledge of biblical doctrines to know when and from whom to separate. He must not compromise on the Word of God.
Secondly, he must not criticize. It would be easy from one church to the next to criticize certain pastors to other pastors. The evangelist must be a man who holds his tongue, and keeps silent about the problems of other churches. He must be positive no matter how negative the situation. Of course, he should never lie, gossip or slander anyone in public. How the evangelists handles friendships is crucial to his success as a servant of God.
This paper is a brief overview of the philosophy of a traveling evangelist. What an incredible responsibility he has to carry out! But, what a thrill to be used of God to evangelize the world and edify the church. The evangelist must know his purpose, must strengthen his pulpit, must encourage and be accountable to his pastor, and he must live by his priorities.
The Bible says, “Do the work of an evangelist” (II Tim 4:5). What a joy it is to labor in the service of the Lord and to be a mouthpiece for deity!