Ed Stetzer: No Such Thing as “The Gift of Evangelism”

I feel a bit foolish.

How many times in my preaching and teaching have I referred to the ‘gift’ of evangelism? Too many to count.

So often was this supposed gift referred to by my mentors, professors, teachers, and friends that I never questioned its biblical validity … that is until today.

This article by Ed Stetzer led me to do a bit of study this morning. Here are a couple of excerpts:

[I believe] that there is no such thing as “the gift of evangelism.” Part of my concern is that I hear many people saying they don’t have the “gift of evangelism” and thus believing it is not their responsibility to do evangelism (since they don’t have the “gift”). And, since evangelism can be a challenge at times, that seems to be a “gift” that people don’t want.

Ed goes on to make four points worthy of ponder:

1. All believers are given the ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18). That is, their role is to be agents of reconciliation and share how men and women are to be redeemed and changed by the power of the gospel.

2. Timothy was called to do his work in evangelistic ways (2 Timothy 4:5) but based on the fact that all are called to present the gospel of reconciliation, it makes sense that we can heed that admonition in all our lives. Thus, I encourage pastors to do ministry in evangelistic ways, but particularly church leaders (since Timothy was a church leader). Like in 1 Timothy 3, leaders are almost always commanded to do the things believers do– just more so.

3. The church is gifted with evangelists (Eph. 4:11) who help us be faithful doing evangelism. We should talk more about the gifted people called evangelists.

4. It is unhelpful to refer to evangelism as a gift because it removes the responsibility of all believers. In other words, many think that if they don’t have the gift, it is not their job. Evangelism is not a “gift,” it is a call to all believers.

Did you know there’s not a single instance in which the Bible mentions the “gift of evangelism”? The closest Scripture comes to this is the mention of the role of evangelist (along with apostle, prophet, pastor, and teacher) that Ed references in point #3.

I will no longer speak of the “gift of evangelism” – I’m with Ed … there’s no such thing.

What do you think about this?

Also, do you believe point #4 is valid?

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14 thoughts on “Ed Stetzer: No Such Thing as “The Gift of Evangelism”

  1. Adam says:

    Awesome post! I have definitely heard people who don’t believe they are “gifted with evangelism” use their insecurity as an excuse not to share the gospel. I have also been frustrated at times seeing those to whom evangelism seems to come so easy when I often find it a struggle.
    What I have found more often than not, however, is that those who are best at it do so through tremendous amounts of prayer and a genuine, consuming love for the lost. It only looks easy because they are allowing the Spirit to work through them, as he will with any believer who trusts him. As Mitch said at CMU: “Evangelism is a call to all”

  2. WesWoodell says:

    Thanks for the comment, Adam. I think the trick is to leverage the gifts God has given us to be used evangelistically, regardless of what those gifts are.

    That takes intentionality and focus on our part … I think that’s what’s missing more often than not from those who profess evangelistic tendencies don’t come as naturally to them.

  3. G says:

    I understand this post and what’s he’s driving at, and I agree with him at the starting point, BUT he pressed it too far. True: there is no *gift* of evangelism. People throw the word gifted around too easily. I’ve also heard of the “gift of music” and a dozen other things that may or may not have divine origin. Really the person is saying they like / approve of something, and by attaching “gifted” or “anointed” or “blessed” or “sanctified” (or whatever the latest trendy term is) they try to invoke God’s stamp of approval on their opinion / assessment / judgment such that if you see things different then you’re arguing with God and you’re just not as spiritual as them. (Yeah, those kind of folks get on my spiritual nerves. You probably can tell. And it all begins with the “double cure” as the “Rock of Ages” tell us, but that’s another theological debate. Well, maybe it’s just doctrine, not theology, but hopefully you get my point.)

    So, yeah, he’s right that evangelism is not a gift, BUT it is most definitely a position in the church just like apostles, elders, deacons, etc. In the first century, the evangelist appointed the elders in each church. But point 3 is way off, where he seems to be pressing his point too far. Evangelist evangelized! They weren’t appointed as encouragers or equippers or chastizers or whatever the author wants to claim they did in making the rest of us evangelists…. No, they were the evangelists. Others had their own roles as the Spirit saw fit. He placed them in their spot in the body just where he wanted them. Some were arms, some were fingers, a few of them were the epiglottis, others were armpits, some were the nape of the neck, others were kidneys, a few spleens in the mix, but everyone wasn’t a womb!

    Now the body works for one purpose, showing Jesus to the lost and dying world, so everyone’s efforts should support that. Some take care of widows and orphans. Some encourage or equip the body in spiritual matters. Others take care of practical matters of the church facilities (even if they’re just meeting in the basement of someone’s house) such that those concerns don’t detract from the overall mission. (e.g., If we’re having to sweep water out of a flooded basement for a couple hours so people don’t get sick from getting wet or come into contact with diseases from stagnant water, then the church can’t be as productive in their together-time as they would be if the person placed in the body to handle such things were able to do his job. If he were guilt-tripped into being out all day evangelizing [and probably doing a poor job of it] and didn’t do his job… Well, you get my point.) So yeah, “gifted” in terms of evangelism isn’t a Biblical concept. People who use that as a cop-out to never speak a word about Jesus with their sphere of influence are downright sinful. There’s no need to mince words there. However, the extreme of pressing everyone else into a role that the Spirit should decide is just as bad of an extreme. The whole body should be evangelistic and everyone’s role, position, gift, anointing, whatever you want to call it should contribute (even if indirectly) to that overall focus, but everyone isn’t an evangelist. The evangelist is the evangelist. We should affirm everyone, even the least, even the ungifted, within our body.

