Christians, Evangelism, and the Local Church
In The Fellowship in Evangelism, the article was written for all Christians, and more specifically to Christians who participate in street evangelism. I have preached the Gospel on the street for over two years now, and Lord willing, I will continue to do so. So my argument is not that Christians should not evangelize on the street, but Christian fellowship should not be exclusive to street evangelism or to fellowship with like-minded street evangelists. The article addressed the full meaning and practice of the fellowship in the gospel, which cannot fully take place outside the context of the local church.
If all Christians are commissioned to evangelize, then in one sense all Christians are evangelists. Christians who participate in street witnessing are evangelists. Christians who share the Gospel with friends, family, and coworkers are also evangelists. Christians who serve the lost in practical matters or in providing tangible needs as a means to exhibit the love of Christ and share the Gospel are also evangelists. Christians who visit people in their homes and disciple them into the faith by the grace of God are also evangelists. My point is this: all Christians are evangelists, but not all Christians are street evangelists.
All Christians, no matter how they evangelize, are commanded to love one another and serve one another. This best takes place through the local assembling of believers. This is also where God’s Word is taught, where Christians are encouraged and equipped for the work of the ministry, where church discipline takes place, where Christians worship God as a corporate body, where Christians pray together, and where Christians observe Christ’s ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s Table. So all Christians are commanded to not forsake this fellowship (Hebrews 10:25), as this is where we are most edified (1 Corinthians 14:26), and grown up in Christ (Ephesians 4:11-16).
While in The Fellowship in Evangelism, I made the argument that all Christians, including street evangelists, must be committed to faithfully serve the local church, I did not indicate anywhere that Christians should not street evangelize. Street evangelism is a good and needed thing. I love street evangelism. But my point is that evangelism should primarily take place within the context of the local church.
This does not mean all evangelism must take place through formal church outreach. But being that most of one’s evangelism is going to take place, or should take place, in one’s own community, the idea will be to share the Gospel and disciple that individual if possible. Every time we share our faith in the community, our aim should be to give the Gospel and look for opportunities for discipleship (whether by us individually or inviting the person to our church where they might be discipled by others).
In contrast, evangelism teams that are disassociated from the local body and have no real attachment to the local body, are not preaching the Gospel within the context of the local church. Consequently, one hindrance to the Gospel bearing fruit is that discipleship is actually left out of making disciples. This is completely foreign to what we see in Scripture. Evangelism teams are fine (and good), but they need to be rooted in the local church and overseen by church leadership. Not only that, but Christians on evangelism teams must be faithful in serving their local church body. Truly, if a street evangelist professes to be submitted to the local church but does not serve their church, then what is the real tangible difference between them and the nomad evangelist who is openly detached from the local church? How can we truly love the church for whom Christ died, if we do not actively show our love for the church for whom He died?
Not All Street Evangelists Are Called to the Office of Evangelist
While all Christians are not street evangelists, it is also true that not all street evangelists are called to the office of evangelist (Ephesians 4:11). The Fellowship in Evangelism article exhorted all my beloved brothers and sisters in Christ in the street evangelism community to be faithful servants of Christ through the local church. But the second article from last week, The Evangelist’s Commitment to the Local Church, was specifically for the Christian who believes they may be called to evangelism ministry full time.
It is my conviction that if we are going to identify ourselves as an evangelist (in the official use of this designation), we need to understand what an evangelist is as Scripture defines it. Yes, the evangelist preaches the Gospel, and yes, that is a primary responsibility. But that is not all the evangelist does. He also teaches the Word, equips the saints in the church and mobilizes them to preach the Gospel, and he builds up the body of Christ to mature in the faith.
I have been a street evangelist for two years, and while I have desired to be a full-time evangelist during this time, there were times I tried to make that happen. I tried to create my own ministry and self-define as an evangelist. I do not think this is Scripturally grounded. Instead, I have now hit the reset button and am submitting to my local church. I have stepped away from parachurch street ministry and am committing to my local church. I do aspire to be an evangelist, but I desire to be equipped in my local church and be sent out by my local church. If I am to “do the work of an evangelist” (2 Timothy 4:5), I will need to teach God’s Word and equip the saints for the work of the ministry. It might mean I plant churches, or build up an existing church. Regardless, I need to be trained myself. It might even mean I need to go to seminary, affirmed by my elders to do so.
This, no doubt, is a high calling. It is indeed a great responsibility (James 3:1). But the evangelist has no less qualification and responsibility than the elders and deacons of the church. We must have an inward calling, we are to be above reproach, and we must be affirmed by the church for the work of the ministry (1 Timothy 3:1-13). The only way this happens is if the evangelist is submitted to the church, serves the church, and is sent out by the church.
Are You Called to the Office of Evangelist?
In summary, if you are a street evangelist, don’t stop what you are doing. Preach Christ and Him crucified, but do not neglect your love for Christ’s Bride. Please do read The Fellowship in Evangelism if you have not yet read it.
If you desire to be in the ministry full time in the office of evangelist, please start by reading The Evangelist’s Commitment to the Local Church and listen to John MacArthur’s sermon titled The Gifted Men, Part 2: Evangelists, Pastors, Teachers. If you still have a desire to be an evangelist as Scripture defines it, here’s a few questions to ask yourself:
- Do you desire to preach the glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ to the ends of the earth?
- Do you commit to faithfully love and serve the Bride of Christ through the local church?
- Do you desire to train the brethren for the work of the ministry?
- Do you desire to teach God’s Word and build up the Bride of Christ?
- Do you desire to plant churches or mobilize the saints to preach the Gospel?
If you can answer “yes” to all of these questions, then you may be called to the office of evangelist. Having said that, are you currently equipped with all of the tools necessary to be an evangelist? Do you right now have the pastoral disciplines to lead and teach others? I know I don’t, which is why I am looking to the guidance and shepherding of my elders to be trained to be an effective and biblical leader with godly character. I am also trekking a path towards seminary, which will further train me to rightly divide and teach God’s Word, and to live a more disciplined Christian life for God’s glory and as an example to others.
I am not saying you must go to seminary, though I do believe that is the direction the Lord is leading me. But what I am saying is, if you have this desire to be an evangelist, talk to your elders about it. Express your desire to them and open up a dialogue as to how you can discern if this is your calling. They should help you better understand the role of the evangelist and how you might become one with guidance and proper training (should that be the Lord’s will for you). Ask how you can serve in the church, and perhaps opportunities for you to teach will be available.
One thing is certain, however, you will not be affirmed in your desire to be an evangelist if you do not serve Christ’s church. And if you are not affirmed to be an evangelist by your local church, then you are not an evangelist as far as the office is concerned. And neither would I be.
I hope and pray this has provided clarity and given the reader further consideration. If you have any questions about what has been written, let’s talk about it. Let’s learn together and sharpen each other as we better understand the work of an evangelist according to Scripture.
Soli Deo Gloria!