Only three verses in the NT in use the title “evangelist”: “On the next day we departed and came to Caesarea, and we entered the house of Philip the evangelist, who was one of the seven, and stayed with him” (Acts 21:8 ESV); “And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers” (Eph 4:11 ESV); “As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry” (2 Tim 4:5 ESV).
From 2 Tim 4:5, in following Timothy’s example, we see that we are to do the work of an evangelist, though we might not be called as evangelists ourselves. From Eph 4:11, we see that Christ gave evangelists to the church. Were we to read on in Eph 4:12, we would see that the purpose for their giving was “to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ” (Eph 4:12). From Acts 21:8, we have an illustration of an evangelist in Philip. Looking back at his life, he was “one of the seven,” one who was “of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom” (Acts 6:3). As an evangelist, he proclaimed the gospel to crowds in Samaria (Acts 8:5–6), the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:26–38), and to all the towns within his roughly 55-mile trek from Azotus to Caesarea (Acts 8:40).
Added to this, we could remind ourselves that the verb evangelizō is used over 50 times in the NT, meaning “to bring or announce good news.” For the Christian, it is to preach the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ to unbelievers (e.g., Acts 8:40). Along this line of thought, other words are used for preaching, specifying the content to be the evangelion, that is, the gospel (e.g,. Mark 1:15).
From this terribly brief survey, we could at least say that an evangelist is someone who takes the gospel to those who have not heard it before, whether it be to one person at a time, or large crowds within a given city. It is someone who does not stay long in one place, likely leaving behind planted churches so that he can take the gospel to new places that have never heard it before. And yet, he is also someone who ministers to the saints by equipping them for the work of the ministry, likely teaching them to do what he himself is specially gifted to do, namely, persuasively giving the good news of the gospel to unbelievers.
May we all do the work of an evangelist, and may God bless the evangelists who take the gospel to where it has not been heard.
Pastor regularly writes articles for our Sunday bulletin. See his bio on our staff page.