    I hope that makes sense, but if I’ve stated something wrong or been unclear let me know.

    peace!

    g

    • Jim Woodell says:

      I don’t know who “G” is, but he is right on, in my opinion. Preach it brother.

      To say that the only gift any Christian has is the gift of the Holy Spirit is a conclusion that conflicts with many scriptures. What about, some are placed in the body as an “eye,” “ear,” “hand,” or “foot?”

  4. Jim Woodell says:

    Is there a “gift of giving?” Romans 12:8 Is there a gift of “leadership?” Romans 12:8 Did Paul (the HOLY SPIRIT) mean it when he wrote, “And it was HE (Christ/God) who GAVE SOME to be…” Eph. 4:11

    Although God gave some the “gift” of giving, every Christian is to give. Although God gave some the “gift” (propensity) to serve, every Christian is called to be a servant.

    Certainly, evangelism is a gift. I think it is embedded in the word “prophecy” in the Romans list. Read Romans 12:3-8 and then say there is no such thing as “giftedness.” Some have the gift of speaking and some have the gift of serving (1 Peter 4:10-11). Evangelism is a responsibility of the whole body of Christ and can best be done when the members of the body are working together toward this common goal, NOT when there is infighting about who has THE gift and IF there is a “gift of evangelism.” Use whatever gift you have to work with others to bring the lost to Christ, that could be providing the atmosphere in which people could meet and hear about Christ from someone who does have a speaking gift.

    God bless us with understanding, is my prayer, and then bless us with the desire to use our respective gifts to reconcile the world to HIM.

    Read Matthew 11:1-6. In the context of Jesus proving to John the Baptist that he was the one to come he mentions things that prove his Sonship, the blind see, the lame walk, those with leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, THE DEAD ARE RAISED, AND THEN “the good news is preached to the poor.” Not that the poor are clothed, housed are fed, BUT that the gospel is preached to the poor. Oh, how we need to wake up to our mission. I’m afraid that people are going to hell well fed, clothed and housed that we had the opportunity to share the good news with because we have failed to be the ambassadors for Chris that we are called to be!

    Obviously, you rung my bell!

    • WesWoodell says:

      Certainly there’s a such thing as “giftedness” – I wasn’t implying that there’s not.

      You said: “Evangelism is a responsibility of the whole body of Christ and can best be done when the members of the body are working together toward this common goal, NOT when there is infighting about who has THE gift and IF there is a ‘gift of evangelism.'” – that sums up Ed’s point in the article I cited, and my point as well.

      • Jim Woodell says:

        If you read the balance of Ed’s comments you will see that he actually dismisses the idea of anyone having any specific gift. I responded to that on his post. You know I believe “everything” you say or write SO I wasn’t taking issue with you. Never would! I know Conrad is going to grow up and be a big boy, wouldn’t want him coming after PaPa.

  5. G says:

    I think if you combine Jim’s comments and mine then you’re there. Obviously the church has an obligation to “take care of widows and orphans” and it’s hard for the poor to hear the good news if their stomach is growling loudly. Still, benevolence should not supersede or replace evangelism. Evangelism is the horse; benevolence (and other efforts) are the cart. And then Jesus and His good news is the cargo that the horse and cart deliver.

  6. K. Rex Butts says:

    Does the Bible give us an exhaustive list of all spiritual/ministry gifts? While evangelism requires someone or some-group to share good news with others, does scripture teach evangelism as an individualistic enterprize so that all Christians are too be involved in what revivalist churches call “personal evangelism” or does scripture call the church as a collective body to evangelism? Even after deducing all that scripture teaches regarding evangelism, what are the differences between our culture and the Jewish or Gentile culture that have to be taken into account before we make the appropriate hermeneutical applications?

    Grace and peace,

    Rex

    • WesWoodell says:

      I think it probably does tell us what the gifts are, and do not believe evangelism to be strictly individualistic. I think the end of Acts 2 shows us what it looks like for a faith community to exercise their gifts together along with the results.

      • K. Rex Butts says:

        I don’t know if I am ready to say that the NT mentions every possible Spiritual/ministry gift possible to have. Not once do we have all of the gifts mentioned in the NT exhausted in one list. Rather, the gifts taht Paul speaks of seem to arise out of the occasion for which he is writing to the church. That makes me question whether every gift is mentioned or only those necessitated by the occasion.

        One reason that led me to this is that in my experience, not everyone has the gift of evangelism…just as some but not all have the gift of music & song so that the church can praise God through songs/hymns.

        Grace and peace,

        Rex

  7. My hat’s off to the folks who are gifted as stem cells … spiritual “schmoos,” if you can still remember them from Li’l Abner. They just become whatever’s needed and give themselves to it completely. God bless ’em. They understand what it means to empty one’s self … and while there may indeed be different gifts for different people, there are some who just give even when most of us wonder where it’s coming from … and God supplies what they lack in giftednesss. Maybe because they want so very much to give.

  8. Jesse L says:

    This is a very interesting subject that seems to be talked about rarely in Christian circles – at least in my experience. The Ephesians passage cited above talks about different types of people that are given to the church to edify and equip the church. I believe that God has gifted me with a gift of exhortation, which works itself out in the office of Evangelism, to encourage and equip the church to share their faith.

    You are right on in saying that evangelism isn’t a gift. It’s a command given to every believer. And besides that, what you love, you talk about. If I love Jesus, I’ll talk about Him often.

    You may not be called by God to find a “fishing hole” and talk to strangers like I am, but you are called to share the Gospel within your sphere of influence. And your life is not a proclamation of the Gospel. It adorns the Gospel. If you’re not preaching the message with your words, you’re not sharing the Gospel. If you’re not sharing the Gospel, you’re disobeying Jesus.

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