Revisiting the Role of the Evangelist

One of the great pleasures of being a human is the ability to change your mind.  That’s a tremendous blessing, especially when a wrong needs to be righted.

I have striven to be a man of the Word.  I want to live my life and do church as closely to the revelation that God has given us in the Bible.  However, the Holy Spirit recently began to convict me that I was ignoring one important aspect of Scripture—the role of the evangelist.

The Holy Spirit through Paul clearly says that God has given some men to be evangelists for the good of the church.  It’s right there in Ephesians 4:11-12, And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ.  There’s the evangelist right along with apostles, prophets, and pastors/teachers.  While the role of apostle and prophet has ceased with the closing of the canon of Scripture, the role of evangelist is as ever relevant as the role of pastor/teacher.  Yet, I have largely ignored it.

Please don’t misunderstand what I’m saying.  I’m not saying that I’ve ignored evangelism.  I share the gospel far and wide.  However, I have ignored the role of what we might call the vocational evangelist, that man who has been set aside by God and gifted by the Spirit for the express purpose of preaching the gospel.  In fact, in my five years at West Main Baptist Church, I have used an actual evangelist for only one preaching service out of probably fifty services dedicated explicitly to revival/evangelism.

The Lord began to prick my heart toward this shortcoming over year ago, and the moment that really drove it all home for me was when I listened to a 9 Marks leadership interview in the fall of 2012.  Mark Dever, who is the pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C. and the founder/president of 9 Marks, was interviewing Iain Murray, who was Martin Lloyd Jones’ assistant and co-founder of Banner of Truth Trust publishing house.  Dever, in his usual interviewing style, was asking a wide range of questions on various topics, and due to Murray’s background having served in Britain and Australia and interacting with churches all over the world, he began to wonder if Murray would have anything specific to say to American churches.  The interaction went as follows:

Dever:  “Any word you would give to American Evangelicals in particular?”

Murray:  “I have the privilege and great encouragement of seeing bright spots in the States and to me they are bright, encouraging. The lack of evangelists comes home to me more and more.  Palmer Robertson, he said to me that evangelistic preaching has almost died out in the States.  I didn’t quiz him on that, but it’s true in Britain.  Suppose you are pastoring a church.  Now God has helped blessing the preaching, and there are people who are concerned and awakened.  It would be a good time to call in a friend for a week’s preaching for the gospel.  Who would you call?  How many men could you call for that role?  Not many in Britain.  Do you want a teacher and an expositor?  Yes, we can provide them.  Now what’s the reason for that?  Lloyd Jones believed and more and more I think he’s right that evangelistic preaching is the hardest preaching, in part because it drains you emotionally more. We had a very good address at this conference this weekend.  It was the point that you have got to find the emotion of the text and that emotion needs to be in the preacher.  Now when it comes to evangelistic preaching then, it has to be real compassion and sensitivity and sympathy with lost men and women.  You can’t just prepare a message and expound it.  It’s something more than that and that’s really draining. So when you think about the evangelists of the past in the States and going back, we are lacking in such men.”

As I heard that, something just clicked in my spirit.  I need to utilize the role of the evangelist in my local context.  God has given them as a good gift to the church, and to ignore them is to handicap the spread of the Kingdom.

So, I happily declare to you that I’m no longer ignoring the evangelist.  In fact, I repented back in the fall of 2012 and booked one for this past spring and then another one for this  fall!

But, I’m not alone in my ignoring the office of the evangelist.  In fact, many churches no longer use them, which leads us to the pressing question:  why are evangelists not being used?  I not only want to explore why I believe this is so these days, but also will try to put forth a way of going forward so that we can be closer to the scriptural norm and utilizing all the resources given by God to advance the Kingdom.

However, before I put forth the primary reasons I see that churches are not using evangelists, let me list a couple of false reasons.  The first FALSE REASON that has gotten thrown out there is that churches just don’t want to hear unmitigated truth preached anymore.  That reason usually comes from the mouths of evangelists that are seeing their calendar not filling up as it once did.  So, they conclude that it must be the churches who are the problem—”The churches must have an aversion to truth, or they would be begging me to come share it with them.”  Unfortunately, this proposed reason comes more out of a bruised ego than reality.

