Lecture presented at Peterborough, England, August 1986.
The Work of an Evangelist
"Then I saw another angel flying in midheaven, with an eternal gospel to proclaim to those who dwell on earth to every nation and tribe and tongue and people; and he said with a loud voice, 'Fear God and give him glory, for the hour of his judgment has come; and worship him who made heaven and earth, the sea and the fountains of water'" (Revelation 14:6,7).
This angelic message, "the glorious gospel of the blessed God" has been entrusted to man (1 Timothy 1:11). "We have this treasure in earthen vessels" (2 Corinthians 4:7). Before his ascension Christ told his followers: "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age" (Matthew 28:18-20). "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned" (Mark 16:15,16).
After conquering death and ascending to the Father, Christ provided for the preaching of the gospel and the edification of the church: "When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men. ... And his gifts were that some should be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, for the equipment of the saints, for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ" (Ephesians 4:8,11-13).
Christ who is himself the Cornerstone gave apostles and prophets as a foundation for the church (Ephesians 2:20). For the equipment of the saints, for the work of ministry and for building up the body He also gave evangelists, pastors and teachers.
In this lesson we are discussing the work of these evangelists whom Christ has given to His church. After defining their function and briefly discussing the message with which they have been entrusted, we will examine their responsiblity to the world and to the church.
What is an evangelist?
The word 'evangelist' is found three times in the N.T. It is an anglicized form of a Greek word which has the same root as the word translated 'gospel' or 'good news.' Thus, an evangelist is 'one who tells good news' or 'a proclaimer of the gospel.'
The verb form of the same word is used 53 times in the N.T. and is usually translated as the equivalent of the separate Greek phrase 'preach the gospel' which is found 11 times. A comparison of the two lists shows that Luke and Paul preferred the word 'evangelize' whereas Matthew and Mark gave preference to the phrase 'preach the gospel.'
A careful examination of these passages reveals that an evangelist and a preacher of the Gospel, Biblically speaking, is exactly the same thing.
Whereas the word 'evangelize' emphasizes the joyous nature of the message, the word 'preach' refers to the public nature of the proclamation. An evangelist is one who publicly proclaims the gospel.
In most passages containing 'preach' or 'evangelize' the message is directed to those who are not yet followers of Christ. Although an evangelist has important responsibilities to the church, his most distinctive work is to preach the gospel to non-Christians.
Evangelists are fishers of men (Matthew 4:19; Luke 5:10). As the slave-girl at Philippi said about Paul and his fellow-workers: "These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation" (Acts 16:17). Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. "But how are men to call upon him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without a preacher?" (Romans 10:14).
An evangelist is a soldier of Christ
Paul admonished Timothy: "Take your share of suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier on service gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to satisfy the one who enlisted him" (2 Timothy 2:3,4). A soldier expects to endure hardship. About his own service Paul said: "We put no obstacle in any one's way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, but as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: through great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, tumults, labours, watching, hunger" (2 Corinthians 6:3-5). [See also 2 Corinthians 11:23-28.] Paul's words were backed by his own example when he wrote to Timothy: "Do not be ashamed then of testifying to our Lord ... but take your share of suffering for the gospel in the power of God" (2 Timothy 1:8).
As a soldier in the service of the King, an evangelist has a right to be supported. "It is the hard-working farmer who ought to have the first share of the crops" (2 Timothy 2:6). Some people think support makes one an evangelist. Biblically speaking, however, it is the other way around. If a man is an evangelist, he ought to be supported. Being an evangelist does not depend on support. Paul was an evangelist even while earning his own living making tents.
Some Christians support evangelists as though they were giving alms to the poor. This is wrong. Brethren are OBLIGATED to support a man who is doing the work of an evangelist. If they refuse they are falling down in their responsibility. As Paul said: "Do we not have the right to our food and drink? ... Or is it only Barnabas and I who have no right to refrain from working for a living? Who serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard without eating any of its fruit? Who tends a flock without getting some of the milk?" (1 Corinthians 9:4,6,7). Although Paul chose not to use this right in certain circumstances, he defends it: "Do I say this on human authority? Does not the law say the same? For it is written in the law of Moses, 'You shall not muzzle an ox when it is treading out the grain.' Is it for oxen that God is concerned? Does he not speak entirely for our sake? It was written for our sake, because the ploughman should plough in hope and the thresher thresh in hope of a share in the crop. If we have sown spiritual good among you, is it too much if we reap your material benefits? ... Do you not know that those who are employed in the temple-service get their food from the temple, and those who serve at the altar share in the sacrificial offerings? In the same way, the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel" (1 Corinthians 9:8-11,13,14).
