Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Who Should Evangelize?

Who should do the work of evangelism? And where should it be done? One view would see the pastor as being the evangelist and the place as the church building. Others would see it as the duty of every believer everywhere. What does the Scripture teach?

While Scripture is very clear about the necessity of evangelism (Matthew 28:18-20; Luke 24:47; Romans 10:14) and about the content of the message preached (Galatians 1:8,9; 1 Corinthians 15:1-11; 2 Corinthians 11:1-4), it does not go into details on how it is to be done. I believe this is to give us a degree of flexibility in how we do it. But we are all called to be able to explain what Christ has done for us (1 Peter 3:15; Colossians 4:5,6; Acts 1:8). Therefore, every believer is required to be involved in evangelism. However, in Scripture there were individuals who God especially called to an evangelistic ministry (Acts 2:14; 6:8-10; 8:5-8; 13:1-3). This was both through preaching (Acts 8:4,5; 13:5) and one on one (Acts 8:26-39; 13:6-12) in many different contexts.

But there is little Biblical basis for claiming all pastors have this calling. The two positions are listed separately (Ephesians 4:11), and the duty of the pastor seems to be that of shepherding the sheep (1 Peter 5:1-4; 1 Timothy 3:2; 2 Timothy 2:2). Now the two may sometimes be both found in one man (note Peter and Paul in the previous verses). But I see no basis for expecting it in general. Further, Timothy is told to do the work of an evangelist (2 Timothy 4:5), but at most this shows pastors should do their part in evangelism. Now the pastor does have a responsibility to see that those under his charge understand the gospel (Acts 20:27, Matthew 28:20; 2 Timothy 2:2) and are able to communicate it to others. But the whole burden of evangelism should not fall on the pastor.

Now those with a special calling for evangelism should encourage others to be involved in evangelism in their own ways (Hebrews 10:24). But if we do not remember that people differ in their gifts (Romans 12:4,5), it can have the opposite effect. The person who is not as gifted in evangelism may become discouraged, not being able live up to the example of those who are. And the natural evangelists may come to look down on those who do not have the zeal they do. And instead of complimenting each other, they may end up at loggerheads. Now we cannot simply accept excuses such as, "It is not my gift," to avoid any involvement in evangelism. However, we must also value every person's contribution in the area, even if it is more subtle and in the background. But we must all of us ask how we may come to better serve God in this and every other area (Hebrews 12:1,2; Philippians 3:12-16).

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