Evangelists as Shepherds // Part 2
In part 1 of this two part blog series, I shared some thoughts on what it might look like for someone with a ministry gifting as an evangelist, to do the work of a shepherd. While shepherding may not be their primary ministry gifting (within the APEST spectrum), it does not mean evangelists would be excused from “shepherding the flock among them” (1 Peter 5:2). Nevertheless, leaders with an evangelistic tendency would do well to consider how their leaning toward sharing the faith with those outside the church, could cause them to be less than adequate shepherds. Even the most well meaning leader can say “all the right things” and miss the point of doing the work of a shepherd.
“When a leader with a ministry focused on those not yet believing is seeking to care for the hearts of those within the church, there may be some challenges.”
Briefly, an evangelist within the APEST framework, has a primary focus on sharing the gospel, particularly with those outside of the church. These people seem to have ways of bringing the gospel to bear on many of life’s normal situations, and weave the story of God into other’s stories really fluidly. With the emphasis (or bend) toward seeing new people respond to the gospel, evangelistic ministry is usually seen as something focusing on people outside of the church. When a leader with a ministry focused on those not yet believing is seeking to care for the hearts of those within the church, there may be some challenges.
In some communities, evangelists tune out the shepherding of God’s family, saying something like, “That’s not my gifting so I’ll leave the care of the people to the shepherds.” While there is wisdom in focusing our time on our strengths, it doesn’t appear to me that leadership is so cut-and-dry, so binary, that we can just opt in and opt out of relationships because of our gifting. I have come to believe our gracious Father desires for us to be wise AND live within the tension of relationships. What I mean is, relationships, through time together with others, will naturally unearth our weaknesses and strengths. What a great opportunity this creates for discipleship! Relationships are like the soil in which the gospel is planted as well as the soil in which our unbelief is uprooted.
Rather than opting out of an opportunity to be discipled, perhaps a healthier way forward is for evangelists to enter into these relationships with humility and an understanding of their potential weaknesses. This, by God’s grace and the patience of my church family, has caused me to grow and mature in ways I had not expected.
The immature evangelist approaches all relationships without much distinction. Whether they are talking with a follower of Jesus or someone not yet believing, the immature evangelist expresses their ministry in much the same way to both people. The adage, “When you’re a hammer, everyone looks like a nail,” can often be the case with an immature evangelist. Sadly, I have experienced (through my own doing and through observation of other evangelists) how damaging an immature evangelist can be as a shepherd. I’ve focused so much on reaching new people (the not yet believers) with the gospel and neglected the need for my ministry among those who already believe. Even more, I have had times when I have sought to do the work of a shepherd and in my immaturity, sought to grow people in understanding of the gospel just so they will go share the gospel with those not yet believing. Do you see the problem here? While equipping others to share the Good News is an important work of an evangelist, it isn’t necessarily good shepherding.
“The gospel isn’t just to be transferred to others. The gospel transforms us to transfer it to others.”
When someone in the family of God is hurting, is struggling with unbelief, this may not be the best time to seek to share the gospel so they will share it too. No! This is a time for the Good News to sink deep into the hurting saint’s heart. The gospel isn’t just to be transferred to others. The gospel transforms us to transfer it to others. But the immature evangelist may miss this, and in the process, can, unintentionally, hurt some hurting people. I know because I have been guilty of this. Perhaps you can relate?
In contrast to this, the more mature evangelist recognizes, that while the Good News remains the same for all people, the way in which it is conveyed to those outside the faith versus those following Jesus may be different. In fact, I would go so far as to say the mature evangelist recognizes every person is unique and how to share the Good News with them specifically is best known after listening first. But this is a subject for another blog.
The mature evangelist, changing the old hammer and nail saying a bit, knows they are a hammer and sees others as nails, yet recognizes that different hammers are better suited for various projects (relationships). A sledge hammer can certainly drive a finishing nail on a baseboard -- along with driving the baseboard and portions of the wall with it!
The more mature evangelist seeks to shepherd people into experiencing transformation through the gospel. Listening to and sharing the Good News, over time, with people is a good way for an evangelist to shepherd well. Instead of viewing these hurting saints as people who “need to get on mission”, but rather speaking the truth in love to them, is a much better form of shepherding for an evangelist.
I am learning (and to some degree, have learned) that the way to mature as an evangelist in doing the work of a shepherd is to slow down. My dear friend and partner at The Table Philadelphia, Chris, has taught me much of what it means to slow down as a shepherd. In part, it means to adjust your expectations of people and simply meet them where they are, walking with them in love. It means laying down my “evagelistic expectations” of people and seeing each person as unique and learning to live by faith… just like me.
How about you? How have you learned and been shaped by the other APEST giftings in your community? We would love to hear from you. Please comment below.