This helpful article was written by Evangelist John VanGeldron:
Some challenge the existence of the evangelist, and therefore, the legitimacy of their ministry today. But this minimization seems to be more from prejudice or misinformation than anything substantive. Let’s consider three reasons the gift of the evangelist still exists today.
1. The Precision of Ephesians
Ephesians addresses much concerning the church. Ephesians 4:11-12 states, “And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.” Obviously, this passage includes evangelists.
While this passage supports the existence of evangelists and pastors, what about the inclusion of apostles and prophets? Some argue they do not exist based on Ephesians 2:20, “And are built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ being the chief cornerstone.” If the apostles and prophets were part of the foundation, then the argument maintains their work was completed once the foundation was laid. Since evangelists and pastors are not named as a part of the foundation, this implies that evangelists and pastors would be the gifts building on the foundation.
While others debate this interpretation of Ephesians 2:20 regarding the place of apostles and prophets, what is clear is that evangelists are not a part of the debate. There is no biblical statement that can even be argued over as to the supposed cessation of the use of the evangelist. Therefore, evangelists are a part of God’s plan for the church age.
2. The Emphasis of the Evangelist in the New Testament
Since the word evangelist occurs only three times in the New Testament, some argue they probably don’t exist anymore. But this observation ignores the full picture which is quite otherwise.
Three words with the stem evangel are used throughout the New Testament. The noun for evangel or “gospel” occurs 77 times, the verb for evangelize or “preach the gospel” occurs 55 times, and the noun for evangelist occurs three times. The combined use of these words which all contain the same stem is 135 times. This greatly broadens the picture.
To get the full picture of an athlete, you would need to study athletics. To get the full picture of a singer, you would need to study songs and singing. Likewise, to get the full picture of an evangelist, you need to study the evangel and evangelizing.
It would be fair to assume that one who competes in athletics is an athlete, and one who sings is a singer. John the Baptist was literally called John the “Baptizer” because he baptized. Similarly, those in Scripture described as evangelizing (a word used of preaching to a group, not just personal witnessing) may be rightly understood as evangelists. Again, this greatly broadens the picture.
3. The Corroboration of Church History
Early church history records the use of evangelists and pastors in the first wave of ministry laborers who followed the apostles. Also, evangelists are referenced through church history. Throughout the centuries God has used evangelists in reviving the saints and in awakening the lost.
Both evangelists and pastors are still in existence today as a part of God’s plan for the church age. A church that refuses to use the gift of the pastor may be rightly questioned as to whether or not it is functioning as a New Testament church. Likewise, a church that refuses to use the gift of the evangelist may be rightly questioned as to whether or not it is functioning as a New Testament church. Since God’s plan includes both gifts, then an appropriate use of both gifts is a part of functioning as a New Testament church.