evangelistIf we can think of the local fundamentalist pastor as a sort of Major General in the Lord’s army, then the fundamentalist Evangelist is rather like a bomber pilot who is called in to drop an explosive load and then flee the scene at top speed. Or he would be like that if bomber pilots stuck around long enough to collect a love offering from their targets before skedaddling.

The job of the fundevangelist is three-fold.

First there is the entertainment portion in which the evangelist plays a weird instrument, does a ventriloquist act, performs Gospel magic, or splits a watermelon on the assistant pastor’s stomach with a sword. In fundy evangelism showmanship is a must. It’s not enough to quote the entire book of Romans from memory — It must be done standing on one foot and juggling hymn books or there’s no point.

Second, the evangelist’s job is as teller of folks tales: this is known as “speaking evangelistically.” These includes the famous evangelist fish story and stories of revival meetings that were planned for a week and were so spirit-filled that they ended up lasting two months. The ability to spin a good yarn is paramount.

Last of all, the speaker is there to root out the seeds of corruption, sin, and worldliness in the church. If the church isn’t particularly sinful or worldly the evangelist may be called upon to invent new and creative sins to prick the collective conscience of the congregation such as informing everyone that a man parting his hair in the middle is a sign of latent homosexuality or that owning unicorn statues will invite demons to take up residence in your living room furniture and hide your car keys.

And for all this work the evangelist is awarded love offerings from the fundamentalist church congregation. It’s not bad work if you can get it.

26 thoughts on “Evangelists”

  1. Fan… tastic. I especially love the bomber simile. Bring on that gospel napalm!

    I’d add some kind of tantalizing hints about the evangelist’s background in sin to the fish story, though. They’re always prefaced with “I don’t want to glorify my past sins” etc., but given the striptease-like vaguery of their autobiographical stories and the sometimes obvious pleasure they get out of horrifying their audiences, I’d say some evangelists are.

  2. I truly believe the evangelist is a ministry position to equip the saints, but I’ve always wondered if the typical evangelist we’re used to seeing is what God meant for the church to have. I need to do a study on this sometime. At least I know the Greek word for evangelist doesn’t mean “story teller”…at least I don’t think it does, does it?

    In my 20+ years in IFB circles, the typical evangelist will show up for a “week of meetings” in a 40 foot trailer, sometimes have a “music team” along with him, have a table set up in the lobby with his music and sermon tapes (the money earned from this will go “back into the ministry” – whatever that means), tell the same jokes, always bring up sermon illustrations about what he has done, and do anything possible to get you down to the “old fashioned altar.” Then he moves on.

  3. LOL— the money will go “back into the ministry”. . .I bet it will!

    I remember an “evangelist” (one of the many I was “blessed” to hear) coming to our church when I was a child, and I spent the night in his rather luxurious travel trailer (since one of his daughters was around my age). I was shocked to find out that he was rude to his wife, and ignored his kids (seriously, they typically got “Ssssh. I’m studying the Bible right now.” when they wanted to talk to him).

    It was rather eye-opening.

    Oh, and I have to add the infamous story always told by every traveling evangelist several times during the week of meetings. The one where some poor soul rejected the Lord after hearing the Gospel “during a week of special meetings just like this week” and died a tragic death on the way home in a car accident (or some variation of this story line).

  4. Great post, but that James Croft guy is SBC and his website quotes from the NKJV…I think his fundy status may be in question! 🙂

  5. The last one that came to our church didn’t have an invitation. He asked us direct questions such as “Do you read your Bibles EVERY Day?” and asked the congregation to raise their hands if their answer was yes. If the majority of the group was negative he would do the opposite, “How many of you do NOT read their Bibles every day?” He would us individually in the eye and then “challenge” us to come forward and repent of our “sin” and consecrate ourselves to reading the Bible everyday.

    I only went to one night and I didn’t bring any unsaved friends and family. Total blasphemy!

    (I think “second-blessings”, consecrations, and Bill Gothard would make great topics for future posts.)

  6. We had a guy once come in and hold us hostage for something like an hour because no one would go forward. He kept saying, “I know there’s someone out there who needs to find Jesus tonight!”

    We had a church of something like 30 people when I was growing up…who was going to be converting that night? Everyone knew everyone!

  7. I remember going to the “prayer time” with my Head-Deacon-Father and the Pastor and the EVANGELIST. The EVANGELIST had a hard time sitting down because of his girth, and then, with a straight face, told us that he would preach on the sinful indulgences of Christians today in music, television, movies. Even then, I had to fight the urge to laugh. Also, the same evangelist saw someone flinch during an invitation hymn, and he SHOUTED DOWN the twiching “sinner” to “get saved”. Craziness.

  8. James Croft guy is SBC and his website quotes from the NKJV

    I know, I cheated. But that poster was just too good to pass up.

  9. I know, I cheated. But that poster was just too good to pass up.

    No, you did not, at least not much. Yes, the man is SBC, so he is not an IFB, but the idea is the same. A SBC church I was once a member of received a mailing from some evangelist that stating that he guaranteed conversions. The entire revival idea is absurd. Do we think that we can schedule God’s blessing?

    The worst part of this post is the trading on the man’s height. He mentions it on his web site, too. What has this got to do with anything? Is this just another gimmick?