The second FALSE REASON thrown out is the resurgence of doctrine commonly known as Calvinism.  The myth is that those who are more Calvinistic are less evangelistic, and therefore, evangelists are used less.  I use the word “myth” because the notion that our Calvinistic brothers are less evangelistic has been proven to be false in both a 2006 LifeWay Research study and a 2007 North American Mission Board study 1.  Furthermore, according to a 2012 LifeWay Research study, it’s clear that the great majority of churches in the SBC are not Calvinistic—66% to be exact 2.  That stat means that regardless of a resurgence of Calvinism in the SBC, there should still be plenty of churches for evangelists to fill their calendars with if Calvinism was really the problem, yet evangelists are still being underutilized.  So, the resurgence of Calvinism is a false reason that churches are not using evangelists.

Now that we’ve gotten those false reasons out of the way, let’s turn to the real reasons in no particular order and try to find a way to go forward.

I believe the first reason churches are not utilizing evangelists is that they simply do not trust them.  They’ve seen too many over the years utilize methods that evoke “decisions” through man-centered, Finney-like measures and not conversions.   The evangelist can travel on boasting of ever how many “decisions” while the pastor is left to sort through what actually happened and many times it’s not so good.  Pastors are just afraid that confusion over salvation will be brought into their churches.  Furthermore, some pastors I’ve talked with don’t trust evangelists because they are afraid that evangelists are more concerned with numbers than gospel fidelity, knowing that more “decisions” will likely land them more revivals.  I pray that this isn’t true of evangelists and want to believe the best about brothers in Christ, but in our contemporary results-driven culture, I don’t doubt this is a temptation for evangelists.  The driving question I want to ask is:  what are evangelists doing to build trust with the pastors and churches?  “Just trust us” isn’t good enough.

Second, I say that churches are not using evangelists because they simply don’t know the evangelists.  Just calling oneself an evangelist and being affiliated with COSBE or the state evangelism association isn’t enough.  Pastors don’t feel comfortable putting a man in their pulpit that they do not know.  Pastors want to use men that they know.  This desire isn’t some sort of “scratching your buddy’s back” syndrome.  Rather, it goes back to the trust issue.  It’s hard to trust somebody you don’t know.

I know this remedy is hard work, but both pastors and evangelists must work to get to know each other.  Personally would be best, but even providing sermon audio on evangelists’ websites would be a good start.  Many evangelists, as far as I can tell, have no samples of their preaching for pastors to listen to on the web.  If both pastors and evangelists would work to make personal connections with each other, I believe pastors would be more likely to utilize evangelists.  So, what can we do to build these personal relationships?

Third, churches are not using evangelists because evangelists are not serving the needs of churches who are changing their approach to evangelism.  Evangelists seem to be only geared up for the “come and hear” evangelism. The fact is that churches are not holding revivals or evangelistic rallies as often as they used to.  Now some of this might be because churches are just losing their evangelistic fervor, but I believe that’s the great minority.  By and large, I believe churches want to see people come to Christ, but after attempt after attempt of trying to get lost people to come to us to hear an evangelist preacher with no turnout, churches are moving to other approaches of evangelism that are geared toward “go and tell.”

The evangelistic revival/rally has been very fruitful in the past, but it’s still is just one approach to getting the gospel out.  I’m not saying the days of the revival meetings are over.  The church will always need revival, and there will always be a few lost in every church crowd, but the approach of inviting lost people to come hear an evangelist at your church preach the gospel is yielding very little fruit because lost people are for the most part not coming.  I wish this situation was not so, but that’s reality, at least where I’m from.  Therefore, churches are fishing with a different lure, so to speak.  So, what are evangelists doing to serve the churches who are changing their methods of evangelism?

I pray that we can turn this trend around.  I want to be as faithful to the Scripture as I can be and want to utilize every resource God has given for the advance of the gospel.  May evangelists and churches be reunited for the sake of the lost and the Kingdom!

~Ben Simpson  :  @JBenSimpson  :  JBenSimpson.com  :  West Main Baptist Church

Comments

  1. says

    I agree with most of the article.
    Churches and pastors should use evangelists more.
    An evangelist’s ministry and preaching will be different than yours, but then that is the point. Don’t expect him to do exactly as you do.

    I do believe one (not all) of the reasons evangelists are not used more is because of Calvinism. All you have to do is check to see who is using evangelists the most – Calvinistic pastors or non-Calvinistic pastors. I think most would agree Traditionalist or non-Calvinist pastors use evangelists more often. But I would agree there would be significant exceptions to this rule. Also, this can and should change.

    Get to know evangelists and talk to pastor’s who use them. Attend revival meetings in your area. Find an evangelist you’re half way compatible with and use him. If you do, make the revival meeting the most important thing in the world, for that week. Pray, plan, prepare, publicize. And God will bless.

