The Evangelist is a broad term that refers to various people either because of their office or because of their function. Even though the term is commonly associated with the church, in modern times, marketers also use it to refer to serious advocates of a cause and sometimes, a product. Specifically, the term is traceable to its uses translated to mean ‘one who spreads the good news of Jesus Christ’. The scriptures associated with this etymology include Acts 21:8, Ephesians 4:11, and II Timothy 4:5. The function is associated with the ‘go’ command of Jesus Christ in Matthew 28:19, otherwise known as the Great Commission. The Great Commission forms the basis for evangelical activity by the Christian church. Therefore, the label ‘evangelist’ is commonly associated with anyone that identifies with this commission. Yet, the application of that interpretation varies depending on the Christian sect. some churches are more concerned with the title as an office, while others link the term to the function. This means several functionaries are evangelists within the church organization.
The label – evangelist
It is common to refer to the authors of the four gospels namely, Matthew, Mark, John, and Luke as evangelists. This is less controversial. The term also applies in the ordinary sense of the word to any zealous advocate of a cause, including Christianity. In Christianity, this commonly applies to any preacher of the gospel irrespective of office or function. In some protestant sects, this term applies strictly to ordained revivalists sent out to preach the gospel.
In other protestant sects, a yet-to-be ordained minister bears the title as an office. Further, in the Mormon Church, the founder or patriarchs bore the label – evangelist as the officer of the missioner. The term probably incorporates the role and office together as ultimately residing in the presiding patriarch. However, other sects modified the use of the title to include people commissioned for missionary work.
Yet, irrespective of who wears the label, the duty of the evangelist as a revivalist or purveyor of good news is clear. Concluding that in Christianity, an evangelist is a publisher of good tidings, who organizes religious revival of Christian customs and a traveling and corresponding missionary, is safe (Acts 20:2).
Publisher of glad tidings
Evangelists are people endowed with special skills including charisma, eloquence, and spiritual gifts that they employ in attracting new converts to the faith. The church supports this ministry because it fosters church growth. Evangelists organize community outreach that may consist of missionary social services such as educational systems, healthcare support, food supplement services, and/or revival meetings. They pursue a soul-winning agenda to put together a group of believers that forms the foundation of a new church in the community. This way, they prepare the way for the structured work of pastors and teachers as the new church becomes stable.
Within regular and established assemblies, evangelists occasionally also organize revival meetings akin to the refresher courses where they teach traditional Christian customs and encourage new converts in the local community to become Christians.
Mega-churches and modern evangelists
In modern times, the mega-church model presents an interesting development that may warrant a new definition with time. Commonly, an evangelist emerges from an established church, forms a Pentecostal or evangelical movement that matures to a church. As the church grows, it is likely to present one of two patterns. One pattern consists of many small local assemblies in the same city that when meeting together forms a single mega-church. The other pattern commonly called the apostolic model forms in a single location under its leader. In the apostolic model, the leader is able to model and monitor a disciple system that is akin to clones of him. The former pattern called the evangelical model or church planters model, the systems favor the training and development of evangelists as the primary business of the church. This trend is defining evangelism in modern times, and the controversy rages on which model is better.
Essentially, the business of the evangelist is to make new converts. Therefore, anyone committed to the Great Commission to spread the gospel and baptize new members is an evangelist, irrespective of local interpretations.