The word “evangelist” comes from the same word that is translated “good news” or “gospel” (euangellion). The evangelist is specially gifted in communicating the good news of salvation -- the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The word is only found two places in the New Testament—describing Philip in Acts 21:8, and in Paul’s instruction to Timothy to do the work of an evangelist in 2 Timothy 4:5.
But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.
As a pastor/teacher, Timothy was to take and make opportunities to explain the gospel message. The passage implies that there are evangelists who are specifically gifted by God who do this work, whom Timothy is to imitate.
Let’s look at one example of a gifted evangelist. Philip is called an evangelist in Acts 21:8, but we see him in operation in Acts 8:26-40. After preaching successfully in Samaria, Philip is instructed by the Lord,
“Go south to the road—the desert road—that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.
Philip went south and was given an opportunity to share the gospel with a traveler.
So he started out, and on his way he met an Ethiopian eunuch, an important official in charge of all the treasury of Candice, queen on the Ethiopians. This man had gone to Jerusalem to worship, and on his way home was sitting in his chariot reading the book of Isaiah the prophet. The Spirit told Philip, “Go to that chariot and stay near it.”
Notice next how Philip takes an evangelistic advantage of the situation. He asks a probing, opening question.
Then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. “Do you understand what you are reading?” Philip asked.
“How can I,” he said, “unless someone explains it to me?” So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.
The directness of Philip’s question has often surprised me. He held nothing back—when right for it and challenged the person in need of salvation. This is a sign of an evangelist—the recognition of the need of sinners, and the insight to probe and gently yet directly force the issue. His values reflect a low regard for acceptance, but priority for influence.
The beauty of the Lord’s direction is evident when we examine the passage that the Ethiopian was reading. Isaiah 52:13—53:12 is one of the clearest passages in the Old Testament which speaks to the suffering and death of Christ for our sins. Philip, who obviously knew Scripture, used the very passage the Ethiopian was reading to explain the gospel.
The eunuch asked Philip, “Tell me, please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?”
Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus.”
After the Ethiopian’s conversion Philip evangelized in every city up the coast until arriving in Caesarea. He settled in that Roman outpost and continued his ministry.
1) The gift of evangelist is given today, as seen with the instruction to Timothy to do that kind of work.
2) It involves insightfully and clearly sharing the gospel with unbelievers.
3) It is marked by one with an overwhelming passion to see people saved.
The three gifts of Apostle, prophet, evangelist, and pastor-teacher are the foundation gifts God gives. Their purpose is for the discovery and development of other gifts God entrusts to others.
Bauer, Arndt, Gingrich and Danker, Greek-English Lexicon, p. 317-18.