Serving Him Together,
Founder & President of PLACE Ministries
Is Evangelism A Spiritual Gift?
A couple of months ago a friend and ministry partner whose church has been using PLACE for over 15 years sent me an online video between two well known Christian leaders stating that there “is no such gift” as evangelism. Obviously, this caught my attention as we have evangelism listed in our spiritual gift assessment through PLACE. I decided to go back to my original research from the late 1990’s and brush up on my study regarding spiritual gifts and especially the spiritual gift of evangelism. So, here’s what I found.
Evangelism Not In The Bible
The word “evangelism” is not found in the Bible. Actually, the word evangelism does not appear in the English language until the 17th century and begins to be used when revivals begin to be prominent as a way to reach those without Christ. The word “evangelist” is used only three times in the New Testament (Acts 21:8, Ephesians 4:11, and 2 Timothy 4:5).
So, Is Evangelism A Spiritual Gift?
Before I give my obvious “yes” as to why I believe evangelism is a spiritual gift let me state up front one verse in the Bible I hold near and dear to me is I Corinthians 13:12 which says, “For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” In my opinion many Christians would do well to passionately and emphatically believe what they believe the Scriptures teach, BUT realize when they/we/I get to heaven much of our theology is going to straightened out. We will ALL be quite surprised how dogmatic (and I am glad we are) we were regarding certain truths that God will reveal to us that we were just flat our wrong. But, until then let me give my opinion on this matter of evangelism being a spiritual gift.
Dr. C. Peter Wagner has written one of the classic books on spiritual gifts, Your Spiritual Gifts Can Help Your Church Grow. This book came out in 1979 and has been revised and updated numerous times. While I don’t agree or understand all that Dr. Wagner ascribes to in his book I have found him to be one of the main sources I go to regarding spiritual gifts, especially the 16 gifts we list in the spiritual gifts assessment of PLACE. Below are several thoughts from Dr. Wagner’s book:
Dr. Wagner does not use the spiritual gift of “evangelism”, but refers to the gift of “evangelist”. I know for some I maybe blasted on this, but I am okay whether the gift is referred to as the gift of “evangelist” or the gift of “evangelism”. The gift of evangelism or evangelist is found in the gift list in Ephesians 4:11. Dr. Wagner points out “it specifically points to the office of evangelist. But since in the same list the prophet is presumed to have the gift of prophecy and the apostle the gift of apostle and the teacher the gift of teaching, it does not seem far fetched to suppose the evangelist is presumed to have the spiritual gift of evangelist.”
The New American Standard (NAS) version states Ephesians 4:11 like this: “And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers,”. The word “some” is important, as it points that not all will be “gifted” but “some”. This is much in line with I Corinthians 12 where Paul teaches us regarding spiritual gifts in that no one has all the parts of the body (spiritual gifts), but together each of us has a part(s) (spiritual gift) and we make up the whole Body together.
I Understand Why…
I understand why some would argue against calling “evangelism” a spiritual gift. In a day and age where many churches provide spiritual gift assessments and often even put them up on their website for members and even attenders to complete without any individual teaching or coaching provides a problem. People take the assessment and score low on evangelism and walk away with the conclusion “Well, God I guess I am absolved of having to do evangelism, that’s obviously not my gift.” Another challenge in my opinion is today we live in the world of celebrity Christian communicators who pastor large churches and the goal of the members is to get people to attend so the celebrity pastor can share the gospel (or often doesn’t even share the clear plan of a personal relationship with Christ) and that is how the church grows. The member or attenders goal is just to get unchurched people to the building where the professional takes over from there.
Spiritual Gifts Are Not Christian Roles
For years I have begged, pleaded, exhorted or whatever word you want to use for churches and their leaders using PLACE to teach the biblical principles incorporated in PLACE and coach individuals who take the PLACE assessments and go through the teaching. IF those providing spiritual gift assessments would teach what our PLACE Participant Guide (and many others teach) teaches on Christian roles some might not have as hard a time referring to “evangelism” as a spiritual gift. Our Participant Guide (p.16) teaches that spiritual gifts are not Christian roles. The scripture reference we refer to is Jude 1:22-23 which says, “Be merciful to those who doubt; save others by snatching them from the fire; to others show mercy,…” These two verses do not say if you have the gift of mercy “show mercy” or if you have the gift of evangelism “save others by snatching them from the fire.” There are many, many roles God calls ALL believers to fulfill whether they have a specific spiritual gift or not. God calls ALL believers to show mercy at times even if they do not have the spiritual gift of mercy. God calls ALL believers to be witnesses for the Lord Jesus Christ and bring others to reconciliation to God (II Corinthians 5:20) whether they have the gift of evangelism or don’t have the gift. But, remember God would never call a believer to fulfill a role that He would not empower and equip them to fulfill the role He calls them to fulfill.
Christians Need To Be Taught Evangelism
While I can’t speak for all the reasons why those who do not believe evangelism is a spiritual gift I can speak as to why I think some might want to remove it as a spiritual gift. I believe it is because so little evangelism is being done and the percentage of those who take spiritual gift assessments who score high in evangelism is getting smaller and smaller. I do not believe it is because evangelism is not a spiritual gift, but because there is so little teaching on doing evangelism and how to do evangelism effectively. I realize that what may have been effective evangelistic techniques 10, 15, 25 years ago may not be effective today. But, I also believe we have largely given up on teaching and training believers on how to be effective in evangelism today. I believe if we would teach, preach and uphold evangelism as a lifestyle that EVERY believer should be engaged in and how to effectively reach those without Christ in our culture today we might not be debating as much as to whether evangelism is or is not a spiritual gift.
I do believe evangelism is a spiritually gift
I do believe EVERY believer should be engaged in evangelism
And I will hold fast to I Corinthians 13:12 that “. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known” when it comes to being an authority on spiritual gifts.
Thanks for the privilege to serve you!
So the question should not be
"Does my personality tend to have a propensity to lead to depression, but is the Holy Spirit in
control of my personality?"