|Vol. 2, No. 7||Page 13||July 2000|
My Father’s Business: The Evangelist
“And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:”This demonstrates an internal role for the evangelist.
“Evangelist” is a difficult office to identify today. For some reason, churches today are more concerned with a “ministry” than with having an “evangelist.” It gets even more confusing when you look at all the different kinds of “ministers” there are. Some of the larger congregations have a “pulpit minister” as well as one or more “associate ministers,” while turning the young over to a “youth minister,” the weak to an “involvement minister” and everyone who is not being served by some other minister can see their “family life minister.” Even more disturbing is when one sees women being described in a “minister’s” office. One congregation is currently advertising for a “female youth minister.”
Timothy was told by his mentor, Paul, in 2 Timothy 4:2, “Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.” He went on in verse 5, “But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.” Though ministry is involved, the work is that of an evangelist.
The letters to Timothy and Titus are often referred to as “pastoral” epistles, under the false notion that evangelists are pastors. Even in the previously mentioned passage (Ephesians 4:11), we see these mentioned as two separate offices. To understand the work of the evangelist, a close examination of these two letters is in order.
First, let’s understand the meaning of the word “evangelist”: (euangelistes) “a messenger of good, denotes a preacher of the gospel” (The Expanded Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words). For one to be an evangelist, one must be a messenger, or proclaimer, of the good news of the Gospel. A look at the work of the evangelist in Scripture shows the Gospel was preached both to those outside and those already in the church.
An evangelist is to preach. In 2 Timothy 4:2, this concept includes: to reprove (convince), rebuke and exhort, which is done with patience and doctrine (or teaching). It is interesting that at least two of the three things Paul tells Timothy to do are negative in tone. To “reprove” and “rebuke” require the use of negative instruction. The prophet Jeremiah was taught by God, “See, I have this day set thee over the nations and over the kingdoms, to root out, and to pull down, and to destroy, and to throw down, to build, and to plant” (Jeremiah 1:10). Most of what Jeremiah had to do prior to building and planting was negative. Sometimes the ground must be cleared before planting of new seed will result in the desired harvest.
As we have already seen, preaching also includes the need to “watch” and to “minister” (2 Timothy 4:5). In order for the evangelist to be effective in his work, there are several things he must do both to prepare the soil and to cultivate it as it germinates. Second Timothy 1:13 says, “Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus.” An evangelist must ensure his own words are sound by staying within the boundaries of Scripture. To do that, an evangelist must “study to show thyself approved” (2 Timothy 2:15). Beyond self, the preacher must also see to the needs of the congregation. In 2 Timothy 2:2, we read, “And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.” An effective preacher of the Gospel must help others to learn the will of God. In so doing, he must also “shun profane and vain babblings” (2 Timothy 2:16) because they will increase ungodliness. When they persist, the preacher must also be ready to “correct those in opposition” (2 Timothy 2:25).
One task of the preacher or evangelist that is most often associated with the eldership is that of being “watchful in all things” (2 Timothy 4:5). The Ephesian elders were told by Paul to “watch” the flock (Acts 20:31), after being admonished to “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock” and to shepherd the church away from false teachers. This concern is also given to the evangelist, not so much the shepherding, but the need to watch and to “guard” (1 Timothy 6:1). False teachers are those who “come in” as well as those who are already among us who “rise up” and act like sheep while, in reality, are ravening wolves “not sparing the flock.” The evangelist must assist in watching, and when necessary, sounding the warning so the flock may be spared.
Finally, and certainly not least, it is the evangelist’s task to “. . . set in order the things that are wanting” (Titus 1:5). In the case with Titus, this particularly referenced the need to “ordain” elders. This does not mean that the evangelist has any particular special position over the elders. The very word “ordain” means to “designate,” and includes the idea of a voting type of selection. One word that is translated “ordain” literally means a “hand-raiser,” in other words a “vote.” The example given in Acts 6:3 shows that this was the method used. Here, the apostles did the “appointing,” but only after the rest of the disciples had already selected the men to be used, based on the qualifications given. This method shows the role of the evangelist in this process: to teach the qualifications for elders to the congregation, assist men in meeting these qualifications and, once qualified men exist, set things in order by having the congregation seek out those men to appoint.
The work of the evangelist in equipping the saints for
the work of ministry is highly important, especially since he is a kind
of “point man,” usually there before qualified elders can be brought to
that position. The need for faithful Gospel preachers is as great today
as at any time since God’s business began, 2000 years ago. I am told that
the numbers of men desiring to preach the Gospel are dwindling. One of
the reasons I believe this is the case is the lack of support many receive,
both physical and spiritual, from the brethren. In too many congregations,
the preacher is automatically an object of suspicion. This is unfortunate
as a workman is “worthy of his hire.” Instead of suspecting every man who
preaches the Gospel, let us do a better job of giving him the spiritual
and physical support he needs to do the work that God has given him to
do. After all, it will only help to better equip and mature us in our work
in our “Father’s business.”