Summary: This is a chapter of a book I am writing as a devotional on Ephesians. It has to do with Ephesians 4:11 and the office of the evangelist.
As we continue to study the five-fold ministry gifts of Ephesians 4:11, one important ministry office comes into focus at this point – the evangelist. Normally when people think of the word “evangelist,” the mental picture is of a sweat-soaked man with big hair preaching in a tent and slapping people on the head making them fall down. Or they think of some equally flamboyant character on TV who asks for money 50 minutes of a program and spouts a Bible verse about why he’s asking for it the other 10 minutes of the hourly allotment of his time. In the secular mindset of today’s society, where religious faith is more and more an object of scorn than of respect, these negative stereotypes prevail and are often satirized on late-night TV comedy shows. Growing up in a fairly traditional Appalachian Pentecostal environment as I did, I attended many meetings with my folks where a preacher called an evangelist would come to a local church in our town and hold a week-long meeting called a revival. God moved a lot in some of those services, and people were converted and came to Christ in those meetings, and in themselves there was nothing wrong or bad about such meetings. However, there is an important fact to note here – those old-time revival services I grew up around, and similar meetings today, did not have as their primary purpose the evangelization of souls. Rather, their purpose was to renew and revitalize the faithful, who may have gotten a little cold in their faith and needed to recommit themselves to Christ. That is not a bad thing at all, and indeed we need times of refreshing, as life’s challenges can often get our spiritual lives out of focus. Such meetings are also important in that they renew and empower the faithful to be more evangelistic. Like the other ministry gifts, the office of evangelist is both a specific office – that is, there are people called to the vocation full-time – and a general mandate; we are all called to evangelize because we are all to be witnesses of Christ to the world around us. To put it in Eastern Christian terms, our calling to be “living icons” of Christ to those around us is evangelistic. Saint John Climacus, in his classic work The Ladder of Divine Ascent, alludes to this as a calling we should all strive toward in our pilgrimage toward what we as Eastern Christians call Theosis. Christianity, in its many forms, is an evangelistic faith. We share with others what Christ done for us, for as John 3:16 says, “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that WHOSOEVER believeth in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.” Christ, in His Passion, died for us all (Mel Gibson’s recent movie graphically illustrates the profundity of that in such a way that it stretched the human senses to their fullest comprehension), and we are responsible to share that message with others. Evangelism, then, is about showing Christ to others and in that respect every true Christian is called to it. However, there is a more specific function as well of one who holds the evangelistic office – it is a special calling that requires the whole life of the called, and it is this which Ephesians 4:11 deals with.