    1. If a preacher’s main selling point is that he’s 3’10” tall, you know that his message must be really profound. Right?

  10. I never quite understood that myself. The terms ‘revival’ and ‘evangelist’ have almost become synonymous. It’s as if no revival can take place without an evangelist being present.

    I also remember one evangelist during the invitation who went down the aisle to a lady who raised her hand but didn’t come to the ‘old fashioned altar’ to be saved. As a young Christian at the time I thought what’s wrong with her, but later on I thought the evangelist was wrong. So many of them want results and they want them now! Instead of just being faithful and getting the word out…and…gasp!…letting God work in their heart.

    As for this guy James Croft, not sure why he makes a big deal about his size. Definitely sounds very gimmicky.

  11. The last evangelist that I saw (this was probably 15 years ago) blew into town, convinced everybody to burn their Lion King videotapes (because the Lion King features communication with the dead, of course) and convinced half the congregation that if they “got saved” for the wrong reasons that they were never really “saved”. This was the start of my long journey away from such spiritual abuse. Watching people I truly loved getting duped by a traveling salesman was too much. Whoopty-doo! 45 people “saved”! And not a single one of them hadn’t already claimed to be “saved”! Ach du liebe. I’m feeling dirty just thinking about it.

  12. 1 Corinthians 4:15 Paul says, “For though you have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have you not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel.”

    Paul differentiated himself from those who were merely teachers, calling himself a father to the believers at Corinth. Paul, the Apostle, was also an evangelist. He described his ministry to the Corinthians as being a father, as opposed to being merely a teacher. I have met many Christian workers who are teachers and know nothing about the role of fathering people in the ministry. Does an evangelist (as defined by North American church culture) remind you of a father? The evangelists I have known, know nothing about the role of mentoring believers and do not talk to them as a father would talk to a son. The evangelist, rather, screams to a crowd of people he does not even have a relationship with and he doesn’t even take the time to interact in the lives of real people who have real jobs, facing real issues. A father does not scream at children all day, but interacts with them and speaks to them on a personal level. A father knows his children personally. He knows their names, their temperments, what motivates them, their gifts….and the list goes on. Have you ever met an evangelist who is personally interested in you and has a personal ministry to you? Paul described his ministry as being a father to them as giving birth to them through the gospel. Paul had a personal ministry and he was an evangelist who had the task of the “daily care of the churches.” Do you know of anyone who was in the ministry in the New Testament who did not personally care for the churches? Does this describe the evangelist of the North American church culture, caring for the churches to which they travel?

  13. As to the previous comment, I am reminded of a meeting in which, Paul Schwanke, a well known IFB evangelist was preaching at our church. We were so encouraged by him and his family. I would not want to risk being under the Lord’s displeasure by judging men.

    However, I feel permission from the Lord, that even good men diverge from scripture and good men are often confused about what the scriptures teach, concerning the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
    The office of evangelist as understood by the North American church culture is an abherration from scripture. Follow Paul’s example and you will see a biblical evangelist. Unfortunately, we have created a frankenstein that is of man’s invention and not God’s. Even “good men” get involved in these systems. The problem is when people have more faith in these men than what the Bible says you have idolatry. Also, you must ask if these men of God are approachable people, because the wisdom that is from above is”easily entreated.”

  14. Thanks for your insight Alan. I do not want to say that evangelists have not been used in a great way to minister. I believe they have. But they are a unique breed, and (unfortunately) are often known by personality, oratorical, and musical skills. As such they (at least in my experience) rely heavily on emotion, stories, and self-serving “illustrations” where a successful meeting is often measured in numbers who walked an aisle.

    I’ve pondered the true role of the evangelist in the church now for several years, as the typical IFB evangelists I’ve seen almost always follow the same patterns. As you said, perhaps our church culture has defined their ministry rather than scripture.

  15. True, Stan. I heard a lot of unbiblical teaching from these men, being taught as if they had the authority of scripture backing them at all times. One of my concerns is that you can not call into question their teachings publicly, without taking heat from the pastor or ministry staff. In contrast, I once attended a reformed church, where you could ask a question to the elders about anything they taught that day. It was a public forum. The purpose of this was to clarify anything the listener did not understand and to challenge the elder not to go into unbiblical teaching. I wonder what would happen if you had a forum like this at the end of an evangelist’s meeting? I personally know that homes get wrecked by getting a good substitution of religion for grace in many cases in these meetings. If the elders of the churches were teaching the grace of God, they would build a church of healthy families and would not have to invite a flashy evangelist to do their dirty work. And healthy families would not need to get saved again and again and scratch their heads as to why they are being subjected to mind tricks and gimmicks.

  16. Starting soft and slow
    Like a small earthquake
    And when he lets go
    Half the valley shakes

    Everyone knows it’s
    Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show
    Pack up the babies
    Grab the old ladies
    Everyone goes
    Everyone knows
    Brother Love’s show

  17. I never understood why an “evangelist” whose job it was to “preach the gospel” (isn’t that supposed to mean “good news”?) to convert the “unsaved” was always called to preach a week of “revival meetings”. Isn’t revival for the formerly living? But then we were told to invite all our unsaved friends. (“Our church is dead/dying. Come watch the evangelist give it CPR!”) He would browbeat the church members about their sinful haircuts or music or whatever, and about not meeting their witnessing/sales quotas until they were in tears of guilt, shame, or terror. Then he’d give an invitation for salvation, baptism, and church membership. (“Come join our church, and you can have all the fun that we’re having!”)

Comments are closed.