Evangelist is another word that has been taken hostage by those in preeminence.
Evangelist (Webster 1828)
A writer of the history, or doctrines, precepts, actions, life and death of our blessed Savior, Jesus Christ; as the four evangelists, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.
A preacher or publisher of the gospel of Jesus Christ, licensed to preach, but not having charge of a particular church.
The effect of preeminence is clearly notable in this 1828 definition that includes licensing as a requirement for being an evangelist as well as mentioning the concept of being in charge of a church (in this case not).
There are only three places in the Bible where you see the word evangelist.
And the next day we that were of Paul’s company departed, and came unto Caesarea: and we entered into the house of Philip the evangelist, which was one of the seven; and abode with him. Acts 21:8
And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; Ephesians 4:11
But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry. II Timothy 4:5
The verse in Ephesians makes it clear that God assigns whomever he chooses to do whatever he wants at any point in time. It is God who gives the commission to be an evangelist and requires no license from any man or any organization of man. Whenever you share the Good News concerning Jesus Christ and all his wonderful works, you, for that very moment, have been commissioned an evangelist by the only head of the church, the only true Shepherd, and your shepherd: Jesus Christ.
Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. II Timothy 4:2
Evangelism in the early church was more like home cooking. Rarely do we see sharing the Gospel to a large assembly and never when the assembly was orchestrated. Every New Testament large assembly was a natural consequence of events from Peter explaining supposed drunkenness, to Paul and Barnabas trying to stop a mob from worshipping them as gods, to Paul answering a large group of inquisitive philosophers, to Paul trying to explain to a murderous mob that he was innocent.
Evangelism’s predominant mode of operation was within the fellowship of believers. It was a family affair where believers were closer to each other than their blood kin. Many others floated on the fringes of these gatherings and Jesus used that to help draw them into his fold.
During personal dialogue, an extremely powerful phenomenon involves overhearing a conversation. A non-believer could be listening to one or more Christian talking at a water well, at the open market, or at a home gathering. I am not a proponent of psychological evangelism, but I do recognize what can take place within what should be natural evangelism. Overhearing a conversation has a subliminally strong influence because it is disarming, keeping us from putting up a defensive wall. Whereas, in a direct encounter one tends to be defensive.
Today, the reason so many people never get a clear understanding of the gospel is because of an unwritten and seeming universal law about never talking religion or politics. Keeping the peace seems to be the only absolute rule to follow.
In the early church and during heavy persecution, believers were bound tightly together. Those who crossed into this fellowship were exposed to the gospel in word and in deed. The gospel was easily and naturally shared, and the result was an explosive growth of Christianity that drastically shaped western civilization and eventually the entire world.
Once the preeminent elite captured the word evangelist and shaped it into a form that helped solidify their preeminent position, it took on a different life. Evangelism became relegated to the “professionals.” Believers were now tasked with inviting unbelievers to large or small meetings to where the professionals could do their evangelism. Often, many people did hear the truth because the Gospel was presented and some of them surrendered to the Lord and became Christians.
As time moved on, we entered a period when some of the gatherings became enormous with some evangelists presenting the gospel to hundreds of thousands of people. Billy Graham, when you include TV audiences, was able to reach millions. The one person affecting millions is a rare exception. On average, the high end of the scale would put each “professional” evangelist positively affecting100,000 people.
Let us equate this to a battle. If given a choice, would you go into battle against 100,000 people with one powerfully strong person or with 10,000 weak persons? I imagine most would surmise that the one powerful person would be extremely fortunate to be as effective as 1,000 of the weaker persons. Most would go with the 10,000.
Now let us look at the scenario where you eliminate the preeminent suppression of God’s work. Then you can have both worlds: the one powerful and the 10,000. But it is even better than that. When Jesus works unhindered by the ecclesiastical elite and therefore equally with the 10,000 this is what you can expect: you will end up with 100 Powerful strong persons and 9,900 moderately strong persons.
With this battle scenario, the battle outcome will be entirely different. With the 100, you would now have mass gatherings of millions of people throughout the world. With the 9,900 and utilizing true fellowship, where the evangelism is extremely social and therefore natural, this will make evangelism explosive. This scenario recognizes every believer is responsible to reach the whole world and every believer, according to God’s directive, will be commissioned to be an evangelist.
Then saith he unto his disciples, The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few; Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest. Matthew 9:37-38
Why are the laborers few in the area of evangelism? Because they are diminished by the suppression of those who are preeminent. A reformation will release Christ’s sheep from the suppressive grip of the elite. Then Jesus will do his work like with the early church. Then, the world will experience a revival before his Second Coming that will provide a wonderful answer to the following verse.
…when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth? Luke 18:8