Preaching the Gospel to the masses has been a basic method of evangelism since biblical times. It is still an essential approach in our day of population explosion. The evangelistic campaign and the ministry of the evangelist are inseparable: man and method stand together.
The Gift of the Evangelist
While the noun “evangelist” occurs only three times in the New Testament, the verb euaggelizomai occurs over fifty times. Jesus Christ, Paul, and ordinary disciples all evangelized; Philip, the deacon, and Timothy, a settled pastor, were “evangelists.”
But there was also a distinct “charisma” of the evangelist. Ephesians 4:11 states that “evangelists” are a gift from Christ to his Church. We conclude then that while all Christians are called to evangelism, some are specially called and equipped for the task.
The evangelist’s relationship to other Church ministries is complementary, not competitive. Said Paul, “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow.” Neither evangelist nor pastor can say to each other “I have no need of you!”
The Church has a responsibility to the evangelist. It must recognize those whom God separates for this task, commission them for the work, support them by prayers and gifts, and rejoice with them in all that God does through them.
When a Church has no place for the evangelist, it denies itself a blessing God wishes to bestow. It also drives the evangelistically gifted into independent channels of expression. Unhappily, too many churches have no doctrine of the evangelist, and no practical structure to support his work.
Let the Churches find those who will seek the gift of evangelism! Then let them exercise the gift in faith, for just as evangelistic urgency comes in evangelizing, so the gift is realized and developed in using it.
The evangelist also has a responsibility to the Church. He must recognize that Christ is the source of his ministry, that his gift is intended to build up Christ’s body. His gift is not from himself but from Christ, not for himself, but for the Church.
The evangelist serves the body of Christ by adding new converts to that body. Moreover, Paul teaches that the gifts are to be used “to equip God’s people for work in his service” (Eph. 4:12 NEB). The evangelist is to evangelize and also to equip others to evangelize. As he evangelizes, he communicates something of his own passion and “know-how” to his coworkers. The whole Church is strengthened in its evangelistic task by the presence of those who have the special charisma of evangelism.
The Role of the Evangelistic Campaign
Preaching God’s Word to large crowds is nothing new. Moses and Joshua did it; so did Ezra and Ezekiel, John and the Lord Jesus, Peter and Paul. Through the centuries faithful men have given Christ to the masses. In the last century and a half, under Finney, Moody, Sunday, Graham and their colleagues, large evangelistic campaigns have become a rather standard technique.
Today’s campaign is a united witness by many churches. Through the preaching of a gifted evangelist and mobilization of many Christians, it penetrates a whole area with the Gospel in many ways, as part of a continuing strategy of evangelism.
a. It is a “united witness.” Does not the Holy Spirit seem to bless in a special way when all that believe are together (Acts 2:44)? Evangelistic campaigns give opportunity to witness together; a true, scriptural ecumenism is often a by-product.
b. It is a witness “by many churches.” Large united crusades are sometimes opposed by those who say “Evangelism should be the work of the church.” But what is the church? Wherever Christians meet in Jesus’ name, there is he and there is the Church. The united campaign thus combines rather than bypasses local fellowships.
c. It uses “the preaching of a gifted evangelist.” Proclamation remains central, for “faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes by the preaching of Christ.”
d. It aims at the “mobilization of many Christians.” The evangelistic campaign provides opportunity to stir average Christians to evangelism. Public interest makes it easier for Christians to talk of their faith.
e. It seeks to “penetrate a whole area in many ways.” Mass meetings in themselves may not be penetration, for, at worst, they may represent the “convinced convincing the convinced.” A public mass meeting, however, creates a spiritual beachhead through which the infantry can infiltrate.
In depth, the campaign must be planned to penetrate people’s little “worlds” – their homes, schools, businesses.
f. Finally, the campaign operates as “part of the continuing strategy of evangelism.” Evangelical churches in each area need to coordinate evangelistic plans so that campaigns are strategically timed to link with other facets of evangelism, to gather in harvests when the time is ripe, and to avoid duplication of ministry. The old evangelistic campaign pattern of inviting a visiting preacher, renting a hall, putting up a poster and expecting the unconverted to pour in is not feasible today. Under God’s direction, we need united Church involvement, proclamation, mobilization of believers, penetration, and continuing strategy to carry out our unfinished task.
Excerpted from One Race, One Gospel, One Task; Vol. 2. Minneapolis, MN: World Wide Publications. Copyright 1967. Used with permission.