Who Are the Evangelists of Ephesians 4:11? And what is their ministry in the New Testament Local Church today?

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1 Who Are the Evangelists of Ephesians 4:11? And what is their ministry in the New Testament Local Church today? INTRODUCTION By Dr. Jim Bearss For people who take the Bible seriously, when the choice comes down to, This is how we ve always done it before and What does the Bible say? the Bible wins every time. In the discussion of missions and evangelistic outreach, two questions have consumed much of my thinking over the course of my ministry for the Lord Jesus Christ: who are the evangelists of Scripture, and what role do they play in the ministry of the local church? Because I have learned to take the Bible seriously, I recognize the total sufficiency of the Word of God in all matters of life and godliness. This means that I believe God uses His Word alone to tell us What to do and How to do it. This also means that I believe we must follow the teaching of the Bible even when it requires us to make radical changes in how we do ministry in general, and how we organize and operate a local church in particular. The local church is the instrument God is using in this age of grace to reach the world with the ministry of the gospel. The design of the local church is clearly given in Scripture, especially in the books of 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus. These three books were written to teach us what a local church should look like: These things write I unto thee that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in [conduct the business of] the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth. 1 Timothy 3:14-15 Clearly, Paul wanted Timothy to know the proper way to organize and operate a local church. The church s primary responsibility in these verses is to guard the truth. Furthermore, in 2 Timothy 4:5, Paul told Timothy, the teaching pastor of his local church, to do the work of an evangelist. The purpose of this paper is to define the biblical role of the evangelist and to explain how his ministry is a vital part of the work of the local church. Who Are the Evangelists? Page 1

2 WHAT IS AN EVANGELIST? Before we answer that question, it would be good to clear up some common misconceptions. When you hear the term evangelist what image immediately pops into your head? It is probably this image: you see a guy who owns seven flashy suits, knows seven energetic sermons, blows into town for a week, sets up his tent, collects big offerings, gets everyone all stirred up, and then drives off to the next gig in his stretch limo. Most conservative Christians want nothing to do with that guy. Today, much of this tomfoolery is limited to Pentecostal and Charismatic groups, although there are less flamboyant versions of it still active in fundamental and conservative circles. Well, I have good news for you: that guy is not a biblical evangelist! In fact, I find nothing biblical about that approach. What we need to do is go to the pages of Scripture and let God tell us what an evangelist is. The word evangelist appears only three times in the New Testament. Nevertheless, we can learn much about what an evangelist does from the ministry of the apostles. This is because the evangelist and the apostle have similar ministries. The book of Acts tells us six things that the Apostles, and later the Evangelists, did. They: 1. Served in a Local Church and Went Where God Led Them As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them. Then having fasted and prayed and laid hands on them, they sent them away. So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went (Acts 13:2 4a) 2. Preached the Gospel And he commanded us to preach unto the people, and to testify that it is he which was ordained of God to be the Judge of quick and dead. Acts 14:15 We also are men of like passions with you, and preach unto you that ye should turn from these vanities unto the living God (Acts 10:42) 3. Lead People to Christ So the churches were established in the faith, and increased in number daily. (Acts 16:5) 4. Organized and Strengthened Local Churches with Sound Doctrine And he went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches. (Acts 15:41) Who Are the Evangelists? Page 2

3 For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance And ye became followers of us, and of the Lord (1 Thessalonians 1:5-6a) 5. Returned to the Churches when God Enabled Then after some days Paul said to Barnabas, Let us now go back and visit our brethren in every city where we have preached the word of the Lord, and see how they are doing. (Acts 15:36) 6. Opened New Fields to Preach and Teach the Word of God And after he had seen the vision, immediately we endeavored to go into Macedonia, assuredly gathering that the Lord had called us for to preach the gospel unto them. (Acts 16:10) Now, I know what you are thinking! You are wondering, Isn t that what a missionary is? To which I would answer, Most people would think that, but where did the term missionary come from? It may surprise you to learn that the terms missionary and mission appear nowhere in Scripture. The terms originated in the 17 th century to describe Catholic cross-cultural ministry. Protestants began using the word missionary in the early 18 th century to describe similar work. But the term was eventually popularized by William Carey, an English Baptist minister, who went to India to preach. Carey founded the Baptist Missionary Society, a mission agency. By so doing he surgically removed the work of missions from under the direct oversight of the local church. This change was so dramatic that William Carey is credited with the title The Father of Modern Missions. Carey s model has been followed religiously now for two centuries. Hundreds of mission agencies have sprung into existence, and the work of accomplishing the Great Commission of Matthew 28:19-20 has become big business, but not the business of the local church. Churches no longer send evangelists to do the work of an evangelist. Now they send missionaries to mission agencies to do a wide range of work much of it is good work, but not the work of the evangelist that is no longer under the control and oversight of any one local church. Why did the church surrender her divine imperative to go and teach all nations to mission agencies? God said the church is the pillar and the ground of the truth. Only the local church has been entrusted with the responsibility to maintain pure doctrine, contend earnestly for the faith, expose false teachers, and go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. Who Are the Evangelists? Page 3

