Evangelism and Missionary

In the last article about Spiritual Gifts, we indicated we would begin to explore gifts with less general appeal (comfort) within mainline churches (green/Wisdom oriented), such as Methodists. We’ll now venture into the “red zone,” or Commitment Dimension, often the prime emphasis for churches with an evangelical faith tradition. This is not to say Methodists are without commitment to making disciples for Jesus Christ; we can follow our Wesleyan traditions and the global UMC Mission Statement, if we choose to use these gifts.

It will be helpful to consider the idea of community in introducing commitment spiritual gifts. Community means being in relation-ship with others. Opposing community is isolation and its focus on self. The connection is to which end our energy to sustain is directed.

When we prefer to serve others rather than ourselves, we serve God as Jesus commanded and showed us (Mark 12:31). We are then disciples in spiritual community, and are called to grow discipleship in ourselves and others. If we act in spiritual isolation, we are merely consumers, those who may believe in God and attend church, but want church to be convenient, a feel-good experience with a user-friendly Jesus. At the extreme, consumers seek only comfort, entertainment, or intellectual stimulation. “Christian” consumers may never be satisfied with their “religious” experiences, and also may be prone to the use of money as a substitute for direct involvement in the work of the Kingdom. While disciples may at times need comforting, relief and education, they must often function outside their own comfort zones and use their talents and time from other things. Discipleship can be demanding and disturbing, and does not delegate to others what disciples themselves must do. However, a disciple’s reward experience is far more satisfying than a consumer’s.

Disciples will receive and develop commitment (red) spiritual gifts which consumers will not try to experience, because this gift group relates to proclaiming the gospel and helping people grow in their knowledge of Christ. There are several sub-groups of commitment gifts, the first of which is sharing the gospel and introducing others to Jesus Christ.

The gift of Evangelism is not to be confused with our every Christian duty to be ready to share/show our own faith stories, as is urged on us in 1 Peter 3:15. Evangelism is a scarce spiritual gift in congregations (only about 10%). So important is this gift to the church’s primary mission, that Evangelists must be nurtured and given time to develop its outward expression, to the exclusion of other tasks. Scripture basis is Acts 8:26-40; and also Acts8:5-6, Acts14:13-21, Rom.10:14-15, Eph.4:11. With today’s culture, most growth in the family of God must come through the Evangelists and our own outward sharing of faith, as family-led traditions have not achieved even self-replacement sustainability. An Evangelist’s focus on leading seekers towards the “decision” must not then neglect integrating new believers into a church fellowship to build community.

Missionary is a spiritual gift which shares a purpose with Evangelism but is very different. In fact, only about 8% of missionaries also have the gift of Evangelism. Missionaries love to leave their “home” faith location to be among other cultures, either domestic or foreign, which do not have a Christian tradition. Missionaries are new church planters in their fields of service, which could be medical, educational, re-lief or organizational, as well as spiritual. Scripture is 1 Corinthians 9:19-23; and also Acts9:13-17, Acts14:21-28, Gal.1:15-17, Gal.2:7-14, Eph.3:6-8. The commitment is great (family, lifestyle, security impacts), but the harvest potential is so ripe (30% of the world is yet “unreached”). A particular spiritual deficiency potential for missionaries is to make the gospel message secondary to their delivery of a service (by accommodating the body and/or mind, but not the spirit, of the needy), which in some parts of the world could be dangerous to both the missionary and the mission, but often is just evading a long-term purpose from God.

Both gifts for Evangelism and Missionary share the highest faith example of a grateful, unconditional and voluntary desire to serve the Lord in the spirit of Isaiah, “Here am I, send me!” (Isaiah 6:8). More commitment gifts will be explored next, especially for church leaders. Come discover your gifts, even if you think you’re old enough to know them (or to know better!) by signing-up for a small group study at the Connection Point, off the Sanford-Davis room. You may be surprised, challenged and rewarded with new insight!

Originally publish in The CHIMES as, “SPIRITUAL GIFTS – WHAT ARE THEY (Part 4)?