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The Work Of An Evangelist

by Ian McPherson

There are many Scriptures which show that a preacher (or evangelist) has specific qualifications, and has a specific function in the local church. Not all the men in the church are qualified to be preachers. Notice how Paul was "ordained" or "appointed" as a preacher. "Whereunto I am ordained a preacher, and an apostle, (I speak the truth in Christ, and lie not;) a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and verity." --- 1 Timothy 2:7.

The Greek word "Ordained" is TITHEMI. It means "To set, to put, to place, to lay". In many contexts (as in this one) this word is used of divine appointment c/f John 15:16; Matt 24:51; Heb 1:2; 1 Pet.2:8). It is translated "appointed" in a similar verse in 2 Timothy 1:11. Ephesians 4:11 says "And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers." We can see here that "evangelists" were among those given by the Lord in the local church with an important function to perform. The "apostles and prophets" mentioned here were inspired men who had the word of God directly and miraculously revealed to them. It is through them that we now have the inerrant word of God written down for us to read and understand (Eph 3:1-5).

Apostles and prophets are no longer physically with us, but wield their authority through the inspired word that they left us. Apostles and prophets are set within the foundation of the church (Ephesians 2:20). The "pastors", "evangelists" and "teachers" continue in the church today. The word "pastor" means "shepherd". The position here refers to elders, or bishops" who are appointed by the local church to serve as overseers in the local congregation (Acts 20:28; 14:23).

Just as pastor" "elder" and "bishop" all refer to the same appointed people in the church with specific qualifications (c/f 1 Timothy 3:1-7, Titus 1:5-9), so also "preacher " and "evangelist" are expressions chosen by the Holy Spirit to represent those with a specific function in the church. Some confuse the office of pastor with that of preacher. However they are not the same thing. They differ both in function and qualification. Pastors (elders or bishops) are the overseers of a local congregation (Acts 20:28), they must be married with believing children (1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:1-9). Evangelists on the other hand may be young men (1 Tim 4:12). They do not have to be married (Paul was a preacher but not married (1 Corinthians 9:5). Preachers are not overseers (i.e. do not have any legislative authority) in the local congregation, as do elders. However preachers must speak the word of God with "all authority". "These things speak, and exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no man despise thee." --- Titus 2:15. Preachers must speak the message boldly, showing no respect of persons. They even have the authority (yea the command) to publicly rebuke elders that are astray "Against an elder receive not an accusation, but before two or three witnesses. {20} Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear. {21} I charge thee before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, and the elect angels, that thou observe these things without preferring one before another, doing nothing by partiality." -- 1 Timothy 5:19-21.

There is often much discussion about "unqualified elders" in the church. How much do we hear however about unqualified preachers and teachers. Although their qualifications are not as precisely defined in a "list of qualifications" like that of elders, preachers however need to be appointed to the position by the local church. Evangelists have a specific work to perform "But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry." -- 2 Timothy 4:5 It only goes to reason that anyone who is either unwilling, or unable to perform this work should not be a preacher. We can see by this verse that the work is not easy. It takes much endurance and affliction. The job evangelists is such, that, if they perform their work faithfully, they will have to endure affliction and practice endurance. The gospel preacher, no matter how loving and kind he tries to be will find opposition from those, both within and outside the church who do not want to submit themselves to the message of Christ.

THE WORK OF THE EVANGELIST Paul clearly outlined Timothy's work "I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; {2} Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. {3} For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; {4} And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables." -- 2 Timothy 4:1-4. We can see that the evangelists work is to preach the word of God. It does not say that he is to to preach philosophy or politics. Neither does it say to preach part of the word. If the preacher is to preach all the word of God, then he needs to be one who knows the word. However, a preacher needs to have more than a knowledge of God's word and the ability to preach. He could possess both these qualities and still be unqualified.

