It is interesting that the word, “Evangelist” is only found three times in the New Testament and none in the old. The word means to be a carrier of the good news. It literally takes the word “Gospel” and ties it to a person who shares the gospel message or story with someone else. The first time the word is used in the Bible is in Acts 21 when Paul and company entered the city of Caesarea and entered the home of “Philip the evangelist.” Philip is the same one who was first introduced to us a one of the first deacons set apart in the church in Jerusalem when the Grecian widows were being neglected in the daily distribution of food. When persecution arose after the stoning of Stephen a fellow deacon, Philip appointed himself to go down to Samaria and preach Christ unto them. From there God called him to go out into a deserted area where he met the Ethiopian Eunuch and preached Christ to him. From the desert he traveled to Caesarea where he evidently married a wife and brought up four daughters who become prophetesses.
Philip was being a carrier of the gospel or good news when he went to Samaria and when he went to the desert to preach to the eunuch, but he isn’t referred to as an evangelist at that point. It isn’t until we meet him in Caesarea where he has been preaching and living for some twenty years, where he brought up a family and trained his daughters to present the message of Jesus to others that he is presented to us as Philip the evangelist. If God had meant for the word to be used as we normally hear it used today, he would have used it of Philip early in his ministry when he was in Samaria or in the deserted area. But God chose to call him the evangelist when he had worked for the same church with the same people for some twenty years, bringing up his family for God in their midst.
The second use of the word is found in Ephesians 4:11. When Jesus Christ ascended on high he led captivity captive and gave gifts unto men and he gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists and some pastors and teachers. Notice what he said was the job that these different spiritual leaders were to accomplish in the church. They were to “Equip the saints for the work of ministry for the building up of the body of Christ.” Someone may say, but the evangelist is to be out traveling around from one place to another preaching Christ to those who have never heard the message before. I have no doubt that doing this is part of the work of the evangelist, but I know for certain that such is not the way the evangelist is pictured in the Bible. Here he joins other leaders such as apostles, prophets and pastors and teachers to do the work of building up those who are Christians, preparing them for the work of serving inside the body.
His work should lead to people being able to speak the truth in love so that they may grow up into him who is head even Christ, from whom the whole body being joined and knit together by what every joints supplies makes the body increase in the building up of itself in love. The idea that one who is an evangelist can’t be involved in working with a single church over a period of years training that church to grow and develop for God violates everything God teaches us.
The only other time the word was used in the New Testament was in 2 Timothy 4. Paul began this chapter by saying he charged Timothy before God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who will judge the living and the dead in his kingdom and at his coming. His charge was for Timothy to “Preach the word, when it is convenient and when it isn’t. Reprove, rebuke and exhort with all long-suffering and teaching. For the time will come when people won’t listen to healthy teaching but will gather teachers with itching ears. Do the work of an evangelist, make full use of your ministry.” Notice the challenge to preach the word of the Lord was tied to teaching with patience and perseverance. It was also tied to the carrying out of his ministry. If one reads the entirety of 2 Timothy it is obvious that most of what is said about Timothy’s work centers around what he is to involve himself in the work of the local congregation. He is to correct teachers that aren’t teaching as they should.
An evangelist is to carry the good news to those around him both in and out of the church. To think that the only way to carry God’s good news is to speak mostly to those who aren’t Christians, trying to bring them to faith in Christ, missing most of the points made in the word for the evangelist. Truthfully, the work of carrying the good news seemed to have little to nothing to do with who heard the message of good news. Instead we should focus on the message going out as good news, without thinking so much about who hears.
I always want to be an evangelist ready and prepared to share the message of good news to all who will listen, with view to the power of the message to change people everywhere for good.