    SWBTS sends out student evangelists in revival meetings every year during the Spring. Check them out at swbts.edu
    This gives you the opportunity to help and support a young preacher, and hear some good Gospel, evangelistic preaching.
    David R. Brumbelow

    • says

      David,

      I gave you PROOF as to why the rise of Calvinism cannot be counted as one of the real reasons evangelists are being ignored. Calvinsim is simply the whipping boy. Do you disagree with my reasoning from proof in the article? You simply asserted that Calvinism is a reason. What proof do you have?

      • says

        Yes, I disagree with your PROOF.
        Statistics can be manipulated many ways.

        I gave my reason above. What kind of pastors today use evangelists most? My experience is that non-Calvinists or Traditionalists use evangelists more often. That is certainly not to say Calvinists never use evangelists. That is not to say all non-Calvinists use evangelists.
        David R. Brumbelow

  2. says

    David,

    So, how would you interpret the facts? As I said in the article concerning the raw stats, “That stat means that regardless of a resurgence of Calvinism in the SBC, there should still be plenty of churches for evangelists to fill their calendars with if Calvinism was really the problem, yet evangelists are still being underutilized.” Is this not true?

    What proof do you have that Calvinists don’t use evangelists other than just your anecdotal experience, which I assume is rather limited? Furthermore, if you do have proof that that this is the case, what proof do you have that it’s because of their Calvinism that keeps them from utilizing evangelists?

  3. says

    Ben,
    Perhaps you should use the word “evidence,” instead of “proof.”
    Like statistics, “facts” can also be manipulated.

    Notice I did not say Calvinism is the only reason evangelists are not being used as much as in the past. But I did say that is one of the reasons.

    Go to COSBE and ask several evangelists if they agree with my contention. I think most will. I’ve personally talked with several evangelists that would strongly agree that Calvinism is “one of” the reasons for a lack of revivals today. And I am pretty familiar with the work of evangelists.

    In addition, I’ve heard a number of Calvinists run down the concept of evangelists and local church revivals. No, not all Calvinists, but a number of them. I applaud the Calvinists who do use evangelists.

    I’ve known a couple of evangelists who are / were 5-point Calvinists.

    But hey, we are on the same side in that I agree with you that all of us should use evangelists more. I just don’t think we should ignore the Calvinist factor.
    David R. Brumbelow

    • says

      Fair enough, David, but I would add that even if there is a correlation between the rise of SBC Calvinism and the decline in the use of evangelists, we must always remember that correlation doesn’t prove causation. So, we must be careful.

      Furthermore, even if it is a cause, it would be an insignificant cause based on the stats I’ve shared. Would you at least agree to that?

  4. says

    Ben,

    As a God-called, vocational evangelist (and member and officer of COSBE), I welcome your article and affirm it.

    The area that I am most concerned about is the “come and hear” approach to evangelism. There is not a single exhortation in the New Testament to invite lost people to church! I find only two passages that indicate “if” an unbeliever comes in. The very definition of ekklesia would indicate a select group of people, not unbelievers.

    I cannot remember who I heard say it, or I would give them credit for the statement, “We have come to accept what our people will not do in evangelism, and substituted for it, inviting to church.”

    The focus of Every Believer a Witness is motivating and training the entire church to actively share the Gospel with their families, friends, neighbors, classmates and coworkers (“go and tell”). Even more than that, we show the pastor how to “create and maintain a culture of witnesssing and evangelism”. We have led it in Reform churches and arminian churches, and varying shades of both.

    For all who share your view of the evangelist, who desire to make a greater impact in their “Jerusalem”, I would encourage them to take a look at our website. I would love to talk with you and others about seeing your church become focused on “go and tell”.

  5. says

    Ben,
    Sorry, but I will still disagree some. Although I don’t think we’re that far apart.

    I believe Calvinism is “one of” the “causes” of the decline in the use of evangelists. Not simply correlation. I believe some Calvinist criticism of the work of vocational evangelists has even dampened the enthusiasm of some non-Calvinists in using evangelists.

    So I believe Calvinism is a factor in the decline of revivals. But certainly not the only factor. And again, not all Calvinists are involved in this decline.

    There are a number of other things that also factor into the reason vocational evangelists are not being used as much today.
    Change in times and culture.
    Affluence of Americans.
    TV, internet, entertainment. Used to, a local revival meeting was the best show in town. Unsaved folks would show up just to see what was happening and to enjoy the entertainment; as a result, many would be saved. Now it’s easier to sit home and watch 300 channels on TV.
    Unconcern, apathy.
    Young pastors coming up in an environment that does not use evangelists that often.
    The denomination seldom inviting vocational evangelists to preach in denominational meetings. At our SBC Pastor’s Conference why not have at least one evangelist preach each year? Why not the same thing in Baptist state meetings?
    Churches in general not as committed to a revival meeting like they were in the past.
    Of course, you touch on some of these and others.