John gives a similar admonition: "Beloved, it is a loyal thing you do when you render any service to the brethren, especially to strangers, who have testified to your love before the church. You will do well to send them on their journey as befits God's service. For they have set out for his sake and have accepted nothing from the heathen. So we ought to support such men, that we may be fellow workers in the truth" (3 John 5-8).
An evangelist is a man whose foremost goal is to preach the gospel of Christ. He preaches the Word "in season and out of season" (2 Timothy 4:2). As we read of the apostles: "Every day in the temple and at home they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ" (Acts 5:42). Of Paul we read: "So he argued in the synagogue with the Jews and the devout persons, and in the market place every day with those who chanced to be there" (Acts 17:17). "He ... argued daily in the hall of Tyrannus. This continued for two years, so that all the residents of Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks" (Acts 19:9,10). Paul reviewed his work at Ephesus for the elders as follows: "You yourselves know how I lived among you all the time from the first day that I set foot in Asia, serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials which befell me through the plots of the Jews; how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house, testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance to God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. ... Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all of you, for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God. ... Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night and day to admonish every one with tears" (Acts 20:18-21,26,27,31).
Evangelists are stewards.
"This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover it is required of stewards that they be found trustworthy" (1 Corinthians 4:1,2). Evangelists have been entrusted with God's message of reconciliation: "All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. So we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We beseech you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God" (2 Corinthians 5:18-20). "For our appeal does not spring from error or uncleanness, nor is it made with guile; but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please men, but to please God who tests our hearts" (1 Thessalonians 2:3,4). Paul charges Timothy: "O Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to you" (1 Timothy 6:20). "Follow the pattern of the sound words which you have heard from me, in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus; guard the truth that has been entrusted to you by the Holy Spirit who dwells within us" (2 Timothy 1:13,14). "And what you have heard from me before many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also" (2 Timothy 2:2).
An evangelist must keep both himself and his doctrine pure: "Take heed to yourself and to your teaching; hold to that, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers" (1 Timothy 4:16). "Show yourself in all respects a model of good deeds, and in your teaching show integrity, gravity, and sound speech that cannot be censured" (Titus 2:7,8).
As a man of God an evangelist must know the Scriptures and use them properly: "Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth" (2 Timothy 2:15). "All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work" (2 Timothy 3:16,17). An evangelist must "teach what befits sound doctrine" (Titus 2:1).
Men with the ability to do the work of an evangelist have a sacred trust. They must be good stewards of their gifts: "As each received a gift, employ it for one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who utters oracles of God" (1 Peter 4:10,11).
Evangelists have responsibilities both to the world and to the church.
Christ commanded his followers to preach the gospel to the whole world and to teach disciples to observe all that He has commanded. Paul and his fellow evangelists obeyed both aspects of this charge: "When they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith" (Acts 14:21,22).
What is an evangelist's responsibility to the world?
1. Evangelists must go with the gospel.
Jesus set the example: "He went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and preaching the gospel of the kingdom" (Matthew 4:23). "He went about among the villages teaching" (Mark 6:6). "He went on through cities and villages, preaching and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God" (Luke 8:1). Once when the people wanted to prevent him from leaving He replied: "I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other cities also; for I was sent for this purpose" (Luke 4:43). Jesus taught as He traveled: "He went on his way through towns and villages, teaching, and journeying toward Jerusalem" (Luke 13:22).
The twelve, when sent to the lost sheep of the house of Israel during the ministry of Christ, also went to all parts of the country. Jesus had told them: "Preach as you go" (Matthew 10:7). "And they departed and went through the villages, preaching the gospel" (Luke 9:6).
Traveling is required because all must hear the message and there is a shortage of workers. Before sending his disciples Jesus told them: "The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few; pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest" (Matthew 9:37,38; Luke 10:2).
The parochial system is foreign to the New Testament. The responsibility of an evangelist does not stop at the edge of the city where he lives. Since all men are to hear the word, evangelists must go from village to village and from city to city -- even from country to country -- preaching the word. There is no other way to get the job done.
The first century response to the great commission is stated quite simply in Mark 16:20 - "And they went forth and preached everywhere." Of Peter and John we read (after they went to Samaria): "Now when they had testified and spoken the word of the Lord, they returned to Jerusalem, preaching the gospel to many villages of the Samaritans" (Acts 8:25). After the baptism of the eunuch we read of Philip: "But Philip was found at Azotus, and passing on he preached the gospel to all the towns till he came to Caesarea" (Acts 8:40).
2. Evangelists preach to all men.
The gospel must be preached throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations (Matthew 24:14; Mark 13:10). "Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be preached in his name to all nations" (Luke 24:47).
