The Evangelist and Community
As a young, emerging Evangelist, I went off to Bible college to be a preacher. Yet, I didn’t feel the slightest bit excited about taking on a church. People kept asking me what I was going to do with my Bible degree and I had no idea. The more I was asked, the more uncertain I became; so much so that I nearly dropped out.
I loved seeing people make decisions for Christ and I was frustrated with churches that were not focused on making this the main thing. An elder advised me to look into foreign missions. I think his heart was in the right place, but I also believe he was looking to create as much space as he could because my intensity for the lost made him uncomfortable.
With no ambition to pastor and no job postings advertising jobs for Evangelists, the way forward was not simple for me. I had big ambitions to share the Gospel, but no resources, no team, and no practical experience. All the pieces would not fully click together until years later when my pastor turned to me and observed, “All you’re missing is community...”
The mighty preacher T.D. Jakes spoke at the Global Leadership Summit in 2010 about surrounding yourself with people who complete you instead of those who compete with you. This core leadership principle is at the heart of building team. It’s the first step toward finding a place to belong, as well as being able to use your gift in context where it is valued. Jakes’ message taught me that instead of surrounding myself with people just like me, I needed to be comfortable with different. Rather than moving to a remote jungle far away from the local church, I needed to move toward her.
As I considered my pastor’s advice, I came to realize that I needed community on every level. I recognized that I needed to grow spiritually and so that I could contribute to the Body of Christ. Jakes’ teaching would become timely in how I would move forward just months after my late wife, Amy passed away. Truthfully, I took the importance of community for granted and didn’t realize it until Amy was gone. Today, I praise God for another chance at love and ferociously protect my first community now knowing my family’s role and true value in my own well-being.
In order for the Church to grow, the Church also needs different and as an Evangelist, I realized I could help with that. In Jakes’ session, he shared why we need to embrace different by using the analogy of two kinds of people who harness fire. Builders, he said, make fires. They can create them with just a few supplies. However, if builders keep building, the fire quickly gets out of control. On the other hand, bankers maintain fires by scattering ash on the fire. While it looks as though they might put the fire out with their technique, their steady hand sustains the fire once it has been started. Yet, without builders, bankers have nothing to maintain. Both are needed to have fire. Evangelists needs the Church and the Church needs Evangelists.
As an Evangelist, you are a builder. You are a fire starter and an innovator. You never seem to run out of passion for the lost, going new places, meeting lots of people and sharing your faith everywhere you go. Ideas flow naturally and your ideas are probably big. However, as my pastor advised me, and now I submit to you, your greatest potential will only be realized in community.
If you are just getting started, you might be wondering how you even begin to engage a community so that you can move toward your dreams. Or maybe you had a false start and have been disappointed in the community. Wherever you are at in your process, understanding different levels of community may help prevent the Evangelist from placing false expectations on others, or from becoming disillusioned from a perceived lack of support from their community while trying to build a support base.
Returning to T.D. Jakes, he sorts supporting communities into three levels. First, he defines confidantes as family and very close friends. They are for you. They are not part of the Evangelist’s public life and the Evangelist shouldn’t seek to bring them into public life. They don’t have a dog in the fight and will support us no matter what. Next, Jakes describes constituents as those who are for what you are for. They are not for you and may in fact leave you for another group moving in the same direction. He explains that people in this category need continual mission and vision alignment to continue moving forward with a cause that matters to them. Finally, Jake describes comrades as those who are against what you are against. They need a cause to fight for and if one isn’t provided, they may very well turn and fight you.
I discovered the following pathway following my wife’s passing and if I had to start again today, I would prioritize, invest in and cultivate community in this order. If you find that this is a felt need in your personal life and ministry, I encourage you to borrow my pathway as you build your ministry:
- God, Family & Close Friends. I will never neglect my confidantes and put my work over the relationships that matter most. (Proverbs 11:29, 15:27 & 1 Timothy 5:8)
- Sending Church. I will dedicate myself to a community of believers and submit myself and my gifts to my home church’s leadership. I will tithe and exercise my gifting in the local church without the expectation that my church will support my ministry, trusting God that he will supply my needs. I will humbly ask my church to commission me and my ministry into the community as an Evangelist sent out by my local church. (Leviticus 27:30, Acts 13:1-4, Romans 1:11-12, Romans 10:15, 12:3-13, 2 Corinthians 9:7 & Philippians 4:19)
- Ministry Partners. I will invite my constituents to pray for, give to and do the work of the Evangelist. I will truly partner and pray for my support base on a regular basis. I will find creative ways to express my appreciation and to create moments to minister to those who support me. (Philippians 1:3–11)
- Collaborative Alliance. I will actively seek out ways to network with like-minded Evangelists to stimulate my ministry’s growth through learning, information sharing and collaborative efforts for the Gospel. (1 Corinthians 3:7-9)
- Community-at-Large. I will prayerfully, and at the invitation of church leaders, act as a statesman on behalf of the church in the community and the listening world. I will call the church to keep the main thing the main thing and rally her around the preaching of the Gospel. I will lead a life of integrity in the public eye so as to not embarrass the church or taint the image of Jesus Christ to those who have yet to receive Him. (Acts 18:4, 1 Corinthians 1:17, 2 Corinthians 1:12, 2 Timothy 4:5 & Philippians 1:27)
 See footnote 1, page 144.
 See link in footnote 1, page 145-146.
Tom Miyashiro (@trmbomb) founded Faith 2 Faith Ministries (f2fmi) in 2001. F2fmi is spreading the Gospel in New England through youth focused, community based outreach in partnership with the Church. Their heart is to understand youth culture and operate within its context, and to present Christ in a language teenagers can understand. Through innovative approaches, connections across denominational lines and equipping Christian teens to share Christ with their friends, their goal is to make Jesus famous again in one of the least-reached areas in America.