    I have an evangelist friend who goes to Columbia, Venezuela, and other South American countries. He says he can have a revival there today, like we used to have in the USA in the 1950s.

    I’m convinced revivals still work in America But generally, it seems you have to pray and work harder today to have a successful revival, than in the past. Many great, local church revivals are happening today.
    David R. Brumbelow

  6. Bill Mac says

    I believe the work of an evangelist is a good one, and it is obviously a gift of the Spirit. But I’m not convinced the local church is the best venue for the operation of an evangelist, and I’m doubly not convinced that bringing in seminarians for evangelistic meetings is the best idea. The last one we brought in (our last formal revival service) was from SWTBS I believe and it was a disaster. It took us a long time to pick up the pieces and people still talk about it, years later.

    I’ve never quite understood why, for a week or two at a time, you tell your pastor, whom you trust, and preaches the Gospel faithfully (presumably) to sit down, and turn your pulpit over to a stranger, to do what your pastor already knows how to do (and frankly, already pay him to do). It doesn’t make sense to me.

    • says

      Very interesting perspective, Bill. Do you take then the role of the evangelist to actually be what we would today call missionaries & church planters?

      • Bill Mac says

        I think any Christian can have the gift of evangelism, so either one of those activities would benefit from someone with that gift. Those would seem to be two areas where it would be well suited. The gift can also manifest itself in the life of lay people as well.

        The professional evangelist however, is a different animal. Some are obviously gifted, and some are not discernibly so. I have sat under revivalists many times and wondered why they were preaching at a room full of Christians as if none of us were saved, and then had altar calls that made the inquisition look low pressure.

        The Gospel doesn’t change, but the medium can change. As David pointed out, the culture changes and such meetings don’t draw like they used to. Door to door evangelism is also more difficult under the current culture. Evangelism is not a method, it’s a mindset. We can spend time pining for the good old days the sawdust trail, but they’re probably not coming back.

      • says

        Bill said, “Some are obviously gifted, and some are not discernibly so. I have sat under revivalists many times and wondered why they were preaching at a room full of Christians as if none of us were saved, and then had altar calls that made the inquisition look low pressure.” LOL! Well said!

        So, then you see Ephesians 4 here talking about spiritual gifts? I certainly affirm that there’s a gift of evangelism, but it seems to me that Ephesians 4 is talking more about roles in ministry for the edification of the church.

        • Bill Mac says

          Ben,

          I agree, but I think we misunderstand the role of the local church. The church’s roles of equipping and edification are to equip and edify individual believers, who then go out and evangelize. I believe worship is meant to be primarily corporate, and evangelism is meant to be primarily individual. I wouldn’t die on those statements but I think that is the sense I get of how the local church should operate.

  7. Greg Harvey says

    I have to admit: I am sympathetic to the view that evangelism is such a high priority that we should be better at it than discipleship. But then I start worrying about what we’re evangelizing if we’re not also discipling to it…

    I view the Great Commission as establishing discipleship as the overarching commandment and evangelism as a methodology for reaching people to convince them to submit to discipleship.

    I’m not sure how soteriology has anything to do with the call to discipleship. I can sort of understand how it might be confusing with respect to a discipleship-less evangelism, but none of us see that as a meaningful activity, do we?

  8. says

    Good word Ben. I’m a full blown Calvinist and have been for over 25 years as a pastor and layman. In recent years as a Presbyterian (PCA) elder I’ve seen both great examples of revival (as opposed to revivalism) and will be the first to admit that far too many in the Reformed camp have justly earned the moniker of “the frozen chosen.” Sadly. Particularly since many of the great evangelists of old were Calvinists.

    Many may be surprised to know that there is such an org as Presbyterian Evangelistic Fellowship. Yes, you read that right. My good friend Al Baker is an evangelist for PEF based in Alabama. Just this morning I got his latest email blast where he wrote:

    Please give thanks to the Lord for:

    -a very productive meeting with pastors and Ruling Elders last Wednesday in Montgomery concerning our church planting efforts there. I challenged the men to move forward with more church plants, leading with evangelists, in 2014.

    -a wonderful week of evangelistic outreach through Chapel Hill Presbyterian Church, Douglasville, GA. God stirred up the congregation at our Revival Prayer weekend in late September and from that a number of PEF evangelists, as well as several from Briarwood Presbyterian Church, and Dale Cutlip of Globeworks International took a third of the Chapel Hill congregation “door to door” in the community. Though the nights were bitterly cold the people persevered and at least ten called on the name of the Lord to be saved. The hard work of following up those meetings will be coordinated by Pastor Tom Myers.

