The call to evangelism over the last century of Church history has left little doubt in the mind of believers about the need to share the Good News of Jesus. Countless sermons, podcasts, books, tools, and resources have been developed and shared, all for the purpose of inspiring Jesus followers to do the work of an evangelist. Yet, if we’re honest with ourselves, most of us know we’re supposed to share the Gospel with others, and even know how to, but never actually do it. There seems to be a disconnect between our internal motivation and external behaviors toward evangelism. We’re simply not evangelists.
This disconnect is only made worse when we see those who are naturally gifted evangelists. It happens so easily for them. Without effort, they build relationships, share Jesus, and see a lot of positive responses. It doesn’t feel fair. Yet, we are all called to a foundational expectation of sharing the Good News with others. This expectation is rooted in our primary responsibility to follow Jesus – and if Jesus was the ultimate proclaimer of Good News, then we too take on that expectation.
An APEST Framework
For many, APEST has served as a helpful framework to experience the fullness of Jesus in their lives and in the Church. Found in Ephesians 4, APEST describes the five different callings each person can potentially have; apostle, prophet, evangelist, shepherd, and teacher. Like the evangelist calling, all five find their ultimate expression in the life and ministry of Jesus. Jesus was the perfect apostle, the perfect, prophet, the perfect evangelist, the perfect shepherd, and the perfect teacher.
When we understand which APEST calling is our primary and live it out as we seek to follow Jesus fully, we begin to see that our primary calling is really the key to unlocking evangelism in us all. Rather than thinking we’re excused from evangelism because it’s not our primary calling, we must recognize that our calling is meant to be leveraged to live out all of APEST so that we look more and more like Jesus. The good news, then, is that your primary APEST calling isn’t a barrier to the other four, but an asset that gets you to the other four. If you’re an apostle, prophet, shepherd, or teacher, living into your calling accesses a level of grace, so you come to evangelism as who you are rather than who you think you should be.
Evangelism for the Other Four
Here’s what it could look like for each of the other four callings (A,P,S,T) to be leveraged to get at evangelism:
Apostles – missional / networkers / architects / entrepreneurial – the strength that apostles can leverage for evangelism is their obsession with the new. Reaching out beyond the status quo terms of both people and function, apostles can take their adventurous spirit to the people groups who have yet to hear the Good News of Jesus. Going to new people might lead them across the street, town, or the world. To head towards evangelism, apostles should:
- Ask themselves whom they know by searching the depths of their extensive networks
- Develop a plan of action to reach new people and places by utilizing their ideas and strategic mindset
- Live amongst the culture of the new people and places to understand what Good News they need to hear
- Launch new businesses and organizations that embed Good News in new places amongst new people
Prophets – listening / praying / justice / righteousness – the strength that prophets can leverage for evangelism is being tuned into the heart of God. Prophets are positioned best to hear from the Lord who needs His Good News and demonstrate it through justice and righteousness. Prophets don’t merely act on their own but are concerned with ensuring they reflect God in everything said and done. To head towards evangelism, prophets should:
- Listen intently to God for what to do and what to say in every evangelistic opportunity
- Go to the poor and marginalized people and be the hands and feet of Jesus
- Maintain sensitivity to spiritual warfare as evangelism takes place
- Remind the entire body of Christ of the urgency and need for evangelism
Shepherds – care / formation / community / healing – the strength that shepherds can leverage for evangelism is catalyzing human flourishing. Brokenness, isolation, and grief are not the original design for humanity, so we cannot flourish until shepherds come along to provide the community, care, and healing we desperately need. Shepherds embody the Good News of Jesus when they undo the worst parts of human existence. To head towards evangelism, shepherds should:
- Create places of belonging for all people to experience the goodness of a God-oriented community
- Meet one-on-one with those who need Jesus, offering care and healing
- Challenge the family of God to welcome in the hurting and lonely
- Ensure that discipleship and formation pathways include the passion of evangelism
Teachers – coach / instruct / wisdom / simplify – the strength that teachers can leverage for evangelism is making the Good News understandable. Teachers can transfer wisdom and knowledge to anyone by making the complex simple and ensuring that it’s understood. They love to ask questions, understand people more deeply, and cultivate resources that can be used in various circumstances to get the best results. To head towards evangelism, teachers should:
- Cultivate a list of resources that express the Good News in various ways
- Develop coaching questions and skills to help people process the Good News for themselves
- Equip the body of Christ in the theological and Scriptural call to evangelism
- Utilize local, community-based teaching opportunities as ways to build relationships (cooking classes, finance classes, etc.)
Evangelism can seem like an impossible task when it’s not our gift, but we don’t get to excuse our way out of it. If we lean into our primary APEST callings and use them for evangelism, we’ll find that God has equipped us with exactly what we need to do all that He’s called us to do.
Brandon serves as the Lead Pastor of College First Church of God in northwest Ohio. He has been a part of leading Accessible Prophecy, 3D Movements, and 5Q, as well as being a Certified Navigator with Auxano. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Music Education from Bowling Green State University, and a master’s degree in Divinity from Winebrenner Theological Seminary. Brandon is passionate about the rekindling of discipleship and mission as the foundation of the Church. He and his wife Ellen, along with their children Jackson, Fintan, Penelope, and Ainsley, are dedicated to being a family of God on mission in their community.
Alan Hirsch is the founding director of Forge Mission Training Network. Currently he co-leads Future Travelers, an innovative learning program helping megachurches become missional movements. Known for his innovative approach to mission, Alan is considered to be a thought-leader and key mission strategist for churches across the Western world. His experience includes leading a local church movement among the marginalized, developing training systems for innovative missional leadership, and heading up the mission and revitalization work of his denomination. He and his wife currently live in Los Angeles.