Do these two statements seem at odds?
“You can’t be a disciple without being an evangelist. And for sure, the opposite is true. You can’t be an evangelist without being a disciple.”
“And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ…”
The first quote, written by Cary Nieuwhof is pretty blunt. If you’re a disciple, then you have to be an evangelist. The second quote, from Ephesians 4, draws a different conclusion: God specializes disciples. Many players are together on a sports team, but each one has their role. Everyone on the team does not have the shared responsibility to be the quarterback, or goalie or center.
Modern Christianity often confuses agency with function. Every Christian is in fact a disciple – New Testamental confirmations about the agency of the believer abound in Matthew 16, Mark 8, Luke 9 and 14, Acts 11. We are all disciples. But function? That’s a different thing altogether. Ephesians 4.11-13 make plain there are differing roles. We do not all have the duty of being an evangelist. What does that mean?
Chiefly this: every believer is to be prepared to give an answer, to anyone asking, for the reason for the hope they have – see 1st Peter 3.15. The reason is Christ, the hope is the certainty that he has brought us to unending life in peace and commune with God the Father Almighty. This requires every disciple be at the task of developing relationships, so as to attract the “asking”. Every disciple is a bondservant of Christ, dying to self-agendas, demonstrating sacrificial love, and in general, being different (“weird” in cultural terms) so people want to know what’s behind the hope and kindness of that disciple.
We are not all called to preach in pulpits or work street corners in one-way deliveries of the Gospel. Speaking to people extemporaneously about the Gospel of Christ, sometimes, uninvited, as Paul at the Areopagus – that’s being an evangelist. Apologetic engagements, perhaps civil debates, gaining the attention of crowds – that’s an evangelist. Jonah and Moses were evangelists by the way—very reluctant evangelists that God would employ without their consent or comfort. Comfort and consent are not qualifiers as evangelists.
Yet the agency of a disciple is not the same as the function of an evangelist. Perhaps it takes a little guilt or pressure off you? That you don’t have to be an evangelist unless you’re called? But there’s still the agency of a disciple. Even if you don’t have to get on a soapbox with a bullhorn—are you living weird? Are you building relationships? And are you ready with an answer to anyone who asks you for the reason for the hope? That’s a disciple.
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