    -a very encouraging weekend at the College Hill Presbyterian Church, Oxford, Mississippi. Pastor Justin McQuire was installed as the new pastor there. College Hill Presbyterian Church was established in 1846 and has a rich history of gospel work. The church also was used as a conferencing venue by General’s Grant and Sherman in the War Between the States and William Faulkner, the great novelist from Oxford, was married there. More importantly, the church services on Sunday were jam packed with people and there is a commitment to Revival Prayer. The church has also greatly benefitted over the last several years by the Embers to a Flame ministry of Briarwood Presbyterian Church.

    -all that He has enabled me to do thus far in 2013. Many of you have prayed that I would see at least 100 people in 2013 call on the name of the Lord to be saved. Thus far there have been 144 do so.

    Would that there were more Al’s in every bible believing denomination!

  9. says

    BTW, if you haven’t read Murray’s book Revival and Revivalism you really should put it on the top of your list. Also, Lloyd-Jones’ series on revival are priceless and are available online.

  10. Tarheel says

    Now the reduction in the frequency of pastors using evangelists/conducting mufti-night scheduled revivals is the fault of the rascally Calvinists.

    Oh brother.

    May be fact that it often costs over $2000 + meals and expenses to get one these days just might play a part.

    • Justin says

      I agree that in an age of declining budgets it is hard to spend the money that is required for an effective meeting. BUT, most churches have no problem dropping thousands on music programs, senior adult trips, children’s events. The issue is does the pastor see the investment of $2000 and the likelihood that many will be saved as worthwhile as the previously stated areas? I know that we have chosen to spend more on revivals and the result is Souls.

  11. says

    On the cost of an evangelist and revival:
    Most evangelists will come to your church on a love offering basis, and maybe travel expenses. The church will provide lodging, food, expenses while he is there.
    One thing a pastor can do is emphasize to his church that this is most likely a once a year expense (if you have one revival a year). In that sense, it is not a large amount. And isn’t revival worth it?

    The offering is usually good and worthy if:
    The evangelist does a good job.
    The people half way like their pastor.
    The pastor passes the offering plate each service, or at least emphasizes the offering each service.
    The pastor explains in detail that 100% of the offering will go to the evangelist and his ministry. People don’t like to give to an offering in which they are unsure what it is going to or how it will be divided. Oh, and if you do this, and the offering is large, and the pastor or church decides to keep some of it – that is what you call stealing.

    Rejoice if the offering is large. It speaks well of your pastor, church, evangelist. And I guarantee the evangelist has been places where the offering was not nearly so good. Maybe God has used you to help balance things out.
    David R. Brumbelow

  12. says

    We have some great evangelists in our area. One was on staff at our church until he left to fulfill a full-time call to evangelism. He and his family are still members, but he travels often. Interestingly, last time I talked to him, his views were at least loosely Calvinistic, and I say “loosely” because he doesn’t preach that level of soteriology. Nevertheless, the man has a gift for evangelism as such: I might have trouble convincing Christians of the gospel, but this man could lead a broomstick to Christ if it were possible.

    He and others like him have started various ministries that are getting the gospel in the ears of sinners in big ways. Between starting biker clubs for the purpose of leading bikers to Christ or school-release programs for preaching Christ to high school kids, amazing things are happening that the evangelists have taken the initiative on. They aren’t sitting around waiting on churches to invite them. Pray for those kinds of evangelists in your area.

  13. Tarheel says

    David R. Brumbelow said;

    “On the cost of an evangelist and revival:
    Most evangelists will come to your church on a love offering basis, and maybe travel expenses. The church will provide lodging, food, expenses while he is there.
    One thing a pastor can do is emphasize to his church that this is most likely a once a year expense (if you have one revival a year). In that sense, it is not a large amount. And isn’t revival worth it?”

    Some churches have gotten away from love offerings for various reasons…

    lodging and expense could easily near 1000 for a week…most of the evangelists want a hotel.

    Once a year? Do you realize that some pastors have to beg to fund a ministry for a WHOLE year on less than $2000.00?

    What about honorariums or love offering splits for the special music?

    Your last question assumes that the only way to have ‘revival’ is to have a special speaker and presumably special music to accompany a multi night series of meetings at the church. Many do not believe that this is the only way to foster an environment of spiritual emphasis/renewal and evangelism.

