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The primary passion of the evangelist is to communicate the saving power of the cross. He/she welcomes any setting or platform from which to speak, and comes as God's announcer, delivering with an urgency the message of salvation to those who are lost. An evangelist communicates the good news of Christ, finding the open doors into the culture and building a platform from which to speak to his/her generation.
Secondly, the evangelist serves the local churches as the initiator, the spark plug, the fire-starter whom God uses to bring revival to the body of Christ. The evangelist is the person sent from God with a Biblical message and brings a fresh encounter with the Holy Spirit working among the people. As believers receive from and believe God, God begins to demonstrate His will and presence in tangible ways, and so others are brought to Christ. The combining of ministries of the evangelist with a pastor/church is one of God's purposes for the harvest of souls in a local setting.
A third role that the evangelist fills is one of motivator and equipper in the work of evangelism. Members of the local church should be trained in lifestyle evangelism, opportunity evangelism and event evangelism.
We are entering the new millennium at breakneck speed, propelled by rapid changes in culture, technology, and society. The church must not be caught outside of the daily stream of people's lives, but enter the stream and find the ministry points where we, as God's people, can meet life needs with the timeless gospel. The church will need to transform some of its methods to remain relevant and effective, to earn a platform from which to speak the gospel. This does not change the message or the implications of Christ's gospel, which are eternal and timeless. The proclamation of the gospel will always be God's chosen means of salvation (1 Cor.1:18-25). If we recall the outdoor gatherings that worked well for John Wesley (and were considered radical in his day) we would agree that they probably would not be workable in modern America.
Churches will need to develop new strategies for reaching the lost in their communities. The work of the evangelist is critical to the local church (see above). We have seen over the last two decades that crowds can be attracted, but that making disciples who will in turn disciple others is more difficult. Formerly, Sunday evening services in America had an evangelistic emphasis, and this worked well; however, this has not been the case in the 1980's and '90's. Most visitors arrive on a Sunday morning, the time pastors spend reaching their flock, and many come from churched backgrounds. It seems the unsaved have little interest in how we are "doing church". Clearly new strategies are called for.
How then will lost people be reached in our communities? Christ has not changed His mind simply because we live in a confusing age. The church is still called to be salt and light. The plan, as Rebecca Manley Pippert has succinctly stated, is to get "out of the saltshaker and into the world". I would like to offer two guiding principles: First, that God uses people. God's chosen people cannot afford to let a few with what has wrongly been termed "the gift of evangelism" accomplish His task. Although it is the passion and pleasure of every evangelist to preach salvation in Jesus alone, each member of the church is called to proclaim it verbally and by their lifestyle. Second, God's people cannot afford to luxuriate in Christian culture, what someone has called the "Christian ghetto", filling their lives and their time with all things "Christian", ignoring the obvious needs around them. As Jesus and His disciples sought out people in the market places and the forums of their time, so must we. Let us ask, "What are the marketplaces in our community? How shall we earn the right to speak in the forums of our society? How may we be heard for Christ?" True, our marketplaces seem diverse and complicated, but that is where we will find Jesus. We must enter the arenas of our society with the gospel. The church must answer anew the call of Jesus, make a strategic focus, and meet people there with the gospel. It remains a choice: the programs and culture of church life as an end and means in itself, or the uncomfortable option of poking our noses, as it were, into the culture in which we live.
A second loci for the church's concentration in evangelism is seeking the supernatural presence of God. As Christ becomes present with His power, unbelievers are drawn to the living presence of Jesus. Certainly this is the marked feature of the present day revival, but the demonstration of the presence of the Lord Jesus is for the everyday, and does not belong solely in the church meeting. The move of God's Spirit is a sign of the final hours before Jesus' return and is the church's triumph. Jesus' power and authority alone can accomplish the task of fishing for men and building disciples (for example, John chapter 21, Jesus and Peter in the boat).
In this view of the 21st century church, the infrastructure of the church will be radically redefined, because the call to follow Christ is radical, and must relate to the culture in which we live. On one hand, God's call separates us from the world, but it empowers us to be light-bearers back into the world. Therefore programs must be relevant to the people we are trying to win. Programs for the sake of maintenance or to simply pacify the church will be our epitaph and will lock the door to the minds of the unsaved. We cannot afford to rest on the laurels of what worked in the past. New opportunities are all around us, and the Lord of the harvest is continually pouring out the power of the Holy Spirit so that we may rise to the occasion and do exploits.
As an evangelist in the 21st century, I must fulfill my call in three ways: 1) preach the gospel by any and every means, 2) awaken the church to its mission and equip it for evangelism, and 3) join forces with the pastor and the local church to accomplish these tasks.
© 1998 Julie Young
Julie is available for meetings, seminars, or events, or to minister to your church or organization. Contact us.