FORGET NONE OF HIS BENEFITS
volume 16, number 51, December 21, 2017
“. . . and He gave some as evangelists.” -Ephesians 4:11
Finding Evangelists for Staff Positions in the Local Church
My friend William Hatcher once said to me, “A company can have a nice, new beautiful building with the latest equipment to make the company profitable. It can have a great research and development department. It can train its employees very well, and position them strategically within the company. All of this is important but nothing happens in the company until somebody sells something.” The same should be true in the church if she is healthy and growing spiritually and numerically. A church can be well structured with well trained staff and officers, possessing a beautiful building, but nothing happens until the Holy Spirit moves His people to evangelize and lost people call on the name of the Lord. Anything less is merely treading water at best in the kingdom of God, like shuffling a deck of cards. Our Savior died for His people and there will be those of every tongue, tribe, people, and nation around His throne. Our job is to populate heaven by divine grace.
I tried to make the case last week for churches to hire an evangelist for their next staff position. By the way, this FB post generated the most discussion of anything I have ever posted. We in Presbyterian and Reformed churches tend to be heavy on teaching and light on evangelizing. We know we should do better but because our default mode is teaching we always seem to emphasize teaching and discipling at the expense of evangelizing.
Okay, let’s imagine several pastors and elders who read my comments last week say to themselves, “This makes sense. We need to do this, but how do we find evangelists? Or better yet, how can we grow our own evangelists?”
I suggest three components of finding evangelists for staff positions in the local church. First is culture. The local church must develop a culture of evangelism, and I can think of three pieces to this first component. As with everything else in the church, the pastor, church officers, and interested lay people should begin with prayer, and for what shall they pray? We must have Holy Spirit power running through the veins of the church’s life. We must ask for the Spirit’s presence and power in preaching, worship, leadership, and everything else. We must keep short accounts with God. We must make every effort to maintain the peace and purity of the church. We must walk humbly with God, remembering that God is opposed to the proud but He gives grace to the humble. And we must also pray for God to raise up men whom He has equipped with the gift of evangelism. But how do you spot an evangelist? An evangelist is unstoppable. He has a passion for souls. He has no trouble speaking to people whenever possible about their souls. This is no burden for him. He delights in doing so. And we can also say that the gifted evangelist sees people regularly call on the name of the Lord to be saved. A fisherman catches fish. An evangelists catches souls.
The second piece to the component of culture is instruction. The pastor and officers of the church must “buy in” to the three fold giftedness of evangelism, teaching, and mercy. Once they “buy in” then they need to teach this regularly from the pulpit and various classes presented in the life of the church.
The third piece to the component of culture is example. As God brings one or two men to the church who have the gift of evangelism, the officers must encourage these evangelists to model evangelistic ministry, to lead by example. In other words, the leadership should give the evangelist a place of prominence in the church.
The second component for finding evangelists for the local church is development and I see three pieces to this component as well. The first is “do.” In Acts 1:1 Luke tells us of all that Jesus began “to do and teach.” People need first to see something done. In that way they have an idea of what they should do. A young man preparing for the ministry will study the way good preachers preach. He sees what they do, and then he is better able to receive teaching on how to preach. There has to be context. So the evangelist must take people with him into the streets so that they can watch what he does, a kind of “look and learn.”
And the second piece of the second component is to teach. The evangelist teaches his students, in the classroom but also in the field. The students have already seen how it should be done. They will have questions based on what they have seen. This is context for the teaching they are receiving.
And the third piece of the second component is “to do.” But this time the student is doing. The evangelist takes his students with him and encourages them to engage in evangelistic outreach under his supervision. As they are going, they are doing. This is where many churches miss it. They think a class on evangelism ought to do the trick. But that’s like taking a class on learning how to swim. That’s nice, but you will not learn to swim in a classroom. You must get into the pool.
And the third component of finding evangelists for the local church is deployment. The first piece of deployment is evaluation. The trainer evangelist grades his students by specifically stating “the good” and “the not so good.” He sandwiches the meat of his constructive criticism between two pieces of bread. For example, he might say, “I am thankful for how you began your conversation,” and after the criticism he may say, “I believe God is enabling you to develop in your ability to communicate the gospel to the people of our community.”
The second piece of this third component is repetition. An obstetrics student in medical school does the classroom work and watches other obstetricians deliver babies. However while in the residency program, the obstetrics student will no doubt deliver hundred of babies before he is certified to go out on his own with this work. Likewise in evangelism. We learn by doing, doing, doing. “Repeat after me. Repeat after me. Repeat after me.”
And then the third piece of the third component is certification. The residency student eventually graduates from the program. The evangelist likewise graduates from the training program and is ready to go out on his own to proclaim the glad tidings of great joy.
So, can we make a concerted, well-intentioned effort to raise up a culture of evangelism in our churches by praying, instructing, and exemplifying? Can we make development of evangelists a key aspect of our churches by doing and teaching? And can we seriously work on deploying people into evangelistic ministry by evaluating, repeating, and certifying?
One last point – I have found from experience that most of the people who engage regularly in revival prayer, having an intolerable burden for revival and lost souls, usually become evangelists. So revival prayer is foundational to this issue of raising up evangelists in the local church.