New Testament evangelists preached to whole cities. Of Paul and his fellow-workers we read: "When they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra" (Acts 14:21). When Paul preached at Ephesus the whole province of Asia heard the word (Acts 19:20).
3. Evangelists call men to repentance.
An evangelist must expose the unfruitful works of darkness (Ephesians 5:11). John the Baptist reproved King Herod for having married his brother's wife and for all the evil he had done (Luke 3:19). If John had told Herod: "You can keep her if you let me baptize you" -- like certain false teachers among us today -- instead of: "It is not lawful for you to have her" he might have kept his head (Matthew 14:4).
Jesus said: "The world ... hates me because I testify of it that its works are evil" (John 7:7). He warned that our reception would be no better (Matthew 10:22-25).
Felix was terrified when Paul reasoned with him about justice, self-control and future judgment (Acts 24:25).
Because an evangelist calls men to repentance he need not expect to be popular in this world. As Paul wrote: "we speak, not to please men, but to please God" (2 Thessalonians 2:4).
4. An evangelist fulfills his ministry by preaching the word.
Often, the one who sows is not the one who reaps, but each one does his part and all rejoice together. As Jesus told his disciples: "Do you not say, 'There are yet four months, then comes the harvest?' I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see how the fields are already white for harvest. He who reaps receives wages, and gathers fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. For here the saying holds true, 'One sows and another reaps'" (John 4:35-37).
Paul explained: "Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel" (1 Corinthians 1:17). The results are in God's hands: "I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. He who plants and he who waters are equal, and each shall receive his wages according to his labour" (1 Corinthians 3:6-8).
An evangelist goes and preaches good news of salvation to all. He calls men to repentance and leaves the results with God. "Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labour is not in vain" (1 Corinthians 15:58).
What is an evangelist's responsibility to the church?
1. An evangelist is to edify the church.
Along with elders and teachers, evangelists have been provided to build up the body (Ephesians 4:11). They are to teach disciples to observe all that Christ has commanded (Matthew 28:20). Both publicly and privately they are to declare all that is profitable, the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:20,27). As Paul said: "Him we proclaim, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man mature in Christ" (Colossians 1:28). To the Thessalonians he wrote: "We sent Timothy, our brother and God's servant in the gospel of Christ, to establish you in your faith and to exhort you" (1 Thessalonians 3:2). To Timothy Paul wrote: "If you put these instructions before the brethren, you will be a good minister of Christ Jesus, nourished on the words of the faith and of the good doctrine which you have followed" (1 Timothy 4:6).
This responsibility also entails travel. Paul returned to strengthen new congregations: "After spending some time there he departed and went from place to place through the region of Galatia and Phrygia, strengthening all the disciples" (Acts 18:23). [See also Acts 14:22; 15:41.] Titus was to exhort the brethren on Crete, where there were several churches (Titus 1:5,12,13,15).
Evangelists can also edify their brethren by letter. The apostles and elders at Jerusalem wrote a letter to combat false teaching in Antioch and in the provinces of Syria and Cilicia (Acts 15:23,27,30-33). Many of the New Testament books were letters sent to edify churches (1 Corinthians 4:14; Hebrews 13:22; 1 Peter 5:12). Evangelists today can also use the written word for edification.
Edification of the church includes various activities. Paul wrote to Timothy: "Till I come, attend to the public reading of scripture, to preaching, to teaching" (1 Timothy 4:13).
Public scripture reading is an important part of the work of an evangelist, yet how many evangelists today think of this as one of their responsibilities? Of course we read portions of scripture in our sermons, or at least we should. Last summer I heard a well-known preacher in our brotherhood speak for 45 minutes to several thousand people without reading or quoting a single passage of scripture. He did quote eight words from the Bible, which he misapplied. Amazingly enough, one of his points was that we should use the Bible! I am not sure what for, maybe to sit on while we watch television.
When the saints at Rome received Paul's letter do you suppose they said? "This is too long to read at one time. We'll read one paragraph each week."
Which is more important, what the Bible says about man, or what man says about the Bible? The New Testament can be read aloud in about 24 hours. If in one of our meetings each week we would read only a half an hour (five or six chapters) we would read the New Testament each year.
Paul told the Colossians: "And when this letter has been read among you, have it read also in the church of the Laodiceans; and see that you read also the letter from Laodicea" (Colossians 4:16). To the Thessalonians Paul wrote: "I adjure you by the Lord that this letter be read to all the brethren" (1 Thessalonians 5:27).
A special blessing is pronounced over the public reading of the book of Revelation: "Blessed is he who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written therein; for the time is near" (Revelation 1:3).
