What is the Difference Between an Evangelist & an Apostle?

Red and green arrows

Evangelists help churches grow up, while apostles help churches grow out

[This is part of a series called “What is the difference between an evangelist and an apostle?” check out the other posts here]

In a recent post I wrote about the apostolic role as planter and how they love starting new things. Especially when it is new things that involve lots of new people that are checking out Jesus.

But a question arose in my head as I was writing the post:

Why does that mean you are apostolic and not just evangelistic? What is the difference?

For years I have been trained, developed and called an evangelist in InterVarsity. I had great language for the evangelist gifts and calling and I would have said everything written above is what evangelists care about. But that was because I didn’t have language for the apostolic.

All apostolic people plant things. Not all evangelists do.

“The evangelist is the recruiter to the cause, the naturally infectious person who is able to enlist people into the movement by transmitting the gospel.”[1]

“The apostle is tasked with the overall vigor, as well as extension of Christianity as a whole, primarily through direct mission and church planting. As the name itself suggests, it is the quintessentially missional ministry, as ‘sentness’ (Latin mission) is written into it (apostello = sent one).” [i]

Trans-local vs. Super-local

Apostles are what we would call trans-local: they are generally sent outside the local group to go and plant things that are not happening. They travel outside of the local area and sphere of the mother/founding church.

Evangelists are what we would call super-local: they are generally very connected to the local sphere and founding church and help build on that. They are the recruiters and they tend to have one foot in the church and one foot outside. They make relationships with outsiders and then recruit them to Jesus and the local church.

And when I say build I mean they recruit outsiders and lead them to the gospel of Jesus  but connect them to what already exists. They help existing churches grow up and become bigger.

The bug to plant and start new communities of faith is the apostolic bug and we cannot confuse this with the evangelistic. I did this for too long and it didn’t help me understand my calling better.

Now, you can be an evangelistic apostle and this is what I am. This is part of the reason it was so hard for me to understand the difference, but also why the language of the apostolic, when I finally got doused with it, really hit me and opened up a whole new world of thinking for me.

It was literally like I could hear God ten times more clearly once I finally knew what the apostolic was and how it was different from an evangelistic calling.

Here is how you can tell the difference between an evangelist and an apostle.

Apostle/planter

  • Wants to go outside the local church/community
  • Wants to start something new for people “outside” the church
  • Doesn’t have a need or intention to bring “the new” thing back to the local community or church.
    • They are just fine letting it be its own thing and/or a new church. In fact they may really prefer it.
  • Would much rather decentralize and help people move out to the margins and start new things than keep building up one local community or church.
  • Is often motivated to go by themself or with a team of people to go start something new completely away from and maybe outside of the local movement. They don’t feel the need for the group to back them up. There can be a “I am going to go do this whether anyone is coming or not” attitude in them.

Read: How to Identify An Apostolic Leader

Evangelist/recruiter

  • Wants to reach people outside the church/community but wants to stay connected to the local community/church.
  • Loves sharing the gospel and promoting Jesus to people they know and beyond.
  • Likes inviting outsiders to planned events or talks at the church designed for outsiders.
  • Likes being in “the know” at the church/community, but wants to spend most its time outside the community with others not knowing Jesus.
  • Wants the local community to be really high quality so that they can recruit well to it.
  • Like seeing the community grow bigger and more full of new Christians.
  • Doesn’t necessarily want to start a new thing or lead something. They are more motivated to troll the edges and make relationships with outsiders and help them feel welcome open to the gospel.

Read: How to Identify an Evangelist in Your Ministry

In a nut shell, apostolic people want to start new faith communities for people who don’t know God in areas where Jesus activity isn’t happening. Evangelists want to reach new people who are not hearing the gospel and recruit them to Jesus and communities that already exist.

Evangelists are not driven the same way planters are to start new things. And planters don’t have the ability to recruit and the gospel clarity that a lot of evangelists have.

We need them both, but lets not confuse them!

What do you think of my distinction between apostle and evangelist? What would you add or take away? Please let us know in the comments.

[i] Hirsch, Alan, and Tim Catchim. The Permanent Revolution: Apostolic Imagination and Practice for the 21st Century Church. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2012. Print.

[This is part of a series called “What is the difference between an evangelist and an apostle?” check out the other posts here]

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Beyond Awkward
When talking about Jesus is outside your comfort zone

"Beau brilliantly shows us how to embrace our fear of evangelism and boldly move past it!" - DAVE FERGUSON - New Thing Network

About Beau Crosetto

Beau is the author of "Beyond Awkward: when talking about Jesus is outside your comfort zone". He called by God is to raise up and release people that want to start new ministries (apostolic) as well as people that want to share their faith (evangelists). He currently is the Greater Los Angeles Director for Greek InterVarsity and in charge of specifically seeing new Greek (fraternity & sorority) InterVarsity chapters start on college campuses. Beau is married to Kristina and they have two kids: Noah (4) and Sophia (2).

  • http://jesus.scilla.org.uk/ Chris Jefferies

    It’s a good post, Beau. There is certainly a clear distinction between apostles and evangelists, and we could add prophets, shepherds and teachers to that list.