  14. Bill Mac says

    I think perhaps we should make the distinction between an evangelist and a revivalist. They aren’t necessarily the same thing. An evangelist is someone gifted at sharing the Gospel with the lost. A revivalist is a professional itinerant preacher, who preaches mostly in established churches.

  15. Tarheel says

    I agree with your distinction….and that’s anther reason I think love offerings for evangelists might not be the best approach.

    “hey lost world, come and here the gospel…but make sure to bring your wallet.”

  16. William Thornton says

    I appreciate the post and the discussion. I used vocational evangelists maybe half a dozen times in 30 years as a pastor. That was plenty enough. The best revivals I had were led by other pastors, not evangelists.

    Some things I ponder:

    1. Vocational evangelists almost always add “God-called” as a prefix to “evangelist.” I don’t question that but am unsure if there is truth in labeling.

    2. Love offerings are fine. Established churches have longstanding practices here. We would budget expenses and expect the LO to cover the honorarium. I usually worked out. The evangelist gets ALL of the LO but not of a “revival offering” which is explained as covering revival expenses, LO plus expenses. In such cases the evangelist gets a fixed amount. If there is extra, I would give it to the evangelist.

    3. Having other pastors lead was almost always better for me. They did a better job, understood church and individual needs better, and usually did a better job of preaching a Gospel message and extending an invitation. And, they never wanted to build their mailing list with members of my church.

    4. The number of evangelists has been declining for years and years. Is this because the pool of money to support them has shrunk? Churches went from two week, to one week, to four day, to sometimes one day meetings and from two revivals every year to one or none?

    5. If God calls evangelists why were there so many a generation or two ago and less now?

    My states COSBE book is very thin and includes everything from women’s ministry speakers, to reptile handling evangelists (no kidding, the snakes are a promo item, not a Mark 16 thing), to magicians, to all kinds of music folks, and a few regular preaching evangelists.

  17. says

    I believe the text clearly and irrefutably states that the ‘work of an evangelist’ is to go where there is no local church, preach and teach, equip leaders, form a local church and move on (2Tim. 4:1-5). cf. Paul @ Ephesus.

    The NT writers would be stunned by the conduct and description of what passes for ‘evangelist’ in the USA today. Evangelist generally seek to produce converts. The Great Commission commands us to Make Disciples. Two very distinct foci.

    • says

      Tom,

      As you know, the definitive passage on the work of the evangelist is Ephesians 4:11-15. The Biblical definition of what an evangelist does is crystal clear – “equipping of the saints for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.” Biblically the purpose of the evangelist is the same as that of the pastor!

      While NT writers might be stunned by the conduct and description of what passes for an evangelist in the USA today, that in no way negates the Biblical office and responsibility of an evangelist, any more than the conduct of some money hungry, poorly trained, shallow pastors negates the office and responsibilty of pastors.

  18. Eric Fuller says

    William,

    As a pastor, why would you not encourage your church members to get involved with the evangelist’s ministry that you brought in? If you brought him in, hopefully, you would believe in the ministry that God had entrusted him with and would want your church to be involved as co-labors with that ministry in reaching and teaching people all over the world.

    An evangelist’s mailing list/ newsletter simply informs people who are prayer partners and financial partners of that evangelist and ministry. Of course, there are those that might abuse that but if they are, I am sure you would not have those in your church.

    As a pastor, you want as many people as possible to be involved with the ministry that the Lord entrusted you with and so does the evangelist. So, the mailing list/ newsletter is a wonderful thing. It is only for those people who desire to be informed and part of that ministry. It isn’t a command or mandate that the church members sign up.

    • William Thornton says

      Sorry, Eric, I’ve been through all that. Mailing lists are for fundraising although there may be a patina of other things involved. If I sound cynical, I came by it honestly over the years.

  19. Kris Burns says

    As an young SBC man of a Calvinist bent aspiring to the office of elder, I would contend that many of us desire to see revival; but revival looks different to us than the classic SBC sense of the word. Revival isn’t seen as something that you schedule on a weekend. It’s a special showing of grace and a special move of the Holy Spirit through which many are shown their sin and turn to Jesus. That could correlate with a special weekend meeting, but our emphasis on the sovereignty of God would point us towards praying that God would send us revival at any time. I guess we would fall in line more with the Revival of the First Great Awakening and of men like Edwards rather than the revivalism that came out of the meetings of the Second Great Awakening.

    That being said, my church, which is a Calvinistic Baptist church, plans to hold evangelistic meetings this year, Lord willing by bringing in a man gifted in evangelism. Perhaps “Evangelistic Meetings” might be a better term than “Revival”?