"Till I come, attend to the public reading of scripture, to preaching, to teaching" (1 Timothy 4:13).
The word translated here as 'preaching' actually means 'exhortation.' It can also be translated as 'encouragement.' Teaching involves the impartation of knowledge. Through 'exhortation' brethren are encouraged to put knowledge into practice.
Because we all tend to be forgetful, evangelists also must remind their brethren of things they have heard previously (2 Timothy 2:14; Titus 3:1; 2 Peter 1:12,13; 3:1).
For those whose knowledge is limited, the Scriptures must be explained. When Philip asked the eunuch: "Do you understand what you are reading?" he replied: "How can I, unless some one guides me?" (Acts 8:30,31). In the synagogue at Thessalonica Paul reasoned from the Scriptures and explained that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead (Acts 17:2,3). This was difficult for Jews to understand. To them the cross was a stumbling-block.
An evangelist must also reprove and correct. "All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness" (2 Timothy 3:16). At Ephesus Timothy was to charge certain men not to teach a different doctrine (1 Timothy 1:3). Paul also told him: "As for those who persist in sin, rebuke them in the presence of all, so that the rest my stand in fear" (1 Timothy 5:20). To Titus Paul wrote: "One of themselves, a prophet of their own, said, 'Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttens.' This testimony is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith, instead of giving heed to Jewish myths or to commands of men who reject the truth" (Titus 1:12-14). Titus had his work cut out for him. Paul also told him: "Declare these things; exhort and reprove with all authority. Let no one disregard you" (Titus 2:15). I might mention that this is the only passage in which the word 'authority' is used in connection with the work of an evangelist. The Greek word here is not the usual word for 'authority,' however, but means literally 'command.' An evangelist speaks with command -- with authority -- only when he is 'declaring these things,' when he is proclaiming the word of God. His only 'authority' is the word of God. He has no authority of his own.
An evangelist should correct others in humility: "Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Look to yourself, lest you too be tempted" (Galatians 6:1). "The Lord's servant must not be quarrelsome but kindly to every one, an apt teacher, forbearing, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant that they will repent and come to know the truth" (2 Timothy 2:24,25).
Evangelists edify the church. This includes public reading of scripture, explanation, exhortation, teaching, admonition, reminding, correction, reproof and rebuke.
2. An evangelist is to serve rather than to rule.
An evangelist is not a pastor. The word 'pastor' means 'shepherd.' Elders are to shepherd the flock (1 Peter 5:1,2). An evangelist does not have this responsibility and may not exercise this function.
The pastor system practiced in many denominations is contrary to the New Testament. Most of us can easily see the errors of the pastor system in the denominational world, so we will limit our comments to matters closer to home. People sometimes develop a blind spot which allows them to practice something they condemn in others. Is it possible that some churches of Christ have a pastor system where one man is hired to shepherd the flock, to do the work of the elders, the deacons and just about everyone else, as well? He is not called 'the pastor.' He is called 'the preacher' or 'the minister.' But his function is suspiciously similar to that of a pastor in a denominational church.
In the New Testament we do not read about 'the preacher' of a church. Who was 'the preacher' at Jerusalem? Who was 'the preacher' at Antioch? "Now at Antioch there were prophets and teachers" we read in Acts 13:1 and then five men are listed including Barnabas and Paul. Later we read: "But Paul and Barnabas remained in Antioch, teaching and preaching the word of the Lord, with many others also" (Acts 15:35). In most congregations there are numerous teachers and preachers. They should be recognized as such whether they are supported or not. One man should not be set apart from the other preachers as 'the preacher.'
Actually 'crossroadism' is nothing more than the pastor preacher system gone to seed. Sow the wind and reap the whirlwind. Instead of one man being appointed to shepherd the congregation all by himself, one man is appointed to shepherd the congregation by means of a hierarchy of little shepherds.
Elders should shepherd the flock. The New Testament does not authorize them to hire or appoint someone else to do their work for them. Evangelists should preach the gospel to the lost and edify the church.
An evangelist is not a rabbi. Jesus told his followers: "You are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brethren. And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. Neither be called masters, for you have one master, the Christ" (Matthew 23:8-10).
An evangelist has a special responsibility to edify, but he does not have a monopoly on the edification of the church. The concept of mutual ministry is biblical if some prevalent extremes are avoided. "Let us then pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding" (Romans 14:19). "Let each of us please his neighbour for his good, to edify him" (Romans 15:2). "I myself am satisfied about you, my brethren, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, and able to instruct one another" (Romans 15:14). "What then, brethren? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification" (1 Corinthians 14:26). "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, as you teach and admonish one another in all wisdom" (Colossians 3:16). "Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing" (1 Thessalonians 5:11). "And we exhort you, brethren, admonish the idle, encourage the faint-hearted, help the weak, be patient with them all" (1 Thessalonians 5:14). "Exhort one another every day, as long as it is called 'today,' that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin" (Hebrews 3:12). "Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near" (Hebrews 10:24,25).
