When I came to the Lord and felt the call to serve Him more than 20 years ago, I asked a friend to explain what an evangelist was; his response shaped my thoughts for some time after that. He said that an evangelist is an exuberant and extrovert person who likes to go to parks to shout about Jesus! On hearing this I decided that I wasn’t an evangelist because that expression was totally outside my comfort zone and beyond my skills. It took me many years to overcome that wrong understanding.
There are many misconceptions about the word ‘evangelism’, and it can be understood in different ways depending on the theological and denominational background of the person who is defining its meaning.
There is also some confusion about the form that the practical ministry of the evangelist takes. Whilst some may defend the position that there is only one way that evangelism can be viewed or that there is only one expression of it, others will point to the multiform ways and expressions of the ministry of the evangelist.
There is an excellent book written by Raphael Anzenberger entitled (re)Discovering the Ministry of The Evangelist , where he explores the characteristics of seven kinds of evangelists:
- The preacher evangelist
These evangelists are the Billy Grahams, Luis Palaus and Andy Hawthornes of our time, who preach from a platform and who frequently share the gospel in a setting where there is a large crowd of people.
2. The artist evangelist
This group of evangelists use the arts to communicate the gospel; they might do this through music, painting or modern arts.
3. The church planter evangelist
It might surprise many people to see a church planter included in the ‘evangelist’ category. However, Raphael shares his understanding that church planters are evangelists who believe that the best way to promote effective evangelism is through community.
4. The street evangelist
We are probably most aware of this group of evangelists because they are always out in the world looking for people and opportunities to share the gospel, and so they are very visible.
5. The social worker evangelist
These evangelists usually focus their ministry on a specific section of the population; they will go the extra mile to take the gospel to those who are in need and to those who are vulnerable.
6. The apologetic evangelist
These evangelists are the defenders of the Christian faith who are always drawing on knowledge and quoting authors and books as they share the gospel. They will pursue a conversational type of evangelism which involves debate.
7. The soul winner evangelist
This group of evangelists are great in a one-to-one situation with a non-Christian at a pub, café, walking around the city or even watching some sporting event together. They are not pulpit preachers or movement makers, but they thrive on personal evangelism. They might be quiet, but they are working behind the scenes and will reach many people through the years.
Although this list is not exhaustive, it shows that there are multiple forms of evangelism and that the characteristics of evangelists will reflect this.
We serve an all-powerful and all-knowing God, and He knows the best way to use every evangelist to reach every person in the world. This truth can be one that releases us, as the issue becomes less about whether people are really called to be evangelists but to be more about what kind of evangelist the Lord is calling them to be.
With all this in mind, there is also another important aspect of evangelism which needs to be considered more profoundly- that there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach or model which can be adopted by the evangelist or the community of faith. There is a temptation to ‘copy and paste’ a model that is apparently working in other places, churches, and countries. Although it is natural that people look for the best and easiest option to reach the lost for the Lord, even if the intention is correct, the outcome may be unhealthy when a ‘copy and paste’ approach is used.
Every place has its own culture and particularities, and to ignore this is a recipe for disaster in the long run. So, with all this in mind, how can we begin to find a healthy approach to evangelism? The ideal beginning would be to ask the question: what kind of evangelism is the Holy Spirit leading us to in this situation – what would the approach of our Lord be?
This will change the focus from being based in models, formulas, and steps when we think about evangelism to one which gives more dependency on the Lord and on His guidance in our work as evangelists. When you come to pray about your approach to evangelism remember that there are no sacred forms but only sacred meanings!
May the Lord bless you and your ministry, as you discover how you are created to uniquely reach the lost in the way that He chooses for you. Why not ask him today to show you how he is creating and shaping you to share the message of the gospel?
1- Do you wonder if there are parts of your faith that have not been rooted in scripture and God’s truth? Why not return to the bible and see what it says on the matter, see if any other pastors or preachers have spoken on it and listen to what they have to say, maybe chat to some wise godly friends and see what they think (though be aware, like it was with Luiz, even they sometimes might mean well but not quite have the right understanding either).
2- From that list of seven different evangelists that Raphael Anzenberger highlights, are there any there that resonate with you? How might that impact your approach to evangelism?
3- Have you ever asked God to highlight the unique ways he has made and shaped you and how that might impact how you share the gospel? Why not ask him today and see what comes to mind, it could change how you evangelise your faith!
Written by Luiz F. Cardoso
Luiz is the Head of Advance Groups and Pastor of Connect Church in Stockport, UK.