The evangelist is one who is anointed to preach the gospel. His messages are designed to lead people to repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. They are accompanied by miracles that attract the attention of unbelievers and convict them of the truthfulness of his message.
No doubt there were many evangelists in the early church, but only one man is listed in the book of Acts as being an evangelist. His name was Philip: “And entering the house of Philip the evangelist, who was one of the seven, we stayed with him” (Acts 21:8, emphasis added).
Philip began his ministry as a servant (or perhaps “deacon”) who waited on tables (see Acts 6:1-6). He was promoted to the office of evangelist around the time of the persecution of the church that arose in connection with Stephen’s martyrdom. His first preached the gospel in Samaria:
And Philip went down to the city of Samaria and began proclaiming Christ to them. And the multitudes with one accord were giving attention to what was said by Philip, as they heard and saw the signs which he was performing. For in the case of many who had unclean spirits, they were coming out of them shouting with a loud voice; and many who had been paralyzed and lame were healed. And there was much rejoicing in that city (Acts 8:5-8).
Notice that Philip had one message—Christ. His goal was to begin making disciples, that is, obedient followers of Christ. So he proclaimed Christ as miracle worker, Son of God, Lord, Savior and soon-coming Judge. He urged people to repent and follow his Lord.
Also notice that Philip was equipped with supernatural signs and wonders that authenticated his message. One who stands in the office of evangelist will be anointed with gifts of healings and other spiritual gifts. The false church only has false evangelists who proclaim a false gospel. The world is full of such evangelists today, and it is obvious that God is not confirming their message with miracles and healings. The simple reason is because they are not preaching His gospel. They don’t really preach Christ. They usually preach about people’s needs and how Christ can give them abundant life, or they preach a formula of salvation that doesn’t include repentance. They lead people into a false conversion that salves their guilt but doesn’t save them. The results of their preaching is that people have even less of a chance of ever being born again, because now they see no need to receive what they think they already have. Such evangelists actually help build Satan’s kingdom.
The office of evangelist is not listed with the other ministry gifts in 1 Corinthians 12:28 as it is in Ephesians 4:11. I assume, however, that the reference there to “miracles and gifts of healings” applies to the evangelist’s office since those characterized Philip the evangelist’s ministry and they would naturally give supernatural authentication to any evangelist’s ministry.
Many who travel from church to church and who call themselves evangelists are not really evangelists because they only preach in church buildings to Christians, and they are not equipped with gifts of healings or miracles. (Some pretend to have such gifts, but they can fool only the naive. Their biggest miracles are getting people to fall over temporarily when they push them over.) These traveling ministers may be teachers or preachers or exhorters (see Rom. 12:8), but they do not stand in the office of evangelist. It is possible, however, that God might begin a person’s ministry as an exhorter or preacher and later promote him to the office of evangelist.
For further study concerning the office of evangelist, read Acts 8:4-40, a record of Philip’s ministry. Notice there the importance of the inter-dependence of the ministry gifts (see in particular verses 14-25) and how Philip not only preached the gospel to the multitudes but was led of God to minister to individuals as well (see Acts 8:25-39).
It seems that evangelists are commissioned to baptize their converts, but they are not necessarily commissioned to minister the baptism in the Holy Spirit to new believers. That would primarily be the responsibility of apostles or pastors/elders/overseers.