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Ask An Evangelical: What is an evangelist?

What do you want to know about Evangelicalism? Pastor Rob Bryceson, of The Gathering House Church, and Elizabeth Backstrom, a member of The Gathering House, co-author this column. Submit your question here.

By Rob Bryceson

I’m not very familiar with the term ‘evangelist.’ Can you help me understand what an evangelist is?

evangelicalAn evangelist is someone who has a specific gift as a public speaker. Typically their focus is in presenting a basic message of the truth of Jesus Christ, who he is, what he did, and why it matters. They are quite good at convincing others to place their trust and faith in Christ. In other words they’re good at making converts. Typically, evangelists aren’t so great at the longer term spiritual development of an individual.

Almost all evangelists are itinerant preachers who have a handful of good talks or sermons. They travel about giving these same talks as professional speakers to churches, youth groups, retreats, or Christian events. They are not usually pastors on a church staff, nor do they work for any specific church. They often have their own individual ministry corporations where all funds and donations go directly to their non-profit. Good ones have excellent boards of oversight and take the time to get licensed or ordained from a reputable denomination or organization. Billy Graham is the most famous example in present times. Sometimes a pastor on a church staff can have the spiritual gift of evangelism but they wouldn’t use the title evangelist, they would be still be called a pastor or minister.

In the New Testament, “evangelists” are listed as one of the top five spiritual gifts which the Holy Spirit dispenses to different individuals in order to build the church (a group of authentic followers of Jesus – not a building). Ephesians 4:11-12 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up. If you ever hear your Christian friend drop the phrase “five-fold ministry” this is what she means; those five spiritual gifts just mentioned. And you can pretty much determine your friend is a Pentecostal or Charismatic Holy Roller, they’re the one who mostly use that term.

The title “evangelist” derives from the New Testament Greek word Euangelion, which means “Gospel” which translates to “Good News.” So an evangelist is a “good news teller.”

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