The art of being a good evangelist or pastor is learned by various methods. Jesus was an excellent evangelist, although He possibly did not conduct evangelistic meetings just as we think of them today. I fear that we have at times placed the word evangelist out of its true meaning. Perhaps there has been a tendency to glorify the popular understanding and usage of the term to the slighting of all that it conveys. All who are authorized to preach are evangelists by act and not by method.
Some time ago I read a paraphrase on 1 Corinthians 13:13 that went like this: "The greatest of these is evangelism." And, as we understand the full meaning of the word, we find this to be true. But it might come as a surprise to some to know that a church is evangelical because of its faith rather than its method of spreading the gospel. Let us see!
1. Evangel: good news—the gospel (Greek euangelion, bringing good news; eu, well angelos, messenger).
2. Evangelical:a. According to the gospel of salvation by Christ.
b. Faithful in teaching it.
c. Grounding salvation on faith in Christ's atoning sacrifice for sin.
d. Accepting as gospel only the teachings of Scripture.
3. Evangelism: the promulgation of the gospel—not a method, but an act.
4. Evangelist: a preacher of the gospel; one authorized to preach.
Every authorized preacher or pastor is an evangelist. Evangelism is not a work separate and apart from pastoral duties. It is not solely a specialized form of work, such as holding public meetings with a definite pattern of procedure. It is the work of all who are authorized to promulgate the good news. This promulgation stems from a definite faith in something important and needed by all men—the atoning sacrifice of Christ for sin.
The method used to evangelize the world is important but not paramount. What Christ wants is action. Some men do better evangelistic work in less spectacular ways than, let us say, the conducting of public meetings. Perhaps the reason some think evangelism in less showy forms is a lower rung on the ladder of success, is that large, noticeable meetings tend to bring out more people at one time. Be that as it may, we must remember that true conversion, or the new birth, is the work of the Holy Spirit. A good evangelist for God must never let one method occupy his thinking to the exclusion of others that Christ used in His ministry. Christ's methods were not stereotyped. In Christ we have the master disciple winner, and His methods include all that is good in true evangelism, or the spreading of the good news. This, however, does not mean that we believe in slavishly and literally imitating His methods. That would be neither practical nor possible.
Christ had a balanced program. As the occasion presented itself, or when He thought best, He preached to the multitude. Again, He spent much time with the individual. In His evangelistic program the conversion of one was as important as the conversion of the multitude. He felt the need of giving personal attention to the people's problems. He saw their need of love, kindness, and guidance, and these were bestowed freely on those in and out of the church. Christ wanted His church to grow, as any good evangelist does, but His main object was to free men from the prison house of sin. In appealing to the human heart He used whatever method was best adapted to the circumstances of the individual case.
A good evangelist must have a love for people and their needs. He must be interested in his work, not for the sake of goals, but to save souls. In some cases a man may work under too much pressure. Pressure on one's heart from the Holy Spirit is a wonderful thing, but too much pressure from other men makes for careless evangelism. A minister is in the wrong work if he has to be prodded to be a good evangelist.
The use of excellent equipment, and even good organization, as important as they are, will never take the place of getting close to the people. An evangelist cannot do all his work from the pulpit. People know when one is interested in them, and they will respond. Tact, work, organization, order, kindness, and a willingness to help others find the way of life, make for a good shepherd, one that the Holy Spirit can use. Of course it is taken for granted that an evangelist must have implicit faith in God and show Christian integrity.
It is my belief that by using these simple, fundamental principles of soul winning, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the evangelist will see greater results in his work for God.