The Local Church at Work

The Work of Evangelists

Steve Wallace


Every so often we learn of some unsavory action of a "televangelist." Through the misadventures of these men the word "evangelist" often takes on a less than desirable air in its usage in modern society. Like other words and relationships, this word, in its proper religious sense, had its beginnings with God and has become tainted by what men have done with it.

In 2 Timothy 4:5, Paul tells Timothy, "Do the work of an evangelist." Evangelists are mentioned among those the Lord gave the church "for the perfecting of the saints, unto the work of ministering, unto the building up of the body of Christ" (Eph. 4:11-12). They thus have an important place in God's plan for the church, the saved. As the title indicates, the purpose of this article is to tell what place in God's scheme an evangelist has.

A Work That Can Involve Both Traveling and/or Locating

The word "evangelist" means, "a bringer of good tidings" (Thayer, p. 257). From this definition it is clearly seen that a work of an evangelist is to take an active part in executing the great commission (Mk. 16:15-16). This can involve missionary journeys such as those we read of in the book of Acts. Today, such work will involve the preacher in any number of logistical preparations. Support must be raised; sometimes a co-worker must be sought out; travel and accommodation must be arranged, etc. The work of spreading the gospel is needed within the continental United States. It is also needed in other countries. As in the first century the preacher of today can not allow unfamiliarity with such logistics or the nature of cultures foreign to his own to stand in his way. All brethren of whom this writer is aware who have participated in such work have found preaching in a foreign land to be a work for which they were meet.

From the definition of the word evangelist, some brethren have drawn the conclusion that it is wrong for a preacher to locate and work with a church that has elders. One such brother wrote, "The evangelist is being unscripturally used in many congregations today. He is being hired by a local congregation to do the teaching, even where there are qualified elders and teachers. "The Work of An Evangelist, a tract by Pat Mannon, p. 12). Many of these brethren argue that the gospel, by its very nature, cannot be preached to a church. By contrast, Romans 1:10-15 shows that the gospel can be preached to a local church. Further, 1 Timothy 1:3 contains a command for Timothy "to tarry at Ephesus." It is clear from Acts 20:17 and 1 Timothy 5:17-21 that there were elders at the church in Ephesus. Therefore, an evangelist can locate with a given church, working at preaching and teaching the brethren as well as being active in spreading the gospel to the lost in the surrounding area (cp. Acts 11:25-26; 19:8-10). In contrast to what some of our anti-located-preacher brethren would have us believe, it is better that a man first do local work, preferably in a church with elders, before he goes into a mission field. This gives him a chance to become rooted in the faith before entering into a work wherein he will be called upon to ground young converts in the faith.

An Evangelist Must Teach The Word of God Comprehensively

"Wherefore I testify unto you this day, that I am pure from the blood of all men. For I shrank not from declaring unto you the whole counsel of God" (Acts 20:26-27). Paul's saying that he was "pure from the blood of all men" as a result of comprehensively preaching the word of God has its roots in God's commission to the prophet Ezekiel (3:16-21). How people react is not in the preacher's realm of responsibilities, nor can he base his message on how the hearers might respond (cp. Matt. 19:16-22; Acts 24:24-25). Where people need to be convicted of sin and taught the first principles of the word of God, he must do this (Acts 2:22-41). Where young Christians need to be taught and equipped, and churches set in order, he must do that (Acts 2:42; 18:8-11; 1 Cor. 4:17; 1 Tim. 5:3-16; 2 Tim. 2:2; Titus 1:5). When a brother or brethren sin(s) the preacher must be ready to rebuke and correct such with the aim of bringing about repentance (cp. Gal. 2:11-14; 1 Tim. 5:19-21; 2 Tim. 2:24-26). Some of the above situations will involve bringing people out of errors brought about by their ignorance (cp. Acts 8:18-22; 17:30; 18:24-26). Further, brethren must be warned of apostasy, and equipped to answer whatever error confronts them (1 Tim. 4:6, cp. 1 Tim. 4:1-3; 2 Tim. 2:2; Titus 1:9; 1 Jno. 2:18-24). All of these things will cause the man of God to continually grow in his own knowledge in order that he may continue to minister to the needs of each person he meets.

