It is a common mistake among believers to be taken up with one Scripture on a subject, to the exclusion of other Scriptures on the same subject. Satan tempted our Lord with the words “It is written …” (Matt. 4:6). But the Lord rejected the temptation by saying, “It is also written …” (Matt. 4:7). The whole purpose of God can be understood only when Scripture is compared with Scripture – when “It is written …” is read along with “It is also written …”. Consider the matter of “the great commission”.
Jesus commanded His disciples saying, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation” (Mk. 16:15). He also commanded them saying, “Go and make disciples of all nations…” (Matt. 28:19 NASB). These two commands are but two parts of ONE great commission. Only through a careful consideration of, and obedience to, both parts of this commission can we find and fulfil the whole will of God. The first step obviously is to go out and preach the gospel to everyone (Mk. 16:15). This command is not addressed to the individual believer, but to the whole body of Christ. It is humanly impossible for any single individual or any local church by itself to preach the gospel to every human being in the whole world. Each of us can, at best, have but a small part in this task.
But that part, however small it be, we must fulfil. Here is where Acts 1:8 comes into the picture. Each believer must have the Holy Spirit coming upon him and enduing him with power, if he is to be an effective witness for Christ. Note carefully, that all are not called to be evangelists (for Christ has given only some evangelists to His church – as Ephesians 4:11 makes clear), but all are called to be His witnesses.
An evangelist has a wider field of work than a witness. A witness has to proclaim Christ in the circle in which he moves and works – to relatives, neighbours, fellow workers in his office and to the others he comes across daily, to whom he may happen to be led to while travelling, etc. Here is where we can all be witnesses, whatever our earthly occupations may be. But Christ has also given evangelists to the church who have a wider ministry of reaching the lost. However, the evangelist’s task is NOT merely that of ‘winning souls’ or ‘bringing people to Christ’ (as we commonly hear), but ‘building up the body of Christ’ (as Eph. 4:11, 12 makes plain). Here is where the biggest failure of much of today’s evangelism lies. Most of today’s evangelism is related NOT to building up the body of Christ, but to saving individual souls. These souls are then usually sent back to their dead ‘churches’ where they soon get lost all over again, or at best, become lukewarm and fit for being spat out of the mouth of the Lord one day (Rev. 3:16).
Either way, they are not built into the body of Christ. Thus, only Satan’s purposes are accomplished – for the person has then become twofold a child of hell (Matt. 23:15) first, because he was lost to start with, and second, because he has now been deluded by some evangelist into thinking that he is saved, when he is still lost!! The only thing that is built up through such evangelism is the evangelist’s private empire. And the only reason for such evangelism is usually the evangelist’s desire to make money or to get the honour of men, or both!!
Jesus called evangelists ‘fishers of men’. But evangelism that is done in cooperation with unconverted “Christian” leaders and groups or with the sponsorship of vote-seeking political leaders is like fishing with a net full of holes. One cannot imagine Jesus inviting Annas, or Caiaphas, or Herod, or Pilate to sit with Him on the platform and inaugurate His evangelistic meetings! Yet many of today’s evangelists not only do that but also praise these unconverted leaders from their platforms.
Further, the fish that are caught in such “nets” are allowed to go back into the sea (dead “churches”), to be caught all over again at the next evangelistic meeting, only to be let back into the sea once more!! This process is repeated again and again by the many evangelists conducting interdenominational meetings these days, with each evangelist counting hands, decision cards, etc. Such evangelism brings joy, not to the angels of heaven but to the hosts of Satan! For, after all, how can angels rejoice over those who are made twofold the children of hell? Statistics in today’s evangelistic meetings are totally deceptive.
Even if signs and wonders accompany the proclamation of the message that Jesus forgives sins and heals diseases, the question that still remains is how many have been made disciples and built into the body of Christ through such evangelism. The apostles of our Lord never engaged in this type of evangelism. They placed their converts into local churches to be made into disciples and built up spiritually.
The five ministries mentioned in Ephesians 4:11 (apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds and teachers) are listed in their order of priority in 1 Corinthians 12:28. There we are told, “God has appointed in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then gifts of healing (that refers to evangelists, since all evangelists in New-Testament times had the gifts of healing), and then administrations (literally, ‘those who steer the ships’, referring to shepherds/pastors).”
This makes it clear that in God’s eyes, the ministries of the apostle, prophet and teacher are more important to the building up of the body of Christ than that of the evangelist. The evangelist can find his proper place in his ministry only as he takes his appointed place in subjection to the ministries of the apostle, the prophet and the teacher. Only then can his ministry serve to the building up of the body of Christ. Here is where 20th-century evangelism has gone astray from the Word of God.
**By Zac Poonen Copyright – Zac Poonen. No changes whatsoever are to be made to the content of the article without written permission from the author: cfcindia.com / Photo by Luis Quintero from Pexels