By Jack Kinsella
In its most common definition, an ‘evangelist’ is a ‘tent preacher’ — a person who travels from place to place, holding tent meetings and giving the Gospel to the lost.
The most celebrated evangelist of our time, hands down, would be Billy Graham. However, there’s no tent big enough for Billy Graham, whose evangelistic crusades tend to pack baseball and football stadiums, rather than tents.
The word “evangelist” is a Greek compound word; ‘eu’ meaning ‘good’ and ‘angelos’ meaning ‘messenger’, or “one who is sent to announce, teach or perform [anything].” It is the word “angelos” from which we derive our word ‘angel’.
The idea conveyed by the Greek compound word is that of proclaiming a good message, or good news. In the KJV, the verb evangelizo is translated “preach,” “preach the gospel,” “bring good tidings,” “show the glad tidings,” “addressed with the gospel,” and “declared.”
Another Greek word pertinent to this topic is kerusso, which is variously translated by the KJV translators in the NT as ‘preach’, ‘preaching’, ‘published’ and ‘proclaimed’.
There are a number of different senses in which we understand the term ‘evangelist’.
Al Gore is often called an ‘evangelist of global warming,’ but applying that term to Gore is only half right.
Gore introduces himself by saying, “I’m Al Gore and I used to be the next president of the United States.” [That’s the good news].
But his topic is all bad news; “Global warming threatens to end human existence”.
It is also necessary, if one is to be considered an ‘evangelist’, that the news must be true.
So calling Al Gore an ‘evangelist of global warming’ is more tongue-in-cheek than accurate.
According to Scripture, an evangelist is one of a handful of Divinely-ordained church offices:
“And He gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers…”
The Apostle Paul also gives the job description and goal of an evangelist:
“For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.” (Ephesians 4:11-13)
Paul charged Timothy with the job of ‘doing the work of an evangelist’ which included, “enduring afflictions” and being a watchman on the wall.
“But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.” (2nd Timothy 4:5)
D.T. Niles, who dedicated his life to doing the work of an evangelist in Sri Lanka, provided this beautiful word picture of what the work of a Christian evangelist REALLY is.
In an interview in, of all places, the New York Times back in 1986; he defined it as, “one beggar telling another beggar where he found bread.”
An evangelist, then, is one who is a messenger of good news, and there is no better news than that Jesus Christ paid the full penalty for all sins for all mankind at the Cross.
My calling is that of an evangelist, but my mission is not so much to the lost as it is to the saved. My mission is aimed at the “perfecting (training) of the saints for the work of the ministry.”
In that sense, my mission is to train you for that work in your own, day-to-day evangelistic ministry.
I am just one man. I can only be at one place at one time, and can only reach out to a handful of people at any given moment. You, on the other hand, are everywhere at once.
You are in Houston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Johannesburg, South Africa, Melbourne, Australia, Auckland, New Zealand, Vancouver, Canada, and Lagos, Nigeria. Your reach far exceeds my grasp.
It is you, in your capacity AS you, that hears that seminal question being asked by every one who sees man’s inhumanity to man: “What is this world coming to?”
My job is to ensure you are “ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear.” (1st Peter 3:15)
Each human being owes his own sin debt, and because of that debt, he cannot pay the sin debt for another. God’s plan for the redemption of mankind is therefore perfect and completely logical.
The Lord Himself stepped out of eternity into space and time, took on the form of sinful man, lived the life God requires of each of us, and, having no sin debt of His own, was qualified to pay the sin debt for all mankind.
His death was excruciating, long and painful. Crucifixion was reserved by the Romans for only the most heinous crimes, and was considered so shameful that it could not be imposed on a Roman citizen.
It was a snapshot of how God views sin.
Through His manner of execution, Jesus was temporarily stripped of His heavenly citizenship, literally separated from God, becoming the embodiment of sin on our behalf.
From the Cross, Jesus looked up and cried out, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? which is, being interpreted, My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” (Mark 15:34)
Of course, as God-man in the flesh, Jesus knew why, but by His Words, He conveyed to us the full measure of His sacrifice on our behalf. We are all separated from God by our sin.
To pay our sin debt, Jesus was also, for the first and last time in eternity past, present and future, separated from the Godhead as a sacrifice for our sin.
On the Cross, He was literally forsaken by the Father.
For the space of three hours, He was sin incarnate, alone and comfortless, as your sin and mine was heaped upon Him.
Matthew says that during those three hours, there was “darkness over all the land” as the sins of the world were charged to His account.
Allow yourself to think about that for a second. See if you can get your head around the concept. Try to imagine the scene.
Jesus Christ, the Second Person of the Trinity, in His moment of supreme agony, looked to the Father, only to see that GOD HAD TURNED HIS BACK ON HIM!
For three agonizing hours, Jesus hung, alone and forsaken, temporarily stripped of His Heavenly citizenship as an offering for sin in which God Incarnate became sin incarnate.
Jesus suffered the agonies of sin on our behalf, before declaring, “It is finished.” John says at that moment, “He bowed His head, and gave up the ghost.” (John 19:29)
The word group translated, “It is finished” was “Tetelestai.” Like all words, it had both a specific meaning and a conventional application. It meant, ‘paid in full.’
It was the word that was written on a slave’s manumission papers. When a slave was freed by his master, he carried a document bearing the phrase ‘telestai’ which indicated his indentured status was forever remitted, and he was henceforth and forever a free man.
When a debtor finally paid off his debt, he received back his original loan agreement with the word ‘tetelestai’ printed at the bottom, meaning ‘paid in full.’ It was a quit claim that signified a lender no longer had a lien on the property put up as collateral.
Jesus didn’t pay your debt for sin up to the moment of salvation. He paid your sin debt in its entirety.
“By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ ONCE for ALL. And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins: But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God…For by One offering He hath perfected FOREVER them that are sanctified.” (Hebrews 10:10-12,14)
THAT is the “eu angelos” — the message of good news that each of us carries. That is the good news that was given for the ‘perfection of the saints for the work of the ministry.’
Each of us is an ‘evangelist’ in his or her own right. Each of us is REQUIRED to carry that message to the lost. Each of us is REQUIRED to be ‘ready to give the reason for the hope that is in you.
Some of us are called to teach it, others are called to share it.
According to Scripture, there are a finite number of believers who will accept the Gospel. (Romans 8:29)
It isn’t that God has condemned others to a Christ-less eternity.
It is simply that God, in His foreknowledge, already knows who will accept salvation and who will reject it. But everybody must have a chance.
To reject it, one must hear it. That is God’s plan. The work of the ministry can be boiled down into a single phrase; “Each one, tell one.”
“And this Gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and THEN shall the end come.” (Matthew 24:14)