To a church confused about the use of spiritual gifts, the apostle Paul wrote, “But you should be eager for the greater gifts” 1 Corinthians 12.21. And again: “Pursue love and be eager for the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy” 1 Corinthians 14.1.
Paul urged them to desire some gifts more than others. He was speaking, of course, of miraculous gifts, such as prophecy. But if saints in the first century could pursue certain gifts, since they were more important than others, it stands to reason that today saints should value certain non-miraculous gifts above others.
One of the most needed gifts in order for the church of God to fulfill its mission in the world is evangelism. There seem to be few evangelists in the church. Preachers abound, but they are not necessarily evangelists. Preachers mostly learn public speaking from a pulpit in a building erected for a church’s meetings. That is a good activity, but it is not what is most needed. Our schools are preacher-training schools, not necessarily schools that teach personal evangelism.
We have confused talents with gifts. God can certainly use one’s natural talents in his Kingdom. But he can do so much more as well. He can give a person a gift or capacity that is not a natural talent. He will give it to one who earnestly desires it.
How can a saint be eager for an important gift like that of evangelism?
- He can pray for it, first of all.
- Then he can study for it.
- Again, he can work toward it, by observing others who exercise it and by imitating them. This seems to be the sense of Hebrews 13.7: “Remember those who led you [to Christ], who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith” (NASB).
There are so few evangelists around to imitate. So for many saints, learning to do personal evangelism is often done by trial and error. Still, God will honor the person who desires to fulfill his mission of seeking the lost.
I have known a few evangelists in my life. Their enthusiasm for reaching others with God’s salvation has made an impact on me far greater than their numbers might suggest. And although they are not often the front men in the church, they are on the front line of the harvest.
I pray that God will make me one of them. And that he will send many more into the harvest to reap the souls who will be saved because someone earnestly sought the gift of evangelism.