The Gospel Goes Out Through Everyone
“Gospel-sharing is more for people with a specific calling. My gift isn’t evangelism.”
Ever heard this idea? I have, and I think it’s an unfortunate mistake. “But,” they say, “the command to go into all the world was given to the Twelve, and subsequent evangelists and apostles. It wasn’t supposed to be a command for every disciple of Christ to fulfill.” There’s a problem with this reasoning: I don’t think there’s a person who wouldn’t claim Jesus’ promise in this next verse, “Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” If the whole Church claims the promise until the end of the age, then the whole Church had better claim the command until the end of the age as well.
But in this mistake of attributing the Commission to just a few, there is an important truth hidden: Christ did give to the Church various sorts of people, including the evangelist type, as special “extra-givers” in their particular callings (Eph. 4:11). The evangelist has a special sort of ability to convince people of the truth of Christianity that the rest of his or her church does not. The key is that although some people have a greater ability to fulfill certain commands, we are all responsible to fulfill all the commands of Christ to the degree that God has given us the skill and opportunity.
But is there Scriptural warrant for believing that churches should function this way, with everyone serving, shepherding, teaching, and discipling in whatever capacity they can while each focusing mostly on their particular gift? I’ll give an example that is relevant to our interest here.
Paul wrote his first letter to the Thessalonian believers a mere year or two after visiting them, and one of the first things he congratulates them on is their evangelistic impact. “The Lord’s message rang out from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia—your faith in God has become known everywhere. Therefore we do not need to say anything about it, for they themselves report… (1 Thess. 1:8)” The Thessalonians were so avid in their witness that Paul didn’t need to ask whether they had stayed committed to God. Everyone around was well aware of their faith. Note that Paul doesn’t say “your evangelists have done a great job evangelizing.” Instead, he congratulates all the believers as if they were all doing the talking.
Perhaps the greatest rebuttal to the idea that only a few should do all the evangelizing comes from Acts 4. Peter and John got taken to court for disturbing the peace by preaching the Resurrection and laying the blame for the death of Jesus on the religious establishment. They were warned to never again preach this message of Jesus. Peter and John came out of the council and went right to a meeting with the others who followed Christ. Not just with the other Apostles, but with an entire group of believers.
Then they prayed a beautiful, simple prayer telling God about the situation and asking for boldness to keep preaching. God’s Spirit shook the place, and Acts 4:31 states that all were filled with the Holy Spirit and kept speaking the word boldly. This was an entire group of believers; all were filled with the Spirit, and all spoke the message of Christ fearlessly to everyone around.
The New Testament lifestyle of faith is for everyone, not just a privileged few. Likewise, Christian acts like serving, giving, loving…and talking to others about Jesus are for everyone. Yes, there will always be apostles and evangelists who do their roles more proficiently than the rest. But the church that does not empower each member to do gospel-sharing with as much ability as he or she has is a church that is weak.