Over the years as an Evangelist I have had to give a lot of thought to the stereotypes for that office. People’s minds leap to Elmer Gantry type hucksters or the wealth and prosperity gang or to those who have had very public moral failures. At best the stereotype is a kind of itinerant preacher ala Billy Graham. In place of these stereotypes (not all of them bad but certainly limiting) I want to discuss the archetypal Evangelist, Philip. In fact he is the only one in scripture, given that distinctive title (Acts 21:8).
We are introduced to Philip in Acts 6. He is chosen first as a servant, a deacon to wait on tables. His initial qualification seems to be that he has a ‘servant’s heart’. His focus is on the marginalized and those overlooked so easily. Compassion is the chief virtue of the Evangelist! Philip models a care for ‘the least, the last and the lost’. This remains the archetypal model.
Next we see Philip on the margins again. The Apostles choose to stay at home base after Stephen’s stoning, but Philip makes his way to the Samaritans. Remember this is before Peter and Cornelius set the course for the Church to include other than Jews. Philip is drawn to the sick and afflicted and the power of God among these folks causes a stir which leads to ‘revival’’!
Then in obedience to God’s leading Philip ventures once more into the marginal world. He goes into the desert area. He leaves behind a revival he might claim to have birthed but it does not hold his heart! He is on to the next adventure on the edge. Here he encounters the famous Ethiopian eunuch. The man from Ethiopia does not stop his chariot right away but Philip takes the initiative and does the hard work of coming alongside him (both literally and figuratively). He engages him right where he was and leads him to faith. Then he is off again!
The last glimpse we get of Philip comes in reference to he and his family. He offers a ministry of hospitality (ever the servant) and his four daughters exercised prophetic ministries. This shows us that though he lived in a culture which did not always value women Philip held them (as any father should) in very high regard. It also shows us that he was a faithful disciple. He did not just win converts he followed Jesus command and he made disciples.
It is high time we had a renewal of evangelism after this archetype. I am glad to be in an order of men and women who are determined to model themselves after Philip and to model the ministry of the Evangelist to the Church of Christ. I love Billy graham and I love those who faithfully proclaim the word of God but the ministry of the Evangelist is deeper and richer than that. It is a call to compassionate service on the margins making disciples. I invite you to join us in Threshold Ministries in advocating for the renewal of this archetypal ministry.