Sound Teaching

This is the teaching site of the West Side church of Christ in Fort Worth, TX. Unless otherwise indicated, all materials were written and prepared by Stan Cox

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The Work of an Evangelist

In 2 Timothy 4:5, the Apostle Paul exhorted young Timothy, “But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.” The admonition is serious, and any man who would take on the work should have an understanding of what God requires of him. It is also important that all Christians know what is the evangelist’s work.

Too many times I have heard the simplistic answer, “The evangelist is to evangelize!” The Greek word for evangelist means, “the bringer of good tidings … one who brings good news.” So, looking at the definition, the evangelist preaches the gospel to the lost. When this is contended, it is sometimes intended to limit the work of the evangelist to that single act, preaching to the lost.

While bringing the good news to the lost is certainly an important and vital part of the evangelist’s work, the text of 2 Timothy 4 shows that it entails much more. Consider the following admonition in the same context, “Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables” (verses 2-4). The “they” of the text obviously indicates Christians who were losing their love of the truth.

The evangelist’s job is to disseminate the truth of God. We may certainly differentiate between edification (“building up” the saints), and evangelism (preaching to the lost). However, to take the next step and limit the evangelist only to the work of preaching to the lost is without scriptural basis, and has led to division among God’s people. (Some, who advocate what they call “mutual edification”, take issue with an evangelist doing exactly what Paul told Timothy to do in this context).

What does an evangelist do? As Paul indicated, he preaches the word! — to the lost, and to the saints. He contends with the errorist, convinces the skeptic, rebukes the recalcitrant and strengthens the feeble. The Word of God is the tool of the evangelist, and it is to be applied to all men, no matter their standing before God.

To equip himself for the work, the evangelist must prepare. He does so through diligent study. “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). The Lord does not need men preaching the gospel who are not practiced in wielding their sword.

Further, as not all are qualified to serve as elders, not every man is equipped to do the work of an evangelist. The deficiency is rarely in talent or education. Most commonly a preacher fails because he lacks conviction, knowledge, compassion or love. A love for God’s word leads him to study and to an uncompromising stand for truth. A love for the souls of men leads him to share the message of salvation even in the face of persecution and repeated rejection.

The denominational pastoral system leads to more misconceptions regarding the evangelist’s work. Some would have the evangelist in the position of oversight. That is not his work. It is the elder, (bishop, pastor) who is given that important work. While it is possible for an older, qualified man to serve as both an evangelist and an elder (cf. 1 Timothy 5:17), it is wrong for an evangelist to usurp authority that is not his.

Others would have the evangelist do the deacon’s work. The office of deacon is an office of service. Visitation and the physical needs of the saints are the deacon’s domain (1 Timothy 3:13; cf. Acts 6:1-7). While the evangelist has the same responsibilities of benevolence, love and hospitality as any Christian, God expects no more of him in this regard than any other. The fact that some brethren do expect more of him in this regard is lamentable, and has led many men to neglect their ministry in the word.

God has clearly defined what the evangelist is to do. His work is important, honorable and if done properly, consuming. Luke recorded the sentiments of the apostles, “It is not desirable that we should leave the word of God and serve tables” (Acts 6:2). While the office of the evangelist is different from that of the apostle, the evangelist’s work in “the word of God” is the same. All Christians should respect and honor that work, and respect and honor the men who do it.