Although there is a general sense in which all Christians should become teachers in time (Hebrews 5:12), not all Christians are teachers in the formal sense. Paul asks: "Are all teachers?" (1 Corinthians 12:29) and James warns: "Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, for you know that we who teach shall be judged with greater strictness" (James 3:1). Paul wrote to Timothy about certain persons who had wandered into vain discussion "desiring to be teachers of the law, without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make assertions" (1 Timothy 1:6,7). In mutual ministry according to the Scriptures each member serves according to his own ability in building up the body (Ephesians 4:16). Unqualified people should not be allowed to teach and those whose capabilities lie in other areas should not be forced to teach. Men with potential should be trained: "What you have heard from me before many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also" (2 Timothy 2:2).
The unqualified should refrain from teaching. On the other hand, those who are qualified should teach. They should not be prevented from serving because one man monopolizes the preaching and teaching in the congregation. Some congregations have what they call a 'pulpit minister.' I have also read of congregations looking for a man to 'fill their pulpit.' My imagination tends to get the best of me when I hear such expressions. I see a man chained to a pulpit, as were Bibles in the middle ages. Or I envision an obese man crammed into a pulpit. It takes a big man to fill some pulpits!
Actually it's no joking matter. I have heard various reasons for one man doing all of the preaching, but I have yet to hear a good one or a Biblical one. It tends to the glorification of one man, deprives the congregation of a balanced diet, and deprives other brethren of the opportunity to edify the church. It is wrong for anyone to be the rabbi of a congregation. Jesus has forbidden it.
This does not mean, however, that evangelists may not be associated with one congregation for an extended period of time, as some have taught. Such is contradicted by numerous examples in the N.T. Even Paul who made it a special goal to take the gospel into new areas, spent three years at Ephesus (Acts 20:31).
An evangelist may not exercise authority in the church. Jesus told his disciples: "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you; but whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave" (Matthew 20:25-27). Diotrephes, who loved to have the preeminence (3 John 9), has a long line of successors. "What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each" (1 Corinthians 3:5). "For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, that I might win the more" (1 Corinthians 9:19). "Not that we lord it over your faith; we work with you for your joy" (2 Corinthians 1:24). "For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake" (2 Corinthians 4:5).
An evangelist is to serve rather than to rule. He is neither a pastor nor a rabbi. He does not exercise authority in the church.
3. An evangelist appoints elders on the basis of Scriptural qualifications.
To Titus Paul wrote: "This is why I left you in Crete, that you might amend what was defective, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you" (Titus 1:5). Paul revisited congregations to appoint elders: "And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, with prayer and fasting, they committed them to the Lord in whom they believed" (Acts 14:23). Paul's statement to Timothy: "Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands" (1 Timothy 5:22) is probably a warning to be cautious in appointing elders. Even in this regard the task of an evangelist does not involve personal authority since the qualifications for elders are carefully detailed in the Scriptures (Titus 1:5-9; 1 Timothy 3:1-7).
Some have claimed that an evangelist has the authority of elders until elders are appointed. There is no Biblical basis for this, whatever.
Of the church at Antioch, where no mention is made of elders, we read: "And the disciples determined, every one according to his ability, to send relief to the brethren who lived in Judea; and they did so, sending it to the elders by the hand of Barnabas and Saul" (Acts 11:29,30).
If those who advocate evangelistic authority are correct this passage should have stated that the evangelists Barnabas and Saul determined to send relief to the brethren in Judea, and sent it by the hands of a couple of disciples.
In Acts 15:1-3 we read that Paul, Barnabas and some others were appointed by the brethren at Antioch to go to Jerusalem in connection with the circumcision question. New Testament evangelists were servants of the church, not rulers!
In the absence of elders decisions should be made by the brethren as in these examples. Since women may not exercise authority over men (1 Timothy 2:12) they are excluded from church leadership.
An evangelist is a preacher of the gospel. He calls all men to repentance and proclaims the message of salvation through Christ. He also builds up the church.
"I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word, be urgent in season and out of season, convince, rebuke, and exhort, be unfailing in patience and in teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own likings, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander into myths. As for you, always be steady, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfil your ministry" (2 Timothy 4:1-5).
The Scripture quotations in this article are from the Revised Standard Version ©1946,1952.
Published in The Old Paths Archive (http://www.oldpaths.com)