Gift or Command?
Q. I'm inadequate when it comes to evangelism. My Christian friends tell me I should be "winning souls" everywhere I go. But, unsaved family and friends seem to run the other direction when I witness to them. I have tried to follow Ray Comfort's methods and the "Four Spiritual Laws." Any suggestions?
Evangelism a Separate Gift?
It's possible you don't have a gift for evangelism. The gift of evangelism is distinguished from the other gifts of pastors and teachers, apostles and prophets in Ephesians 4:11. But, this is a controversial subject within the church.
Pastor MacArthur's Viewpoint
Pastor John MacArthur, whom I greatly respect, says that "evangelism is not a gift - it's a command." Jesus said in Mark 16:15…'Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.' He told the Apostles…'ye shall be witnesses unto Me…' (Acts 1:8)."
Regarding the "gifts," Pastor MacArthur is known for holding a view called "Cessationism." This view holds that many gifts are no longer active in the church. Rather, gifts ceased once the canon of Scripture was complete. Therefore, this position may give us understanding as to why MacArthur sees evangelism as a command and excludes it as a gift. This position, however, seems to be at tension with Ephesians 4:11 where evangelism is listed as a separate gift among other gifts.
In contrast to MacArthur, those who hold to "continuationism" believe that the gifts still exist today. Some believe that the miraculous gifts are given through the "laying on of hands." These include healings, words of knowledge, prophesying, discernment of spirits, and tongues.
Ray Stedman points out that we find our gifts in the same way that we discover other talents. How do musicians know they are gifted and talented? How do athletes know that they have unusual physical coordination? We try different things and learn that we enjoy doing certain things while other pursuits are repugnant to us.
List of Gifts
1 Corinthians 12:4-14 lists miraculous gifts such as a Word of Wisdom, Word of Knowledge, Faith, Healings, Miracles, Prophecy, Discernment of spirits, Tongues, and interpretation of tongues.
1 Corinthians 12:27-30 mentions Apostles, Prophets, Teachers, Miracles, Healings, Helps, Administrations, and varieties of tongues.
Romans 12:6-8 lists Prophecy, Ministry, Teaching, Exhortation, Giving, Leading, and showing mercy.
Ephesians 4:11 lists Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors and teachers.
Required of All
Many gifts listed from these four biblical lists are clearly required of all Christians. An example is "faith" or "prayer" and "evangelism." It is possible that these are listed as gifts for those who show a spectacular ability to pray, show faith through difficult circumstances, or to witness like Billy Graham.
The Gifts are not the Fruits of the Spirit
Gifts should not be confused with "fruits" of the Spirit listed in Galatians 5:22. These are clearly for everyone and include traits such as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. This section ends with an exhortation not to become conceited, provoking one another or envying one another. The fruits of the Spirit are mandated for every Christian.
A Review of Commentaries&Scriptures
We suggest that you prayerfully review Scripture passages having to do with gifts and form your own opinion in this matter. Be diligent and do a thorough study of various commentaries on 1 Corinthians 12:4-14, 1 Corinthians 12:27-30, Romans 12:6-8, and Ephesians 4:11.
Good commentaries are available to you through the online source, BlueLetterBible.org. Doing what you are good at and enjoy may be the Holy Spirit nudging you in certain directions. Finally, note if other Christians recognize a gift in you and encourage you to develop it.
Grudem&Gundry. 1996. Are miraculous gifts for today? 4 views. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
MacArthur, John. n.d. How to handle persecution - the mandate to evangelize. Available from: http://www.biblebb.com/files/mac/sg1725.htm.
Blue Letter Bible. www.blueletterbible.org.
Spiritual gift. Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Available from: http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Spiritual_gift&printable=yes.
Stedman, Ray. The power of his presence. Available from: http://www.raystedman.org/power/0316.html.