Whose job is the work of evangelism? The pastor’s? Or the laity’s?
Now most lay people are going to say that it is the job of the pastor. Most pastors will say that it is the job of the laity. Who is correct?
When we look at the question posed, we must ask about the intentions. In terms of whose ‘job’ it is, it is the job of the pastor to teach the new member class and to exercise the Office of the Keys in administering the sacraments and forgiving and retaining sins.
But when we look at the second half, in terms of whose ‘work’ it is, one can easily say that it is the work of the Holy Spirit, and then everyone is off the hook. But the truth is that the Holy Spirit works through both the clergy and the laity; so the work of evangelism, the work of inviting people to church and sharing the Gospel, in whatever complex or simplistic form it may be shared, is the work of all believers.
So the work is to be done by all; but let us take a look at the prospective hearer of the Gospel, i.e.: the unbeliever.
Who would the unbeliever like to hear the Gospel from? Or better yet, who would they be more likely to hear the Gospel from? Not ‘hear’ in terms of who is more likely to knock on their door, but ‘hear’ in terms of having hearts and ears that are open and willing to hear the Gospel.
One would suspect that answer would be that unbelievers want to hear the Gospel from the pastor, because the pastor is the one trained to share the Gospel and can answer questions and challenges that may follow the sharing of the Gospel.
But allow me to argue otherwise.
An unbeliever who sees a pastor is automatically expecting to hear the Gospel and reasons why the unbeliever should believe. And so upon seeing the pastor, the unbeliever puts up his defenses and hardens his heart, so that no matter what the pastor may or may not say, the unbeliever is ready to ignore the Gospel and share typical excuses that they have tested and prepared on why they cannot or will not believe.
On the other hand, when a lay person approaches, those defenses are not raised; they remain low because they are not expecting to hear the Gospel spoken. And so when the Gospel is spoken, the hearts and ears are soft and more willing to hear what is shared. And when the Gospel is heard in a friendlier environment, honest questions about the Gospel will follow.
This is also true of people who are in-actives; the pastor is the one who is expected to call and is expected to discuss the lack of church attendance. So when they see the pastor, the defenses are raised and the heart hardened. But when the one who calls is a fellow member, the opportunity for a hearing is increased dramatically. And those tested excuses are not as readily available, and one might share what is really bothering them about the faith.
Now the pastor is certainly not excluded, the individual lay person may get the door open allowing others to enter; and the pastor may need to come in and help with answering some questions and overcoming some hurdles, or even offering forgiveness for past sins.
And neither the pastor nor the lay person is going to accomplish a full conversion in one visit. It will ordinarily take several visits and much discussion. But they are visits and discussions that need to take place if the unbeliever is to become a believer.
So whose job is the work of evangelism? It is the job of the Holy Spirit working through the Church, both the clergy and the laity.