And so it began… the Great Commission, delivered by Christ to his remaining eleven apostles before his final ascension. In the millennia that followed, Christianity was spread by his command to every corner of the Earth, to all nations, baptizing, making disciples of men, and saving souls.
Evangelist ministry continues this great work, following in the footsteps of those apostles. It’s both exciting work and vital. All ministries follow some of His commandments. But evangelism ministry gets to the heart of Christianity, ensuring that every other part of it survives by spreading it to the people.
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Evangelism has taken some twists and turns along dusty tracks since the apostles went their separate ways from that mountain in Galilee. But as long as there are those who are unbaptized, the work will remain.
Will it be your calling to take up that task?
Become a Freelancer in God's Name
What Is an Evangelist Pastor?
Evangelism has become the big tent ministry in American Christianity. That makes it pretty hard to fit everyone who claims to practice evangelism under one easily-understood category.
- You have mass evangelists in the Billy Graham mold, preaching the Gospel to hundreds of thousands at open air revivals, and converting tens of thousands on the spot.
- You have the one-on-one pavement specialists who work the crowds in Times Square, pressing tracts into palms and starting conversations.
- You have modern television and internet-savvy evangelists such as Joel Osteen, reaching tens of millions through broadcast and streaming services.
- And you have the street preachers with their megaphones, echoing through the urban canyons with their testimony.
Evangelism doesn’t know any national boundaries, either. Many missionaries are evangelist pastor.
In the United States, if you ask the question “What is an evangelist pastor?” one name almost always springs to mind: The Reverend Billy Graham.
Graham almost singlehandedly changed the face of American evangelical ministry. His massive rallies, hosting sometimes hundreds of thousands, were televised to an even broader audience of millions. He was an innovator in the use of television and radio in evangelism. According to Billy Graham Crusades, more than 3 million people eventually found God through his efforts.
After conducting more than 400 crusades in 185 countries, you might think Graham didn’t have time for much else. But he became pastor to presidents and peacemaker among denominations. He was the first evangelist to speak behind the Iron Curtain, and to travel to South Africa to denounce apartheid. He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom and made a Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire.
Graham’s dynasty as an evangelist paved the way for others in evangelical ministry and set a standard of moral rectitude, forgiveness, and audacity that every evangelist must aspire to today.
But every evangelical ministry is unique because every one of God’s children is unique. Your way of practicing the ministry will be different from anyone else. And that’s a great thing, because the way to reach the next non-believer will also be unique. Different messages, different deliveries, different ideas resonate with different people. You have to be different, because what works will be different every time.
Evangelist ministries are among the great power and blessing of Christianity; they proclaim His salvation not on the basis of birth or wealth or fame, but simply to those who believe and accept Him in their hearts.
For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed. For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.
Reaching people and sparking that belief is the goal of every evangelical ministry. It is a charge that is laid on all Christians, but not all pursue it with such focus.
In short, you can separate evangelist ministries from more conventional ministries in that their primary goal is to convert people to Christianity. They may choose many different methods to get there. But that story of innovation and enterprise is the story of Christianity.
What Is the Job Description of an Evangelist Pastor?
The basic job description of an evangelist is pretty straightforward from a Scriptural standpoint:
How evangelists go about fulfilling those duties is left to their own designs. Evangelist ministry is a great opportunity to be a freelancer in God’s name, reaching out to people in all the different ways it takes to get their attention.
For some evangelicals, this means taking to television or social media, spreading the Word through the latest technological means to new audiences worldwide.
For others, it means getting up early and pounding the pavement in teams of two, going door to door as the original apostles did to bring the Word directly to individual households in cities and in the country.
And for others still it means drawing in skills of organization and leadership, throwing massive revivals filled with music, joy, and a call to accept him and be baptized.
Aimee Semple McPherson exemplified originality in her evangelical ministry. Conducted in the early 1900s, when any sort of female preacher was all but unknown and certainly faced great prejudice, her style of ministry broke boundaries and reached thousands who might never otherwise have heard the Word of God.
McPherson, popularly known as Sister Aimee, or even just Sister, got an early start on the road to evangelism: as a child, her favorite game was playing “Salvation Army” and she would line up her dolls and preach sermons to them.
Sister married an evangelist and went to China with him to share the Gospel, contracting malaria along the way. Her husband died, but Sister returned to United States. Landing in LA, she combined her calling with the currents of show-business and built the Angelus Temple—one of the first megachurches.
Sister filled the seats with entertaining sermons with title like “Arrested for Speeding.” For that one, she drove a police motorcycle up to the pulpit and shouted to the audience, “Stop! You’re speeding to Hell!”
With elaborate set-pieces and metaphorical productions, Sister delivered up to 22 sermons per week. She used the techniques of radio, movies, and the stage to win converts to Christ… and did it as a woman in an era when few women preached at all.
This enormous variety is great news for anyone called to evangelism. It means you can put your personal aptitudes into winning new disciples, whatever those strengths may be. Every part of your heart and soul will be absorbed in this calling. He will give you the strength to complete it.
For evangelists, evangelical ministry is less a job and more a way of life.
How To Become an Evangelist Pastor
In the purest sense, you don’t need to do anything to become an evangelist other than walk out your door and began preaching the word of God to those you meet.
But a calling so powerful and so important demands more. The Lord needs servants who can do more than just testify to their own experience and belief; you must also be able to connect with and convince others.
