Do we truly understand the Ephesians 4 Evangelist?

Or have we got it wrong?

Could it be that some churches have an underlying theology of the “evangelist” that has become a weakness? Ephesians states, “So Christ Himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers to equip His people for works of service so that the body of Christ may be built up until we 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” (Eph 4:11).

This passage presents the evangelist in this era as an equipper or trainer of others. Interestingly, some churches still place the primary function of the evangelist as a “declarer” and not a “trainer.”[1] This focus on the evangelist as a declarer of the Gospel may contribute to the lack of confidence that many believers have in sharing their faith as proclamation has historically been left to the evangelist who in turn has given people little training to evangelize.

Overall, little is said in Scripture regarding the evangelist with only Phillip, Timothy and Epaphrus being spoken of (Acts 21:8, 6:5, 2 Tm 4:5).[2] It may be concluded that the evangelist was itinerant by nature (Acts 8:40), this being assumed by the little evidence actually available.[3] Interestingly, church history mainly reveals the evangelist as itinerant, holding meetings and declaring the Gospel. This is particularly seen in the history of the Pentecostal church and well documented in the lives of American preachers Aimee Semple McPherson, Jack Coe, Oral Roberts, T.L. Osborn and A.A. Allen. From Germany, Reinhardt Bonnke is well known and from England many think of Smiths Wigglesworth.[4] Even in Australia, the development of the Pentecostal Church is attributed to some great evangelists that visited the country to hold large meetings and to preach the Gospel.[5]

Regardless of history and where the Pentecostal faith tradition has put the focus, the Ephesian account, outlining the theological purpose of the gifts presents a clear mandate for the role of the evangelist to include an equipping/training component (Eph 4:12). The biblical directive is for the evangelist who not only proclaims the Gospel, but also trains others to do the work of evangelism (Eph 4: 12, 2 Tm 4:5). There is clear theological anticipation for the evangelist to be an “equipper.”[6]

Churches have often engaged the services of the itinerant evangelist to declare the Gospel during weekend services; training others has not been the focus of the church nor the itinerant. Recognition of an incorrect theology toward the ministry gift evangelist will help churches refocus on how they engage the evangelist in the future.

[1] Warrington, Pentecostal Theology, 142 [2] Frank E. Gaebelein, J. D. Douglas and Dick Polcyn, The Expositor's Bible Commentary: With the New International Version of the Holy Bible, Vol. 11 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1884), 58. [3] Warrington, Pentecostal Theology, 142. [4] Stanley M. Burgees and Eduard M van der Mass, The New International Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charasmatic Movements (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2002). [5] Christian Assemblies International, "Australian Pentecostal History," Christian Assemblies International, (accessed April 21, 2014). [6] Warrington, Pentecostal Theology, 142.


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