    I’m sure I’m making some broad statements, generalizations, and perhaps some dichotomies that don’t work. I’m open to correction/push back. These are just my observations.

    • Max says

      Perhaps “Evangelistic Meetings” might be a better term than “Revival”?

      Agreed. Evangelistic meetings do not necessarily produce revival in the hearts of God’s people. Revival happens when Christians humble themselves, pray, repent and seek God’s face afresh. If we are to experience genuine revival and spiritual awakening in the land, it must come the way of 2 Chronicles 7:14.

  20. says

    Billy Graham on Evangelists:

    “I know of no higher calling than that of the itinerant evangelist.

    To be used of God to call men and women to repentance and faith in Christ is surely one of life’s greatest privileges. But evangelists also have a responsibility to work side by side with pastors and churches in reaching the lost and bringing them into the fellowship of God’s people. No organization has sought to link the ministry of the evangelist and the pastor more than the Conference of Southern Baptist Evangelists, and I encourage you to prayerfully consider using a member of COSBE in your church and community.

    The need for evangelism and revival is as pressing as ever – and so are the opportunities. May God bless you as you seek to fulfill God’s call in your life and ministry.” -Dr. Billy Graham; sbcevangelist.org

    David R. Brumbelow

    • Bill Mac says

      I respect Billy Graham a lot, but there is no calling higher than another. We must each be faithful in the thing we are called to, for that is the highest calling. The person called to be a housewife or a physician must not lament the fact that they were not called to be an evangelist.

      • Bill Mac says

        Looking at the SBC Evangelist website, it is curious that God does not seem to call vocational evangelists from colder climates.

      • dean says

        Bill Mac, I love you correcting Billy Graham. It brings a smile to my face. Please read the quote again. He did not say the calling to the work of an evangelist is the highest calling. He says he knows of no other calling that is higher. You speak of the calling of a housewife and physician, how can you support that such are callings? It can be debated whether Ephesians 4:11 is an exhaustive list or an illustrative list. However, it is clear that these callings whether exhaustive or illustrative are for the purpose of maturing the saints (vs. 12).

        All are to do the work of an evangelist but some are gifted as evangelists. To see these individuals give an invitation, whether it be a corporate or an individual invitation, and watch God work in an incredibly mighty way and souls be saved is amazing. May their fold increase!!

        • Bill Mac says

          Dean: I don’t equate calling with the spiritual gifts, and I don’t equate calling with some kind of epiphany, so in that sense I think we are all called to something. I think the clergy / laity distinction is mostly unhelpful. Our strengths and our desires help frame our calling.

        • says

          I actually appreciated Bill’s comment. Paul indicates some differences between the significance of gifts or offices. Elders are worthy of a double honor (1 Tim 5:17), for example, and some gifts are higher than others (1 Cor 12:31). But he balances this with the teaching that all gifts as given by the Holy Spirit are significant (1 Cor 12:21-26).

          Actually, regarding Billy Graham’s comment, Paul indicates in the passages I cited that Apostles, Prophets and Teachers are the higher gifts.

          So am I to read you saying that most of us ultimately aren’t worth very much in the Body of Christ since most of us aren’t in the offices of these kinds of higher gifts or aren’t blessed with the gift of evangelism?

          • dean says

            Jim, how in the world did you arrive at that conclusion? I don’t see where I addressed the issue of any person’s worth. My point is that I do not believe “housewife” is a calling for it does not help mature the saints, neither does bank teller, airplane pilot or hockey player. The callings in Ephesian 4 are for the purpose of bringing saints to maturity.

            The only comment I made about the Billy Graham quote is that Bill M misrepresented what he said. Billy Graham said no calling is higher than the evangelist. That is not the same thing as saying the evangelist is the highest calling.

          • Doug Hibbard says

            Bill Mac, I’ll quibble a bit on the language here.

            “Highest” usually is taken as alone at the top–the “highest” ranking item is #1 with no equals.

            “Nothing higher” could be taken as tied among multiple items–a “nothing higher” ranking item could be #1 with multiple equals.

            So, there may be “nothing higher” than an evangelist alongside there being “nothing higher” than a pastor, a housewife, a school teacher, a nurse, or a dog catcher because each reflects an individual striving to walk in obedience to Jesus.

            As to the assertion by dean that a housewife does not help mature the saints, he certainly doesn’t know the housewives I’ve known. And many an airplane pilot has enhanced the prayer lives of the saints :)

          • Bill Mac says

            Doug,

            That’s technically true. However the implication is clearly there that whatever you are talking about is the highest. When Jesus said there was none greater than John the Baptist, he wasn’t saying everyone is equally great.

