One of the reasons that the church in the West is lacking in mature, culturally relevant evangelism is a lack of good local models and examples. There is plenty of information on evangelism but where are the mature evangelists who set an example of how to reach people in sensitive and tested ways? We can probably name a few well known evangelists but most of them are national figures rather than local practitioners. We also probably know quite a few well meaning but clumsy examples of evangelism. I remember being in Durham once when a van stopped in the square, two men in suits jumped out of the van, set up a placard, began shouting at people passing by and waving their bibles in the air, telling them they were sinners. About twenty minutes later, the van arrived back, they got back in and drove off. The people around were bemused if not a little traumatised. I was embarrassed.
According to Ephesians 4:11-13, the call of the evangelist is to equip the church to mature evangelism rather than be the person who does all the evangelism.
So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers,12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ."
Evangelists are meant to equip the people of God for works of service. How might an evangelist do this? It seems like common sense but evangelists are meant to model mature evangelistic ministry. Here is the problem, how does a young christian who is clearly called to be an evangelist go through the process of maturing? Who mentors them, where do they get training and examples from? I am aware that there are good examples of pioneer training. My friend Chris Duffet set up the Light Project (https://chrisduffett.com and https://www.lightproject.org.uk/about-the-light-college-and-collective/)
However what about someone who is a home grown evangelist who does not have the capacity or inclination to do a full time course or see evangelism as an occupation? My view is that the church needs to figure out how to release the evangelists both nationally, translocally and in the local church. Can we simplify the task of evangelism by having mature examples in most local churches? We can all think of pastoral and teacher types in the local church. Most leadership teams of local churches have elders who teach and do pastoral care. Why not have evangelists in these teams who are released to set a good example of evangelism and train others to do the same? I suspect the problem is our church paradigms, we need a shift to APEST teams, maturing all five fold ministries in the local church. This is a discipleship question, helping every person thrive in their calling.
I remember as a younger man and a budding immature evangelist meeting someone who really inspired me. His name was Steve Bowen. Steve was from the U.S. and was part of a church planting team in Scotland. Steve was the first person I had met who I could honestly say "this is an example of an evangelist that I would like to be like." He introduced me to Servant Evangelism and to this day is still modelling a healthy example of serving our community with good news attached.
This experience of meeting a mature evangelist has been a rare one for me, and I am sure this is true for those of you reading this blog. We need many more good examples of evangelists, and we need to train and mature those who self identify with evangelistic gifts. You can see some of Steve's work on https://eyesoutward.com/blog/?fbclid=IwAR3YbHEUdUcr4wTRuyC_Vj48w0X_Rgok7MPUqXaZmR8IIphgPs-tixD47Pw
Here is my challenge, especially to local church leaders and denominational leaders. How do we change our recruitment, training and releasing process to grow and mature local examples of evangelism. The answer is not more programs (even good ones) for churches to struggle with. We need hands on, seasoned evangelistic leaders who work in teams with the apostle, prophet, shepherd and teacher. Growing them will take intentional systems, investment and time.
I am convinced that this covid-19 pandemic is shaking things up, like dusting earth off a mature harvest. Could some of the shaking be a paradigm shift in how we release good news people? Could we grow and mature evangelists who equip the church in a strategic and consistent framework? I really hope so and will contribute to this change in my own small way. If you are a denominational leader please think about this, you can make a real difference in the years to come.