Sometimes we use a lot of big words in a religious context. Benevolence, edification, sanctification, justification, propitiation. We often hear the word “evangelism,” but what does it mean?
An evangelist is simply “a bringer of good news.” The gospel is the good news of Christ, thus the evangelist is one who brings the gospel. In fact, “evangelist” and “gospel” come from the same root Greek word: εὐαγγελίζω.
The command to evangelize following Christ’s resurrection was first given to His closest followers. He told His disciples, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15). Matthew’s goes into a little more detail. “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20).
The form of the verb “go” in these verses would be better translated, “as you are going.” The early disciples were expected to spread the good news of Jesus Christ as they went about their business. At work, at school, at home…preach it, and make disciples. As you make disciples, baptize them. Then continue teaching. The job is not done when someone gets in the water; it has only just begun! Teach them to observe ALL things commanded by the Master. You know what that includes? The command to go and make disciples!
We generally think of the preacher as THE evangelist, but the Scriptures reveal a much different picture. Paul wrote to the young preacher Timothy in 2 Timothy 4:5, “But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.” So certainly, the preacher does bear some responsibility in the work of evangelism. But is evangelism the job of the preacher alone?
The book of Acts is a history of the early church, specifically the work of Peter and Paul in conversion. In Acts 8, we are told that the church was being heavily persecuted following the stoning of Stephen. Luke writes, “At that time, a great persecution arose against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles” (Acts 8:1). Skip down just a few verses and we read, “Therefore those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the word” (Acts 8:4).
The apostles were the first ones given the commission to go everywhere preaching. But in Acts 8, the apostles stayed in Jerusalem while “those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the word.” Evangelism was not considered an apostolic duty exclusively in the first century, and it should not be considered the preacher’s duty exclusively in the twenty-first century!
The apostles were the original recipients of the Great Commission; Christians today are under the “Perpetual Commission.” Paul wrote, “And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2 Timothy 2:2).
Discussion and Action
1. How would you define evangelism?
2. Who is generally seen as “THE evangelist” in the church today? Is this good or bad?
3. Who should be an evangelist?
4. Recite the six steps of the gospel plan of salvation and where you can find Scriptures for each step.
5. Memorize the text of one of the verses for the gospel plan of salvation.
6. Remember the index card with the names of three non-Christian friends? Did you have a chance to talk to them about Jesus? Keep praying for them looking for opportunities to discuss spiritual matters with them.