4 EPHESIANS 4:11 This verse reveals the four gifted men God has given to the church so it can function properly and fulfill all the ministry God gave it to do. These gifted men are Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, and Teaching Pastors. According to Ephesians 2:20, the Apostles and the Prophets are the foundation of the church, Jesus Christ being the chief cornerstone. The book of Acts explains how the Apostles and the Prophets ministered in the foundational days of the church. The Apostles went to places where the gospel was not known, preached, organized converts into local churches, taught them, and moved on to new fields. The Prophets, sometimes identified as teaching prophets (Acts 13:1), provided the long term pastoral teaching ministry in established local churches. By using temporary spiritual gifts (such as prophecy, wisdom, understanding, and knowledge) these men were able to receive revelation directly from God and teach New Testament truth before the revelation of that truth was written down as Scripture. But once the 27 books of the New Testament were written, the need for special spiritual gifts to learn truth ceased. With the passing of these temporary gifts, the foundational offices of Apostle and Prophet also vanished from the scene. The work they did, however, continued through the Evangelists, who replaced the Apostles, and the Teaching Pastors, who replaced the Teaching Prophets. The work of building the church has now moved past the foundation laid by the Apostles and Prophets and into the next stage of growth as the church moved into all the world preaching the gospel through the work of faithful evangelists and faithful teaching pastors. The Great Commission can be fulfilled when obedient local churches send evangelists into the world to plant new churches, and then send well-trained pastors to lead those churches. How can one church do all this? By following the simple model of 2 Timothy 2:2 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. By sending men into the world to commit truth to faithful men, God will build His church in His way through the obedience of His servants. Based on the simple instructions in 2 Timothy 2:2 and 2 Timothy 4:5, it should be clear that God intended for local churches to send their Evangelists into the world to facilitate the establishment of new local churches. Who Are the Evangelists? Page 4

5 WHAT ARE THE ADVANTAGES OF HAVING AN EVANGELIST IN MY LOCAL CHURCH? Several advantages come to mind. First, and most important, the church will be obeying the clear teaching of the New Testament and following the example established for the church in the book of Acts. Yes, this idea seems strange because the church has been wrongly following the mission agency model for 200 years. But sometimes radical change is necessary to bring the church back to a biblical position. The how to model of 2 Timothy 2:2 is God s plan for accomplishing His work in the world. Second, a church that recognizes the gift of evangelist will provide opportunity for those men to continue serving in their local church. I repeatedly hear people complain that when they send people away to a Bible College or to a Mission Field, they never come back. If the church is providing theological training at home, and if the church is providing open doors for serving God at home, then there is no need to send these gifted people away for training or ministry. Imagine the excitement for the work of Christ the people in your church would have if your church supported an Evangelist who regularly reported to the church what God is doing on foreign fields. Imagine the vision this would create to reach the world with the gospel. Third, a church that sends its own Evangelists has total oversight over the doctrine that is being taught. Again, the church is the pillar and the ground of the truth, and pure doctrine can and should be maintained by the local church as it exercises oversight over what is being taught. Fourth, a close working relationship between the Evangelist and congregation will create a greater zeal for the work of the Lord both at home and abroad. The Evangelist who ministers in his home church when he is not engaged overseas will be a blessing to the people who sent him and a constant reminder of the church s responsibility to fulfill the Great Commission. Fifth, people will be attracted to a church that has an Evangelist on staff. A church that sends someone overseas to minister and then rejoices in the report of that work demonstrates a solid commitment to world evangelization. Churches who are obeying the Word in this way are blessed by God, and this makes such a church an attractive place where people who love the Lord want to attend and serve. Who Are the Evangelists? Page 5

6 CONCLUSION To many the suggestion of including the office of Evangelist as an integral part of the ministry of a local church will seem radical. When we get used to doing things a certain way, it is hard to change. We all know that the death knell of any organization is its inability to think outside the box. Saying, But we ve always done it that way before stifles creativity. But worse than that, it also often hinders obedience to the clear teaching of Scripture. I am reminded often of what I heard Vance Havner say many years ago: We don t need to be in the novelty shop, as much as we need to be in the antique shop, where we find the old truths of God s Word. We don t need something new today half as much as we need something so old that it would be new if somebody tried it. It is my belief that a local church is fulfilling its God-given responsibility when it has faithful teaching pastors feeding the flock, faithful evangelists planting new churches, and a faithful congregation supporting this work with their giving and prayers and regularly worshiping God in spirit and in truth, and this truth is being safeguarded by the careful teaching of faithful men who will teach others also. Since the term evangelist is fraught with such negative imagery today, the person who is doing the work of an evangelist through a local church could be called a pastor, or possibly a missions pastor, or even better pastor of missions and evangelism. However, the title is not important, but the work he is sent to do is. We live in exciting days. Jesus is coming soon. Let us, therefore, be as faithful and obedient as we can to the Word of God and bold in our service for the Lord Jesus Christ until He comes. Who Are the Evangelists? Page 6

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