          • says

            Dean,
            I gave no conclusion other than what I observe in the text. I asked a question. You seem to have read some subtext into the question as though it were a conclusion. Doug’s explanation:

            “Nothing higher” could be taken as tied among multiple items–a “nothing higher” ranking item could be #1 with multiple equals.

            …is logically true. However, it’s a pointless statement. If that’s the purpose for the statement, it’s far better to say that all callings are equal. Personally, I don’t think Billy Graham (BG) was focused on making an accurate statement of the personal comparison of the value of different gifts in the Body of Christ. I think he just meant to commend the function of one particular gift and chose a less-than-accurate idiom to say it.

            In that light, your correction of Bill was odd if what he said actually misrepresented BG instead of clarifying the inaccuracy of the idiom. If BG really meant that one gift was greater in value, then Bill agreed with him and merely clarified his language. If BG meant that one gift was greater in value than the rest, then it seems that Bill corrected him. Either way, he didn’t misrepresent BG because BG wasn’t clear in precisely what he meant.

            My question is in regard to what you mean since you ended your comment with an expression exulting the gift of evangelism. I think it’s a wonderful gift, but denying the problem Bill pointed out with the use of the “no greater calling” idiom seems a bit of a stretch.

          • dean says

            Doug, I never said a housewife cannot help mature the saints. Ms. Wesley is a housewife who made an impact on the kingdom of God. However, I contend being a housewife is not a calling that specifically matures the saints. The lady who is a housewife and helps mature the saints could easily move into the role of bank teller and help mature the saints. However, in Ephesians 4 there are some callings listed for the express purpose of bringing the saints to maturity.

            Jim, I DO NOT THINK ANY PERSON IN THE KINGDOM OF GOD IS WORTHY LESS BECAUSE HE OR SHE DOES NOT HOLD A PARTICULAR OFFICE. I DO NOT BELIEVE A PERSON IS WORTH MORE BECAUSE THEY HOLD A PARTICULAR OFFICE.

  21. says

    Johnny Hunt on Evangelists:

    “What an absolute privilege it is, as a Pastor of a local Southern Baptist Church, to realize the importance of using our Southern Baptist Evangelists. The Bible makes it extremely clear in Ephesians 4 that God has given gifts to the church, and one of those gifts being the gift of the evangelist. During my recent sabbatical, while being away for seven Sundays, four of those Sundays were filled with Southern Baptist Evangelists. As a result, 52 baptisms were recorded in my absence.

    I thank God for the way that He is using evangelists to make a difference, as it pertains to the harvest that needs to take place in our local churches. Use your SBC Evangelists! Your people will thank you, and the sinners will bless you throughout eternity.”
    -Johnny Hunt, pastor, First Baptist Church, Woodstock, GA; SBC president;
    sbcevangelist.org

    David R. Brumbelow

  22. dean says

    B.H. Carroll on evangelists, “The bedrock of Scripture underlines it. Experience demonstrates is wisdom and feasibility. If the Home Mission Board may employ any man, it may employ evangelists. Altogether, then, with a ring, let us support this measure. If I were the secretary of the board I would come before this body in humility and tears and say, ‘Brethren, give me evangelists. Deny not fins to things that must swim against the tide, nor wings to things that must fly against the wind.'” B.H. Carroll in 1906.

  23. Eric Fuller says

    William,

    Just one more question, if you don’t mind. Are you a pastor? If so, have you ever fundraised in ministry for anything? I would be completely shocked if you haven’t. Fundraising is just part of ministry that we all must do on some level. Of course, it can be abused and if so then it is completely inappropriate. On the other hand it must be done. Our ministry, for an example, only sends out a newsletter dealing with fundraising once a year in December to all of our partners but it is only a paragraph. We are respectful in how we word everything. But, with that exception in December, our newsletters the other 11 months only seeks to inform and encourage our partners.

    I think the problem comes when all evangelists are put in the same light as those who are not conducting their ministries well. The same is true for pastors. We do not and should not put all pastors in the same category as those who have committed unbiblical acts. Being critical is fine, but for one to just say that all evangelists are like the limited number you have experienced and how all mailing lists or newsletters are is not appropriate or helpful.

    There are some wonderful evangelists out there that are attempting to correct a lot of the poor practices that have been going on. My desire is to see the evangelist redeemed within our convention. We are not the all in all for churches. Our ministries seek to serve pastors, staffs, local churches, and communties and help to encourage and equip where God is already working.