An Evangelist must resist urges to compromise

1 & 2 Timothy and Titus are replete with warnings about men who would seek to pervert the truth and teach error (cp. 1 Tim. 1:3-4, 18-20; 4:1-3; 6:3-6; 2 Tim. 2:17-18; 3:1-5; 4:3-4; Titus 1:10-14). These same epistles counsel the following: "war the good warfare; holding faith and a good conscience;" "refuse profane and old wives' fables;" "guard that which is committed unto thee, turning away from the profane babblings and opposition of the knowledge which is falsely so called;" "shun profane babblings;" "from these also turn away;" "but shun foolish questionings, and geneaologies, and strifes, and fightings about the law" (1 Tim. 1:18-19; 4:7; 6:20; 2 Tim. 2:16; 3:5). The reason for such admonitions as these are as apparent today as they were in the first century. Temptations to compromise will come from without and within (Acts 20:29-30). In the current conflict on unity-in-diversity many brethren have arose speaking and practicing things which they ought not. The pressure to accept something as right because "old brother so-n-so teaches it" will catch many today as it did in the fight over institutionalism. (If you are unfamiliar with these issues I encourage you to take time to familiarize yourself with them.) Further, brethren who advocate change for the sake of change and charge those who resist them with believing in traditions will present a temptation to follow their foolish ways. In our highly mobile society people move around a lot more than they once did. It is common for churches to receive new members and some of these will bring the above and other unwelcome baggage with them. Some of them will be liberal givers. In all this the command to "preach the word; be urgent in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching" cannot be forgotten (2 Tim.4:2). As we read on in the same text we find a command that, while sometimes difficult to follow, is especially necessary during such times as those we speak of herein: "But be thou sober in all things, suffer hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfil thy ministry" (v. 5). Choose hardship over compromise. If it means extra hours of study to answer someone, sleepless nights, or even being terminated in your work with a local church, be willing to suffer rather compromise the truth which is your whole purpose in life. Do not take off your armor and join the hordes of men among brethren and denominations who have become evangelists in name only. Be steadfast and unyielding, and fight tenaciously rather than give up the standard by which all men shall be judged (Rom. 2:16).

A work that calls one to develop pertinent qualities.

"For I bear him record that he hath a great zeal for you and them that are in Laodicea, and them in Hierapolis" (Col. 4:13).

"And the Lord's servant must not strive, but be gentle towards all, apt to teach, forebearing, in meekness correcting them that oppose themselves; if peradventure God may give them repentance unto the knowledge of the truth" (2 Tim. 2:24-25).

"Preach the word; be urgent in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching" (2 Tim. 4:2).

"For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh (for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but mighty before God to the casting down of strongholds); casting down imaginations, and every high thing that is exalted against the knowledge, and bringing every thought in captivity to the obedience of Christ" (2 Cor. 10:3-5)

"Be at peace among yourselves" (1 Thes. 5:13).

"If it be possible, as much as in you lieth, be at peace with all men" (Rom. 12: 18).

  1. Zeal. Zeal for God, his people, and the lost was a major factor in Jesus' earthly life. By contrast, a lack of zeal will bring compromise and failure. The continual recognition of God's presence and purpose must live within all Christians, but especially within the one who is preaching to them and the lost. Zeal is an asset in good times and bad. It will help a person to "be urgent in season, out of season." Let the preacher lack zeal and the church where he is will be negatively affected. His continual attention to the word of God will help him maintain his zeal (Heb. 4:12).

