Doing the Work of an Evangelist

Now I saw, upon a time, when he was walking in the fields, that he was (as he was wont) reading in his Book, and greatly distressed in his mind; and as he read, he burst out, as he had done before, crying, What shall I do to be saved?
I also saw that he looked this way, and that way, as if he would run; yet he stood still, because (as I perceived) he could not tell which way to go. I looked then, and saw a Man named Evangelist coming to him, and asked, Wherefore dost thou cry?

One of my favorite books of all time is John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress. It is rich with biblical insights on living the Christian life. The book tells the story of man (Christian) who is clothed in rags who begins reading a Book (the Word of God) and is awakened to the realities of sin and judgment. As his distress and conviction grow, they are represented by a great burden that weighs heavy on his back. He realizes the fearful consequences of sin and knows that he, his family and his city will be condemned unless “some way of escape can be found, whereby we may be delivered.”

After many days of suffering, distress and prayer Christian is seen walking in the fields, reading his Book (his Bible). He is alone and cries out asking the most important question a man can ask: “What shall I do to be saved?” Romans 10:14 describes Christian’s dilemma in this way: “How shall they hear without a preacher?”

As Christian ponders what to do next, we are introduced to a new character in the allegory, a man named Evangelist. God, in His kindness, does not leave Christian to himself, but sends His minister to explain and point the way, as He did when He sent Phillip to teach the Ethiopian in Acts 8:26.

Evangelist is an important means of God’s grace in helping Christian in his journey. He is the King’s servant, laboring for the sake of the kingdom. When he sees Christian, he is out in the fields, where a laborer expecting a harvest should be. He has compassion for the lost and is alert to Christian’s distress and need. Often in the story he comes to Christian with encouragement, rebuke, instruction, and correction. But who is this Evangelist? In Bunyan’s own pilgrimage it was the faithful pastor of a group of believers in Bedford, John Gifford. According to Bunyan’s testimony in Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners, it was Gifford who “took occasion to talk with me, …invited me into his house, where I should hear him confer with others, about the dealings of God with the soul…” [par. 77]

Ministers of the gospel are a gift of God. We can rejoice that God gives His church faithful men, like John Gifford. But pastors are not the only ones who are sent out to point the way to Jesus. We read in Ephesians 4:11-12:

And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.

Pastors are to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for the building up of the church. Paul’s exhortation to Timothy is “Preach the Word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and teaching” (2 Timothy 4:2). While this command is especially weighty on pastors and teachers, all believers have a ministry “teaching and admonishing one another” (Colossians 3:16). All believers have a mission to tell others to follow Jesus (Matthew 28:19). And we are all to be ready to share the reason for the hope that is in us (1 Peter 3:15).

We live in a day when we too often rush by others, hurrying through the fields when we should be laboring. Pray that God will be at work, awakening the hearts of sinners to their need of grace, and stirring His people to go as laborers into the harvest (Matthew 9:37). Pray that He will make you sensitive to the needs of others around you who are burdened and distressed. And pray, that in His providence, you might find opportunity and rich blessing in pointing pilgrims to the Lord Jesus Christ.

From A Guide to John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress / 2. Met by Evangelist

—Ken Puls

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