Why do churches still need evangelists? This question is akin to asking, “Why do people with physical issues still need specialists?” Of course, the answer is—they specialize! When you need eye care, you don’t go to a general practitioner; you go to an eye doctor. If you have heart issues, you go to a heart specialist, and so forth.
A pastor is like a general practitioner. A general practitioner must know a little (and often a lot) about a lot. Whereas an evangelist is like a specialist. A specialist must know a lot about a little. In the physical realm both kinds of doctors are vital to proper health care.
Spiritually, God uses both evangelists and pastors for the proper health care of churches. Both gifts are given by God to the church for the equipping of the saints to do the work of the ministry (Eph. 4:11-12). While the stated purpose is the same, the difference lies in the inspired titles of each.
The word pastor means shepherd, which pictures leading the sheep, feeding the sheep, tending to their needs, and so forth—general care. Whereas the word evangelist means one who specializes in the evangel, the gospel, which includes the good news of Jesus to sinners (freedom from the penalty of sin) and the good news of the Holy Spirit to saints (freedom from the power of sin).
The gift of the evangelist is not the same as the responsibility every believer has to witness (Matt. 28:19-20). The verb evangelize is used at least 50 times in the New Testament referring to men preaching the gospel. All but one of these contexts reveals a group audience. Therefore, the gift of the evangelist is a corporate preaching gift specializing in the gospel.
This specialization does not imply that pastors do not preach the gospel. In fact, pastors are to do the work of the evangelist as a part of their general work (2 Tim. 4:5). But God gives evangelists a specialization in the gospel. With a little frustration, and yet, with a smile, a pastor commented that both he and an evangelist preached the gospel on a missions trip, but there were more people saved when the evangelist preached. Often when people hear an evangelist, they say things like, “That’s the clearest message I’ve heard.” It’s part of the gifting.
General practitioners call in a specialist when a patient needs specialized care. The same really is true in ministry. When churches are seeking to reach the lost in a concerted corporate way, it would be wise to call in an evangelist. Or when the saints seem anemic in their walk with God and are in need of reviving, it would be wise to call in an evangelist. Some evangelists specialize in the good news of God’s provision for personal victory, others in God’s provision for healthy home relationships, and so forth. When it comes to evangelistic meetings, revival meetings, missions conferences, and the like, evangelists are gifted by God for these specialized emphases, and will function in a God-given way differently than just calling in a pastor for the same purpose.
As individuals are helped by both general practitioners and specialists, so churches are helped by both the broad care of pastors and the narrow care of evangelists.
John Van Gelderen
About This Blog
Hello, I’m John Van Gelderen. I am an evangelist and the president of Revival Focus Ministries, an organization for the cause of revival in hearts, homes, churches, and beyond, and for evangelizing. This blog is focused on experiencing Jesus. I believe in order to really live, you must access and experience the very life of Jesus Christ.