    What do you think of the idea that apostles are catalytic generalists who usually bring along a share of all of those other abilities when they go out to start something new? That is certainly the way Neil Cole sees it, and I tend to agree. This video explains it far better than I can – http://www.cmaresources.org/video/APEST-team_n-cole . The relevant section starts at 9 mins 45 secs but it’s good to hear the earlier stuff too.

    Neil writes on his blog, ‘I believe that part of the apostolic genius is not so much the apostle’s own hands-on ministry, as it is his or her ability to get others to spread the message.’ – http://cole-slaw.blogspot.co.uk/2012/03/gift-of-apostle-catalyzes-movement.html

    Is this also how you see apostles or do you have a different view?

    It’s really useful to think and share around these ideas. Thanks for your post!

    • http://releasetheape.com Beau Crosetto

      Chris: I agree with everything you say and will be writing posts on those things you suggest. Cole is great! This post was highlighting two callings that I think we mix up frequently. Since we don’t have great language for evangelists or apostles, we tend to blur them in my mind. Both these callings are “extending” the kingdom (apostles planting and evangelists by reaching new people) so It’s easy to clump them.

      • Faith

        I so enjoyed your explanation on the difference between the office of an Evangelist and the office of an Apostle. Someone had asked on a different site the difference and I googled and found your explanation. It was well worth the time in googling. You are such great (teaching), explanation.

        • http://beaucrosetto.com Beau Crosetto

          Thank you faith!

  • http://jesus.scilla.org.uk/ Chris Jefferies

    I see we are on the same page :-)

    Unfortunately not many people have been exposed to this sort of thinking. Certainly here in the UK most people would be unlikely to think beyond pastors and evangelists. Apostles were only for the early church (or maybe there were only ever twelve of them) and evangelists go on missions.

    So reading your post may help open some minds – if they get to see it.

    Thanks again!

  • http://twitter.com/Shelton_Brit Brittany Shelton (@Shelton_Brit)

    Beau–
    Great post!
    Would you be willing to share more on your experience as an evangelistic apostle? I would like to learn more about how these two gifts work together in a gift set!

    • http://releasetheape.com Beau Crosetto

      Brittany,

      I would love to! I can write some more posts on the topic for sure detailing more of my insights. Feel free to comment again or shoot me an email with specific questions you want answers to.

  • http://www.facebook.com/bob.mullins.96 Bob Mullins

    So then an apostle starts new things… with what? Paul went to new territories & started churches amongst pagans…. so how did they become followers of Jesus if not by hearing the Gospel evangelistically from Paul ? I think you have these two gifts confused. An Evangelist causes the church to grow out…by winning people to Christ…but lack the ability to mature them….the apostle establishes them and puts authority & leadership in place that enables them (now the church) to grow up….apostles usually operate in all of the five-fold ministries mentioned in Eph 4.

    • http://beaucrosetto.com Beau Crosetto

      Bob, you make a good point. I guess my language could be more clear. What I am trying to say is that the apostle is most responsible/gifted to make new churches (out) and the evangelists wins people to the Lord and tends to recruit them to the church making it grow (up). No doubt that Paul had both and used both. I see your point about me having it backwards and I think that is a valid way to talk about it too.

  • Apostle Bell

    i like that grow out and grow up but i agree with the article too

  • http://commonplacechaplaincy.wordpress.com commonplacechaplaincy

    Beau,

    I met you once at an IV event at Bel Air Pres. I was playing drums for Audrey Tom.

    I really enjoyed your post and thoughts on evangelist/apostolic functions. I feel like I connect more with the apostolic descriptions and feel a sense to plant. But I have had an inner anxiety and battle to do it.

    As an evangelist/apostle, have you ever had these feelings when you sense a call to plant/start something new, even if you’re by yourself?

    You also mention that planters don’t have the ability to recruit or present the gospel with clarity. Can you please elaborate on this?

    Thanks again for the great post. I also believe that we need more language to articulate the the role of the apostle/evangelist, especially for people like me who came out of charismatic circles where those titles were thrown around flippantly.

    Peace,
    Roy

    • http://beaucrosetto.com Beau Crosetto

      Roy, Thanks for reading and glad the article was helpful.

      1) All the time I get the urge to start something new and feel by myself or all alone. I think that is part of the apostolic life. We tend to be out on a limb many times. But I always try my best to include community still. If I sense I need to start something new, I will always tell my friends and mentors and see if any of them want to help me. Or I look for other younger people that may want to help and just need some courage from me to get going. If no one will do it with me and I really think it needs to happen, then I go do it alone but I have people praying for me and asking me questions about it. It is still a communal call but I may do the “task” alone. I would encourage you never to just go start stuff and not process with community first and during.

      2) Sorry if I was not clear but I did not mean that planters don’t have the ability to recruit or present the gospel with clarity but that evangelists are more gifted and usually better at this naturally. I think many great planters can do these things well. But what makes an apostle truly apostolic is their gifting to break new ground and start new things. What makes an evangelist truly gifted is their ability to share the gospel well, clearly and in a connecting way so people come to Christ. I didn’t mean it to be a limiting definition, just a way to help you see the core function of each calling.

      Hope that helps, keep asking questions. I love it!