When Jesus said in Mark 16:15, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation,” and said, “you shall be My witnesses,” in Acts 1:8, to whom was He referring? Who shall be His witnesses? Who is called to preach the gospel? Does the bible answer these questions? Yes! The Word of God answers these questions with absolute clarity.
Ephesians 4:11 gives us a list of some of the offices of the church. One of the offices is the evangelist. Although we see many forms of evangelists in church life today the biblical calling of an evangelist is one who evangelizes, or preaches the gospel. In Acts 8 we find Philip, who was one of the original deacons, preaching the gospel in a variety of places. After Acts 8 the bible only briefly mentions Philip again in Acts 21 when Paul and his team stay at Philips house on their way to Jerusalem. At this point Philip is called, Philip the evangelist. (Acts 21:8). Clearly the evangelist is one who is called to such a task as proclaiming the gospel. This is his life’s call and dedication. Is he the only one called to this task?
One of the other offices of the church mentioned in Ephesians 4:11 is the office of pastor. The pastor is clearly distinct and separate from that of the evangelist. The pastor wears many hats in his task of overseeing the church and shepherding the flock of Christ. However, the pastor is not an evangelist. They are clearly different in their calling and gifting. Still, Paul tells Timothy, who is the pastor of the church of Ephesus in II Timothy 4:5, “do the work of an evangelist.” Not all pastors are evangelistically gifted. Yet, every pastor is called to do the work of an evangelist. They are to preach the gospel from behind the pulpit and be out and about in the community on a regular basis sharing the gospel with the lost in their church field. Pastors should lead by example by being an active witness for Jesus in their daily lives. Though they are not evangelists, they are clearly called to do the work of an evangelist.
Within the early church in Jerusalem a problem arose among the Hellenistic Jews. Their widows were being neglected in their daily service of bread. The twelve then told the people to select seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit, and wisdom. (Acts 6:3). These seven men were chosen and appointed as the first deacons. Although there is no specific call for deacons to evangelize in the bible we immediately see two of the seven deacons sharing the gospel with the lost, Philip who was already mentioned and Stephen. Acts 6:8-10 says, “And Stephen, full of grace and power, was performing great wonders and signs among the people. But some men from what was called the Synagogue of the Freedmen, including both Cyrenians and Alexandrians, and some from Cilicia and Asia, rose up and argued with Stephen. But they were unable to cope with the wisdom and the Spirit with which he was speaking.” Not only does the bible record the extraordinary way that God used Stephen, it also allows us to know that Stephen was the first martyr as a witness of the Lord Jesus Christ. Clearly these deacons accepted the call to be witness and share the gospel with the lost world, even if it meant their martyrdom.
Who then is called to this task of evangelizing the lost? Every believer! I Peter 3:15 says, “But sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence.” Every believer should stand in readiness to evangelize the lost and make a defense of their faith. Every believer should take up this task with urgency and anticipation, and with joy and eagerness that they have the privilege of being used as a tool of the gospel to have an impact upon someone’s eternity. We are called, therefore we should be compelled.
When Jesus said “preach the gospel,” and “you shall be my witnesses,” He was speaking to the whole church. Every church should unify together for the sake of reaching their communities with the gospel. Every church should actively reach out to their surrounding areas, even those who are around them but may be culturally different, and share the gospel. Every church should actively participate and support missions that reach near and far. This is clearly the biblical mandate of Acts 1:8.
Let us be clear though as to what, or who, the church is. It is the assembly of believers. In other words, every individual member makes up the body of the church. Therefore, every individual member of the body is clearly called to actively participate in both evangelism and missions.