  2. "The Lord's servant must not strive." "Strive" means to "quarrel, wrangle, dispute" (Thayer, p. 394). Like all brethren who have preached for a number of years, this writer has encountered his share of nitpickers, troublemakers, and people who seemed to just like to argue. Abraham's words from long ago are as pertinent today as they were when he said them: "Let there be no strife, I pray thee, between me and thee...for we be brethren" (Gen. 13:8). There will be times for confronting error and erring brethren, but even this should be done in meekness. Peace at any price is to be shunned, but peace is to be sought after wherever it is possible. If we will do our best to treat others kindly and use hospitality properly, i.e., to be friendly, we can do a lot as preachers of the word towards promoting or preserving the proper environment in a local church. This brings us to our next point.

  3. "Be gentle towards all." Of Jesus it is written, "A bruised reed shall he not break, And smoking flax shall he not quench, Till he send forth judgment unto victory" (Matt. 12:20). While we recognize that Jesus was not always gentle (Matt. 23), his general conduct towards all men was so. While truth is always the same, every person and every person's situation is different. We must work to handle all of them gently. This will help preserve peace in a congregation and peace with those around us.

  4. In your teaching be "forebearing" and "longsuffering." In working to convert the lost, the erring, and in helping brethren grow these qualities will be very necessary. Remember that it sometimes takes time for people to grasp what they need to know or to decide on the course they choose (Lk. 14:28-33; Acts 17:32). By contrast, some who immediately take hold can be the weakest and most apt to fall (Matt. 13:20-21). Being forebearing and longsuffering will also give us time to make sure we are saying all we need to say to a given person, saying it in a way they can understand and in a manner that is suitable to them (Col. 4:6). Let us remember the time Paul spent in teaching the sinners at the church in Corinth (Acts 18:11; 1&2 Cor.)

When taken together, the point of what we say is this: We should always be zealous for the Lord's cause. However, we should seek to establish and maintain an environment wherein the exchange of ideas is possible. This will not always be possible (Acts 19:32). The "ideas" in this case are the very words of God which all men need in order to be saved and serve God acceptably. Remember, those truly converted are those who are "pricked in their heart" and "believe in [their] heart" (Acts 2:37; Rom. 10:9). The environment can be polluted when there is constant quarreling and wrangling, or when brethren fail to be gentle with one another, or when impatience and rashness prevail. In the words of Campbell, when it comes to handling differences among brethren, "We must conciliate the passions while we besiege the understanding." This is a good rule for all of our efforts to teach the gospel.

Preparing to work as an evangelist

Paul told Timothy, an evangelist, "Take heed to thyself, and to thy teaching. Continue in these things; for in doing this thou shalt save both thyself and them that hear thee" (1 Tim. 4:16). From this text one can see at least two important areas wherein a man must prepare himself for this work. He must apply Paul's teaching to "study to show thyself approved" (2 Tim. 2:15; 1 Tim. 4:13,15). In order to guide others into a knowledge of the truth an evangelist must first know it himself (Acts 8:30-31). (By contrast, many modern preachers have prepared themselves by reading self-help books or pop psychology.) Godly parents are an asset to such a man (2 Tim. 1:5). Further, he must first make application of the scriptures to himself. When Paul first met him, Timothy was "well reported of by the brethren that were in Lystra and Iconium" (Acts 16:2). Timothy obviously gained influence among these brethren by his godly life. This is one reason Paul asked him to work with him in spreading the gospel. Hopefully, this article shows to all that carrying out the responsibilities of an evangelist is serious business. Such work is not to be entered into hastily or unadvisedly, but with proper preparation.

Conclusion

An evangelist is called a "man of God" (1 Tim. 6:11). His life revolves around the word of God -- in his thoughts, his conduct, his studies, and his efforts to teach. If a local church is to be fully equipped to do the work God gave it, it needs a "man of God" working with it. If you are or would be such a man it is hoped that this article will help you in being what God would have you to be.


e-mail this author at styvas@mindspring.com

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