To become a succesful evangelist means mastering both theological and secular skills. In the area of religion, you should learn things like:
Scripture - If you are going to deliver God’s message to people, you had better understand it forward and backwards. Degrees for evangelists focus heavily on Gospel and Scriptural studies. At more advanced levels, you’ll learn to read and interpret these in the original Greek or Hebrew. In all cases, you’ll be expected to analyze and demonstrate strong comprehension of meaning in context.
Christian apologetics - Evangelists are some of the biggest users of Christian apologetics, or the art of making logical arguments in support of Christianity. The goal of winning converts ends with belief—it doesn’t start with it. You have to be able to make effective, winning arguments with factual and logical support. As an evangelist, you’ll also find yourself regularly challenged with arguments from non-believers. There are convincing and effective ways to defeat those arguments that you will learn in these courses.
Discipleship - Evangelists must also be models of what is good and right in Christianity. Coursework in discipleship helps you examine and perfect your own beliefs and behavior in line with the Lord’s teachings. Your very life and livelihood will become a powerful argument in His service.
Eschatology - While you are bringing people the good news of His word, it’s also important not to shrink from the result of choosing the alternative. Eschatology is the science of the end times, the consequence of turning your back on His offer of salvation. To preach transformation and redemption, you’ll need to study what we are being redeemed from and how transformation saves us all as judgement comes.
And in terms of more general skills, evangelists need to develop expertise in:
Communications - Connecting with people is the root of the evangelical path. You need to be able to communicate on their terms, in language they understand. So college coursework in English, writing, and rhetoric all build valuable skills for you as a future evangelical pastor.
Organization - Outreach is an active enterprise that involves many people and many organizations. Throwing a big-tent revival requires coordinating hundreds or thousand; putting on a television program takes split-second timing and command of technical details. College coursework in leadership, management, and general problem-solving can be key for evangelists with a big mission in mind.
Social and cultural studies - Knowing your audience is a big part of being a successful evangelist. The saying “preaching to the choir” describes a real danger for evangelicals. If your message only resonates with people like you, you’ve already failed. So the general historical, social, and cultural coursework you get in college ministry programs are a big deal to hone your message.
A Degree in Christian Ministry Offers the Skills You Need to Evangelize Successfully
You won’t be surprised to learn that a college degree puts all of these skills together and teaches them to you in one bundle.
You won’t find very many degrees, at any level, that are labeled as degrees in evangelical ministry. But you will find a lot of overlap between evangelism and degrees in:
And you will also find that some degrees are offered with concentrations in outreach or evangelism. That allows you to specialize your studies in the area.
Associate Degrees Offer a Grounding in Ministry for Evangelizing
Associate degree are two-year courses of study that help you get your foot in the door in evangelical ministry. They offer the introductory level of coursework you need to feel comfortable in your ministry. That includes basic Biblical studies and general liberal arts and communications studies.
This can help you land entry-level positions assisting in evangelical ministries or outreach. The most powerful use of an associate degree, though, may be as a transfer degree. In some cases, where schools can agree on the similarity of their coursework, you can use an associate to fulfill the first two years of a bachelor's degree.
Qualifying for Evangelist Ministry Jobs With a Bachelor's Degree
Bachelor's studies in evangelical ministry are where the ball really gets rolling. This is considered an essential qualification for many evangelical ministry jobs, because of the unique combination of critical-thinking and religious skills it offers.
Over the course of four years, you get a pretty well-rounded education in important Christian leadership and secular skills combined. The degree can land you a job in many non-profit and faith-based organizations as well as with churches. And it equips you much better for a life of evangelical preaching and conversion.
A Master's Degree Is Required for Ordained Evangelical Pastors
Not all evangelicals are called to become ordained pastors. For those who are, a master's degree in divinity or a similar advanced degree will almost always be required.
A master's program offers more than just checking a box on your denomination's application for ordination, though. At anywhere from two to four years in length, these degrees put all the general studies coursework behind in favor of a clear focus in ministry.
Even better, they allow you to focus specifically on your brand of ministry. Specializations in outreach, leadership, and evangelism are common with divinity, ministry, or pastoral studies degrees. And your specific coursework can often be customized even further by aiming your thesis or capstone project at a focus area that you decide on.
Practical experience is also a gift that comes at the master's degree level of study.
Internships and practicum placements put you on the ground with practicing evangelists, where you can learn from and be mentored by experienced practitioners in the field.
Almost every evangelist that you have ever looked up to will have earned a master's degree in the field at some point. You can consider this level of study as the capstone of your own development as an evangelical pastor.
Perfecting Your Ministry Through Doctoral Studies in Evangelism
It's also possible to go even further in your education as an evangelist, through a doctoral degree program. A Doctor of Ministry (DMin) is the most common type, though PhD (Doctor of Philosophy) programs might also fit your goals.
These are typically pursued later in your career, when you feel the pull for something beyond mastery: for deep contemplation, perspective, and the most advanced teaching and evangelical skills to apply to your ministry.
Through your doctoral dissertation or capstone project, you have opportunities to break new ground in evangelism and theology. Like The Reverend Graham—who held several honorary doctorates in divinity—you may have what it takes to influence the next generation of evangelists in your own innovation and teachings.
A legacy of bringing souls to salvation for generations is no bad thing to leave behind. And that's the opportunity a career in evangelism ministry offers you.