The gift of the evangelist is a most precious one. I know in some quarters it is thought to be simple, and is sometimes looked down upon for that reason. It is remarkable then, to see the place the Lord gives to the evangelist when it is a question of what is for the blessing and good of the Assembly: “he has given some apostles, and some prophets, and some evangelists, and some shepherds and teachers, for the perfecting of the saints; with a view to [the] work of [the] ministry, with a view to the edifying of the body of Christ” (Eph. 4: 11, 12). Why is the evangelist in the list? Because if you had no evangelists the Assembly would not grow! Do you look down on the gift? The evangelist is full of the Gospel, and the Gospel is the revelation of the heart of God, and what can be higher than that? It is the unfolding of the testimony about God’s Son, and the object of the evangelist is to bring souls to Him, and thus, as a consequence, into the Assembly. The evangelist is a man who busies himself with souls. He has a burning love for them, and an unquenchable thirst for their salvation. His object is to by all means to win the soul for Christ and yet, mark you, if he is labouring in a Scriptural way, he will be working out from the bosom of the Assembly. He is of the Assembly. His work, therefore, though in no way in the Assembly, goes out from the Assembly. The soul that is led to the Lord becomes a member of His body, and, when all was in its Scriptural order, would be found amongst the gathered saints. And despite the disorder introduced by man, the order of the Lord remains. The evangelist should be like a pair of compasses with one leg fixed and the other sweeping all round as far as it can reach. If his work is to be successful, not only in conversion but in edifying the body, then the evangelist must have a fixed leg, that is, he remembers he is of the Assembly, and works out from, and returns to it. Too many evangelists look upon their work as a sort of guerrilla warfare. They are spiritual sharpshooters, free–lances, delighting in being ‘unattached’. In all such, man’s will is working. They are like a man who brings out a lot of stones from a quarry, and having got them into the road, has no place to build them into—no building to fit them in. You would say of all such that they are loose, careless workmen. Thus I ought to have a definite object before me in preaching the Gospel: first, to bring the soul to Christ, and, second, to put it into its right niche in God’s Assembly on earth. It is not that the evangelist may always be used in this. Others have to be satisfied as to the reality of the fruit of his work.
The wise evangelist will not in any way press the apparent fruit of his labour into the Assembly—and I am speaking now of those truly gathered according to the principles of it. In my judgment, he would be very lacking in wisdom if he did so because the evangelist, from the very nature of his gift, is a warm–hearted, hopeful man, led much by his own fervency of spirit. Look at Philip, who is the only man in the Bible called “the evangelist” (Acts 21: 8). In Acts 8 what is he doing? Preaching Christ, seeking conversions, turning the city upside down, and longing for the apostles to come and visit. He was admitting many outwardly to the house of God on earth by baptism. He had baptised Simon the sorcerer on a confession of faith, and would doubtless have let him into fellowship with the saints had it not been for Peter. I have no doubt Philip thought he had caught a great fish when he heard that “Simon also himself believed” (v13), but as the after history showed he had not got him. It needed the calm discernment of Peter to show the real position of Simon, and very sad it was: “Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter, for thy heart is not upright before God” (v21).
What should the evangelist do when he gets the soul converted? He should introduce him to the Assembly, though not necessarily bring him into it. Others should do that. It is well to let others judge of the reality and soundness of God’s work in the soul. They are responsible to do so. Perhaps, you say, the evangelist should now teach the new convert. No, the one gifted as a teacher should teach him. I quite admit that owing to the ruin of the Assembly the evangelist often has to teach, but it is not his proper work. Owing to the ruin and failure of the Assembly many of the gifted servants of God do not do the part for which they are fitted. They have been dislocated from their true functions by the purely human organisations with which Christendom abounds, and in which the free activity of the Holy Spirit in the members of Christ’s body is hindered by what man calls ‘the ministry’. Many are, in their timidity, afraid in case they trespass upon the office and work of those whom they may regard as specially called to minister in the things of God—a ministry to which these silent ones have also been called, but to which they are not, from what is called ‘order’—man’s order—responding.
How beautiful, by contrast, is the divine order in God’s Assembly! The evangelist reaches the soul, and brings him to the gateway of the Assembly. He leaves those who are already in the Assembly to assess the convert, and, if confident of him, to receive him into the fellowship—for it is the Assembly, as a whole that receives. Each and all composing it are responsible—not only the labourers, or those who may commend souls that seek admission. When the young convert, judged to be born of God and indwelt of the Spirit, is admitted, he is to be instructed. That is where the pastors and teachers come in. Let us beware of keeping souls out of the Assembly until they have as much intelligence as those within. Such a thought is very common, and some saints have the strange idea that all such should be kept outside until they have got a certain amount of intelligence. That shows how little intelligence they have themselves, and how little they really know the mind of the Lord, because when a child is born, it needs a great deal of nursing, attention, and care. Now the Assembly, if in a right state, is just the place to find all this. It is the spot to which the new–born soul is rightly led by the evangelist, in the expectation that there, if anywhere, will be found plenty of nurses who are glad to foster and help on the infant life given of God. Would that we saw more of this! Thus may the Lord help every evangelist, cheer them, and encourage them, and increase their number a thousand–fold. If you are wise, and really “walking in the fear of the Lord” (Acts 9: 31) you too will help them by every means in your power.