What comes to mind when you hear the word “evangelist?” Some Elmer Gantry type with big hair and a slick suit preaching with a microphone in hand? If so, you’re likely to disregard Paul’s mandate to do the work of an evangelist. But let’s consider this word a bit closer.
Bishop Bevel Jones, who ordained me, lectured new pastors about our responsibilities as evangelists of the Gospel. I thought he was talking about being dutiful preachers, but he wasn’t. He reminded us that the word evangelist is the combination of two Greek words meaning “good” and “announcement.” In other words, it simply means Good News. He then pointed out that the announcement part of the word is angel. An angel is a messenger. Angels in the Bible simply delivered God’s messages to people. Bishop Jones encouraged us to be ev-angels, persons who shared Good News with people, especially when we aren’t in the pulpit!
I was reminded of this some years later when an older gentleman came to see me. He was 87 and somewhat distraught. His daughter, who attended the church I served, recommended her father talk to me. He was missing God in his life to put it simply. Raised by a grandmother who taught him to love God, he got away from the faith in college studying geology and going on to become a successful scientist for a major oil company. Now, nearing the end of life, he wondered if God loved him.
I listened to him, then explained there was nothing he could do. A tear came in his eye. I said, “Understand, God loves you anyway, regardless of what you do. God’s love for us is more than we can fathom, deeper than the drilling sites you spent your life identifying. The only response we can make is to accept God’s love through Christ as a gift.” He said, “How do I do that?” I told him I was a bit old school about this stuff and recommended we get on our knees, which we did. I led him in a prayer and when he opened his eyes he began crying and saying over and over, “It’s back! The feeling is back!!” as if he was 12-years old sitting next to his grandmother in church.
Every Sunday after that he attended worship, and followed a pattern I found very daunting. He would greet me in the narthex, hug me and say rather loudly, “You’re my angel!” It always created a few stares from people around us. I wasn’t comfortable with his words but I got used to it. I accepted that was how he looked at me, and maybe I was. I had just tried to use the opportunity I was presented to share good news with him. God did the rest.
I remembered my bishop’s mandate, perhaps like Paul’s mandate to Timothy, be an ev-angel! Look for ways to share God’s good news and hope with everyone you can.
So let me ask my opening question a little differently, did you know you are an evangelist? You are called to be an ev-angel!