The Evangelist


What do you think of when you hear the word evangelist?

My guess is, when you hear the word, ‘evangelist’, some of you think of a guy a shiny coat, big bushy hair, carries a 10-pound Bible and talks like every word weighs 50 pounds. Others may think of them as someone who does nothing but point his fingers at you and tells you everything that needs to be fixed in your life.

What does the Bible have to say about evangelists?

The word evangelist appears only three times in the Bible.

‘Leaving the next day, we reached Caesarea and stayed at the house of Philip the evangelist, one of the Seven.’ Acts 21:8

‘So, Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers.’ Ephesians 4:11

‘But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.’ 2 Timothy 4:5

Preaching is the central work of evangelists, ministers, and preachers. All of these references denote the same work, or role, but each describes a unique facet of the work involved. Examining the original meaning of these words will help us in better understanding the work of an evangelist.

1. The word ‘evangelist’ comes from the Greek word, ‘euaggelistes’, which means a messenger of good news.

2. The word, translated ‘minister’, is most often derived from ‘diakonos’, which means a general servant or helper.

3. The word, ‘preacher’ refers to one who is a herald for a king, proclaiming the king’s message. The original Greek word for ‘preacher’ was ‘kerux’.

All of these words describe anyone who serves Christ and the church by proclaiming, speaking, or teaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

‘So, Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers.’ Ephesians 4:11

We can see here that evangelists were among those given by the Lord in the local church with an important function to perform. The ‘apostles and prophets’ mentioned here were inspired men who had the word of God directly and miraculously revealed to them. It’s through them that we now have the inerrant word of God written down for us to read and understand.

‘For this reason, I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles—Surely you have heard about the administration of God’s grace that was given to me for you, that is, the mystery made known to me by revelation, as I have already written briefly. In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to people in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God’s holy apostles and prophets.’ Ephesians 3:1-5

Apostles and prophets are no longer physically with us, but exert their authority through the inspired word that they left us. Apostles and prophets are set within the foundation of the church.

‘Built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.’ Ephesians 2:20

The pastors, evangelists and teachers continue in the church today. The word ‘pastor’ simply means ‘shepherd’. The position here refers to elders, or bishops who are appointed by the local church to serve as overseers in the local congregation.

‘Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood.’ Acts 20:28

‘Paul and Barnabas appointed elders for them in each church and, with prayer and fasting, committed them to the Lord, in whom they had put their trust.’ Acts 14:23

Just as pastor, elder and bishop all refer to the same appointed people in the church with specific qualifications, 1 Timothy 3:1-7 / Titus 1:5-9, so also preacher and evangelist are expressions chosen by the Holy Spirit to represent those with a specific function in the church.

It never ceases to amaze me how often the office of a pastor and an evangelist are confused. As an evangelist I often get phone calls from people calling me ‘pastor’, when I’m clearly not, the Bible says they aren’t the same thing. They differ both in function and qualification.

In today’s society it seems that anyone who does any kind of preaching or teaching is now called ‘the pastor’, whether they meet the qualifications of a pastor or not.

Pastors, elders or bishops are the overseers of a local congregation, Acts 20:28, they must be married with faithful children, 1 Timothy 3:1-7 / Titus 1:1-9. Evangelists on the other hand may be young men, 1 Timothy 4:12 and they don’t have to be married.

Preachers are not overseers, i.e. they do not have any legislative authority in the local congregation, as do elders. However, preachers must speak the word of God with all authority.

‘These, then, are the things you should teach. Encourage and rebuke with all authority. Do not let anyone despise you.’ Titus 2:15

Preachers must speak the message boldly, showing no respect of persons. They even have the authority to publicly rebuke elders that are astray.

‘Do not entertain an accusation against an elder unless it is brought by two or three witnesses. But those elders who are sinning you are to reprove before everyone, so that the others may take warning. I charge you, in the sight of God and Christ Jesus and the elect angels, to keep these instructions without partiality, and to do nothing out of favouritism.’ 1 Timothy 5:19-21

The work of the evangelist

Paul clearly outlined Timothy’s work.

‘In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.’ 2 Timothy 4:1-4

We can see that the evangelists work is to preach the word of God. It doesn’t say that he is to preach philosophy or politics. Neither does it say to preach part of the word. If the preacher is to preach all the word of God, then he needs to be one who knows the word. However, a preacher needs to have more than a knowledge of God’s word and the ability to preach. He could possess both these qualities and still be unqualified.

The preacher also needs courage, and a thick skin. The role of an evangelist can be very lonely at times and very difficult, ‘who encourages the encourager?’ he gets so busy feeding the flock and unbelievers and he must ensure that he has someone to feed him spiritually too. And if he has a family, he needs to balance his home life more carefully than others, especially with flock and community demands, but it certainly has its rewards, especially when they help someone come to Christ.

He must be able to

‘put up with sound doctrine’.

An evangelist should be knowledgeable and have an understanding of the Gospel in order to give advice and help in building up the congregation. They must establish workers in the church by developing leaders and good study programs which will help members to grow and work on their own. If there are no elders, they should be training capable men with the goal of appointing elders within the congregation.

‘The reason I left you in Crete was that you might put in order what was left unfinished and appoint elders in every town, as I directed you.’ Titus 1:5

Preaching the whole counsel of God isn’t an easy task because the word of God is offensive to some.

‘A stone that causes people to stumble and a rock that makes them fall.’ They stumble because they disobey the message—which is also what they were destined for.’ 1 Peter 2:8

The Gospel was so offensive to the Jews to whom Stephen preached that they,

‘became furies and gnashed their teeth at him, covered their ears, and stoned him to death’. Acts 7:54, 57, 58

Faithful Gospel preaching doesn’t only irritate our religious neighbours and the world, but is sometimes offensive even to those within the church. Notice what Paul had to endure to preach faithfully.

‘I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers.’ 2 Corinthians 11:26

Pay for the evangelist

Much of the error concerning evangelists and their work comes from a wrong view of the relationship of the evangelist and the local church. Many consider the preacher, evangelist as an employee of the church. As such the church is an employer that determines the scope and duties of his work.

The Lord’s command to pay preachers for preaching, 1 Corinthians 9:14 doesn’t make them church employees. Such support is compared to that of God’s priests, 1 Corinthians 9:13-14. The priests were supported by the people’s offerings to the Lord as the Lord’s servants, not the peoples’ hirelings, Numbers 18:1-20.

A preacher isn’t an employee of any church, but a servant of the Lord, 1 Timothy 4:6. He is accountable to the Lord, entrusted to do the Lord’s work and not

‘get entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer.’ 2 Timothy 2:3-4

The Scriptural relationship between a preacher and the Christians that support him is that of fellow-workers in the Lord. The Lord commands the preacher to preach the Gospel and those who hear him to support him in his work.

Together they have

‘fellowship in the Gospel’. 1 Corinthians 9:6-14 / Philippians 1:5-7



"All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness."

2 Timothy 3:16