The preacher also needs courage, and a thick hide. He must be able to "endure sound doctrine". Preaching the whole counsel of God is not an easy task. The word of God is offensive to some (1 Peter 2:8). The gospel was so offensive to the Jews to whom Stephen preached that they "gnashed on him with their teeth", "stopped their ears", and "cast him out of the city, and stoned him" (Acts 7:54, 57, 58). Faithful gospel preaching does not only sometimes antagonise religious neighbours and the world, but is sometimes offensive even to those within the church. Notice what Paul had to endure to preach faithfully "In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren;" -- 2 Corinthians 11:26 --- It is possible for a preacher to preach sound doctrine for a while, but soon crumble because of pressures being exhorted by brethren who want to compromise with error. Compromise with error can take two forms. (1) to decide to not teach on a subject any more or (2) to compromise their view and water down the message. Either way, the consequences are disastrous.

ERRORS CONCERNING THE ROLE OF THE PREACHER. Many feel that work of the evangelist is to go out into the world and preach to unbelievers. It is a great error to believe this. Certainly the preacher must do so, but the great commission applies to all Christians, not just the preacher (Acts 8:4) Likewise many feel that the preacher's role is simply that of servant in the church. He is the one who visits the hospitals and prisons, and who cares for the elderly and infirmed. This too is part of his work as a Christian. But all Christians are to be involved in these things. (Matt 25: 34-40).

Another error is to consider that the pulpit should be rotated by all the men in the church, in the same way as they would be rotated to lead in prayer or assist in the Lord's Supper. This arrangement is often called "mutual ministry". This type of arrangement is sometimes even bound by those who say that the evangelists job is only to plant churches, but that he must not locate in a congregation. The "work of an evangelist" outlined by Paul to Timothy however shows that the work involved preaching and teaching within a local congregation. He was to "abide at Ephesus" (i.e. the Ephesian church) and "charge some that they teach no other doctrine" (1 Timothy 1:3). Timothy was also told "teach faithful men to teach others" (2 Timothy 2:2). This cannot be done over night, it involved training men from within the Ephesian church. Titus was told: "For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee:" -- Titus 1:5 This again could not be done over a short period of time. Many evangelists have laboured in local congregations for dozens of years without elders being appointed.

The role of the preacher in a local congregation does not end with the selection of elders either. There were elders in the Ephesian church when Timothy was preaching there. Paul left Troas and stopped at Miletus to speak to the Ephesian elders on his third missionary Journey. (Acts 20:17). 1 Timothy 5:17 indicates that Ephesus even had elders who were being paid. Timothy was urged to refrain from acting against an elder without the testimony of two or three witnesses. (v 19). However, he was also instructed to rebuke sinful elders before all (V. 20) It is easy to see from these principles that "mutual ministry" arrangements (all willing men alternating the preaching) are very unsatisfactory.

Local churches should seek to appoint an evangelist who is courageous in preaching the truth. They should give him time to study (2 Tim 2:15), and freedom to preach the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:26) Only those appointed to the position and who have the qualifications should serve as pulpit evangelists. The pulpit is not something that men should be just encouraged to "have a go at". The destiny of souls, and the motivation of the church is far too vital for this.

THE PREACHER'S EXAMPLE. The preacher has the responsibility of both his soul and the soul of the hearers. "Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee." --- 1 Timothy 4:16. In order to carry out this command the preacher must not only be sound in doctrine and courageous in standing for truth, but he is also to "take heed to himself." Not all should be preachers and teachers. "My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgement." James 3:1 (NKJV). The "judgement" here is probably two fold. The preacher or teacher is more strictly judged by God, because of the grave responsibility he assumes by the position. There is also a stricter judgement by the congregation. His life is closely examined and critically analysed because of the position of influence he exerts The preacher or teacher must also be an example in life. "Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity." --- 1 Timothy 4:12 These were sobering words to young Timothy.

To finish this article I would like to quote from an article of Roy J. Hearn in and article entitled "Preparation To Preach The Cross Of Christ" Firm Foundation May 14 1985: "Character should be given a most important place in the list of qualifications of a preacher. His character is the foundation upon which all else should rest, for real, genuine character is indispensable to success. The peerless apostle Paul instructed Timothy to "take heed unto thyself and the doctrine" (emphasis mine I. McP). Let it be recommended that all who preach the gospel of Christ read the New Testament carefully and note what it says about honesty, humility, purity and many other qualifications required of all Christians. (emphasis mine I. McP) . If an inventory were taken it is likely that of all classifications of groups in the Lord's church, preachers, as a class may be found to be at variance with the Scriptures more than any other. Read, note and think"

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