Every so often I hear someone make the statement that evangelism is not a spiritual gift. Usually this is said in an effort to keep Christians from thinking that they are off the hook when it comes to sharing their faith just because they do not feel particularly gifted in evangelism. The intention is good. Lots of Christians either really believe that it is someone else’s job to do evangelism, or they just don’t care that they are neglecting their job.
The Bible is clear. We are all called to evangelize. Jesus did not place any limitations on The Great Commission. He spoke directly to His disciples, but His words are to be obeyed by all Christians until He returns. So, I am not arguing that only some Christians are called to evangelize. I am arguing that the call of all Christians to evangelize does not eliminate the possibility that there could be a gift of evangelism.
Ephesians 4:11-12 says, “And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.”
Sometimes this passage is cited when people say that evangelism is not a spiritual gift. It is argued that Paul lists several offices in the passage. He is not listing spiritual gifts. I agree with that understanding of the text. But do those called to these offices not have special spiritual gifts that equip them for these tasks? Regardless of whether you are a cessationist or continuationist, we all know that prophecy is a spiritual gift. Would we not expect a prophet to have the gift of prophecy? Is anyone arguing that teaching is not a spiritual gift? Surely we expect those who teach to have this gift. Why would we not expect evangelists to have a special gift of evangelism?
Think about this with me in a slightly different way. Romans 12:6-8 lists service, generosity, and mercy as spiritual gifts. Is anyone arguing that only those with the gift of service are required by God to serve? Is anyone arguing that only those with the gift of generosity are required by God to give? How about mercy? Surely we would recognize that it is required of all Christians to show mercy to others.
Perhaps you might object and say, “But the Bible doesn’t mention a gift of evangelism. The Bible clearly lists service, generosity, and mercy as spiritual gifts.” That of course is true. We’ve already seen that Ephesians 4:11 is talking about the office of evangelist not a gift of evangelism. However, I do not understand any of the lists of spiritual gifts in the New Testament to be exhaustive. In fact, I do not think we can develop an exhaustive list of spiritual gifts simply by combining the individual lists that we find throughout the New Testament. So, I do believe that there is a spiritual gift of evangelism.
Consider Billy Graham for a moment. The man led many crusades and saw thousands of people come to faith in Jesus as a result of his ministry as an evangelist. Can we really say that he was not particularly gifted by the Holy Spirit in a way that equipped him to lead so many to faith in Jesus? Maybe you have a friend in your church who is able to turn a conversation about the weather into a conversation about Jesus with seemingly little effort. Most of us find such conversations challenging. Would you not say that your friend has the gift of evangelism?
Again, none of this lets anyone off the hook. Whether evangelism comes easy to you or not, you are called to evangelize. It’s part of the job description as a Christian. May we become increasingly faithful in fulfilling this call on our lives.
What do you think? Is evangelism a spiritual gift? Why or why not?