The Calling of the Evangelist
Evangelists are rare people and sometimes odd. OK, let’s be honest, they are mostly odd people! The unique gifts and expressions of evangelists typically cause them to stand out for better and worse. Because of their conviction around the centrality of the Gospel, evangelists are often bold, visionary, and confident women and men so when they shine, they really shine.
Because of the conviction, passion, and charisma of many evangelists, they are frequently recruited for leadership roles. When the Church sees a true evangelist, they have no category to put him or her in so they try to squeeze him into one of the many flavors of pastor. This has been true for my life. I’ve had dozens of job offers— some pretty alluring, in fact. Each and every job offer in a church that has come my way has been categorized as ‘pastor.’ You need only to browse the thousands of job openings on executive and ministry job sites to realize there is only one single option for leadership in the church— the pastor. A person can either be a senior pastor, an executive pastor, a youth pastor, or a worship pastor but you’ll be hard pressed to find any organization hiring an evangelist. The category just does not exist.
There is nothing wrong with being a pastor. Who knows, God may call me to be one someday, but my initial calling was to the office of evangelist. I do believe a person can certainly be an evangelist while wearing other hats. In most parts of the world, women and men walk in the office of evangelist while working other jobs. In many cases this is preferable because it gets the evangelist into social and professional circles which full-time ministers may have difficulty getting into.
However, the calling of the evangelist is sacred—it must be protected. I believe every evangelist’s calling looks different. I’m certain there are evangelists who regularly face the temptation to ditch their calling and office for one of the many opportunities in front of them—as a pastor, political leader, CEO, salesperson, recruiter, agent, or consultant. There is a never-ending stream of opportunities in front of the evangelist.
More traditional roles pay more than the average evangelist can scrape together through their ministry, which makes the grass seem a lot greener on the other side of our calling. I want to be careful to point out that there is nothing wrong with being a pastor, political leader, CEO, salesperson, or anything else. In fact, some of the very best evangelists I know are working their ministry and calling through these jobs and careers. But I want to be very clear to mention that if God has called you to be a full-time evangelist, do not forfeit your calling and office for greater job security, visibility in the Church, influence, power, or any other reason.
Over the years one temptation to leave my calling as an evangelist was the profound loneliness I’ve experienced. I desire being on a team or an enterprise with like-minded people working hard at a single mission. For me, the Church was not that team. I am often trying to convince churches that evangelism is good for them and something they ought to do, which for me, has been a lonely place. If it isn’t loneliness or finances, fill in the blank for yourself. You are likely reading this because you are an evangelist, or you are working at an evangelistic enterprise. What is tempting you to pack it in? Have your relatives asked the question like mine have, “When are you going to move on and plant your own church or become a pastor?” Do you lay awake at night wondering how you’ll be able to send your kids college one day? Do you wish people understood you or that you could fit in the larger Church world? Do you wish you had more of a voice and power in your social circles, organization, or local church?
The calling and office of the evangelist is rare. While all Christians are called to share Christ and live as a witness to the power and love of God, evangelists are God’s gift to the Church and the world. We hold the Gospel up when others have forgotten its power. We dare to dream of gathering the masses to preach the Good News when the church is preoccupied with internal affairs. We empower lay leaders, ministry professionals, and everyday Christians to effectively do the work of an evangelist. We hold forth the dread of the wrath of God that is coming upon the world because of sin, pointing people to repent and submit their lives to God. There is nothing wrong with marriage seminars, spiritual life retreats, church picnics and the like but the evangelist keeps the Gospel at the center of the Church’s mission and if we fail to walk in our office, who will lead the Church into its purpose? We must stay true to being odd and rare – stay true to your calling for the sake of the Church and the sake of the world.
Whatever tempts you to pack it in, I urge you to remember your calling.