Thursday, September 8, 2011

The Gift of Evangelism?

People frequently speak of the spiritual gift of evangelism. But while it is mentioned as a ministry or office (Ephesians 4:11), it seems singularly absent from the lists of gifts. I would propose that the reason for this is that there is not a specific gift of evangelism, but that evangelism is applying the gifts we have to those outside the church. If we have a gift of teaching we should use it to instruct unbelievers in the truth of God. If we have a gift of service we should serve them. If we have a gift of mercy we should sympathize with their problems. If we have a gift of healing we should pray for their healing. (It is not my point here to argue whether some gifts have passed away, but the main point stands no matter what you believe on this.) What then is this thing we normally call the gift of evangelism? May I suggest it is the gift of exhortation, which exhorts the unbeliever to put their faith in Christ. I would submit that the reason we tend to see this as the gift of evangelism is because exhorters are frequently the closers. The people who, after others may have sown the seed, come in to reap the harvest. But this does not mean that other Christians with other gifts should not be involved in evangelism (and may not even in some cases serve as reapers).

The implication of this is we need to avoid making sharing Christ a mold which everyone is forced to fit into . An individual should not become discouraged because they do not fit the mold. They should not feel they have no obligation to be involved in sharing Christ either. Everyone should ask how they should be involved in evangelism with their gifts. I am not intending to go into details here on methods, but I am convinced that some methods will fit better with different gifts. We should not try to force everyone into one method, and we should be careful of rejecting methods just because they make us uncomfortable. I am not saying there are no wrong methods, but often the method that fits one gift may not work well at all for another. Also, while I do think every Christian should be able to communicate the basics of the gospel (1 Peter 3:15; Acts 1:8; Colossians 4:5,6), I would suggest that evangelism may often be a body endeavor and not just an individual endeavor. If a person has intellectual objections to the gospel, it may be a good thing for the exhorter to call in a teacher to help. If someone with the gift of service has laid the groundwork for someone to come to Christ, they may on occasion find it helpful to bring in an exhorter to help the person come to Christ. But each person should use their own gift to be involved in showing others the way to Christ.

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