By Johnny Stringer
The Lord has called me to be an evangelist. I have received no mysterious, better-felt-than-told feeling, nor any other such special revelation from God calling me to the work of evangelism. But I have most assuredly been called. In the revelation which God gave in the first century and which is recorded in scripture, God has made it clear that He wants me to engage in evangelism as much as my ability and opportunities allow. Not only have I been called to this work, but so have you if you are a Christian.
God has called me to the work of evangelism by His revelation to me that all men have sinned (Rom. 3:9-10, 23), hence are doomed to eternal torment in hell (Rom. 2:5-9; Mk. 9:43-48; Rev. 21:8; Matt. 25:41, 46), and that the gospel is the only means by which they can be saved (Rom. 1:16; John 6:44-45; Rom. 10:17; 1 Cor. 1:21). These truths will impel all who love the souls of men to do their very best in proclaiming the gospel; and that is what evangelism is.
Moreover, God has called me to the work of evangelism by His revelation to me that I am required to labor in His service to the extent of my ability. The failure to take advantage of every opportunity to do good is condemned in the parable of the talents (Matt. 25:14-30). We are to be zealous in doing good works (Tit. 2:14). The Christian’s purpose in this life is to do good works (Eph. 2:10). It is plain, therefore, that God calls upon each Christian to do whatever good he is able to do and that surely includes the work of spreading the gospel that souls might be saved. We are to do good unto all men as we have the opportunity (Gal. 6:10); but what greater good could we do for them than teach them the soul-saving gospel of Christ?
Some believe that in order to be an evangelist, one must personally receive some kind of a special call by which God lets him know that he is to do the work of evangelism. The call, according to this view, might come in a number of ways, but often it is said to be a better-felt-than-told feeling, a divinely initiated impulse. As one denominational preacher expressed it to this writer, “It was something I just couldn’t get away from.” The Bible does not teach the need for such a special call. My question is, why must one receive such a personal call from God, when God has already called all Christians to do all that we can in His service? It should also be noted that preachers of various denominations claim to have received such a call, yet they preach different doctrines. This fact repudiates their claim that God called them to preach what they preach, for surely God did not call one man to preach one doctrine and another man to preach another doctrine.
A passage that has been used to teach that one must personally receive a special call from God in order to be an evangelist is Rom. 10:14-15, which says, “How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!” Thus, it is argued, in order to preach one must be sent, and that involves a special call from God.
This argument is a misuse of the passage. The point is that the gospel message is that which produces faith (v. 17; Rom. 1:16; John 17:20); hence, in order for men to believe, the gospel had to be revealed to men. The preachers to whom Paul refers in this passage, therefore, were those who originally revealed the gospel to men. In order to do that work, they had to be sent by God with His message. Since the gospel had heretofore not been revealed, they had to receive the message directly from God, so that they could then convey it to men. They received -the gospel message through the Holy Spirit (John 14:26; 16:13; Eph. 3:3-5) and then conveyed it to men. Paul’s point is that if the gospel message had not been revealed to men, men could not have believed. It is obvious, therefore, that Paul has reference to inspired men who originally revealed the gospel to mankind.
Since God has revealed to us the importance of our engaging in preaching the gospel to the extent of our ability, we should not wait for a special call, but respond to the call which He has already issued in His revealed word. Some may be able to do little more than hand out tracts, but they must do what they can in furthering the gospel. We must not regard evangelism as something that is done by only an elite few. Some of us devote our full time to this work, hence receive our material support from our brethren so that we can give ourselves completely to it; nevertheless, all Christians are responsible for doing what they have opportunity to do (Gal. 6:10).
When the early Christians were forced to leave Jerusalem because of the persecution there, “they that were scattered abroad went every where preaching the word” (Acts 8:4). It was not just a few elite brethren; it was not just those who had received some kind of a special call; rather, it was brethren who wanted to share with others that which they had learned. This example should surely be followed today. With Paul, we should feel a deep obligation to proclaim the word of God to men (Rom. 1:14-15). We should need no special call any more than Andrew needed special instruction that he was to bring Peter to Jesus, or any more than Philip needed a special revelation from God that he was to tell Nathaniel about his discovery of the Christ (John 1:40-46).
Those who have ability to preach publicly should develop and use that ability. More faithful men of ability should leave secular work and devote themselves fully to the work of evangelism. Souls are lost in sin and doomed to hell. The gospel is their only hope. God calls each of us to do what we can toward reaching them with the gospel. Let us not shun the call!
Truth Magazine XXI: 11, p. 162
March 17, 1977