THE WORK OF AN EVANGELIST
January 1, 1991 Issue
by Jack Cutter
The work of an Evangelist isn't as easy to define as the work of an Elder or a deacon; nevertheless, it can and must be clearly defined and understood. A failure of either the Evangelist or the brotherhood leadership to properly understand who is qualified for this work and the functions of the work of an Evangelist could spell a catastrophe for the church. Alexander Campbell explained it by saying, "As the Christian system is a perfect system, it wisely provides for its own perpetuity by creating all necessary offices, and filling them with suitable persons" He further elaborated, "We have said these offices are three, and of perpetual need because of necessary existence." (The Christian System by Alexander Campbell, p., 61).
WHO IS QUALIFIED
This depends upon the type of work to be performed. An Evangelist might be qualified for work in one field and not in another. "Among the offices which were comprehended in the apostleship, none required more varied endowments that that of an Evangelist. It depends upon the field of labor which the Evangelist is to occupy, whether he must speak one language or more. His work is to proclaim the Word intelligibly and persuasively, to immerse all the believers or converts of his ministry, and to plant and organize churches wherever he may have occasion. Then he must teach them to keep the commandments of the Lord." (Ibid, p., 62; also study 1 & 2 Timothy).
In summary, an Evangelist must be able to preach the Word effectively, both publicly and privately, to be capable to the extent that he can instruct and develop new converts, and to organize them into ministering congregations.
Once a congregation has been established, the evangelist has the responsibility to generally superintend its development. Setting things in order in the churches - the committing the same office to faithful men, who shall be able to instruct others - the ordaining of elders, and a general superintendence of the affairs of churches, seem to have been also lodged in the hands of Timothy and Titus as agents of the Apostles." (Ibid, p. 63) Alexander Campbell continued to say that it might be questionable in the minds of some to what degree that this might be practiced today, as far as, working with congregations. However, he concluded by saying, "But that Evangelists are to separate into communities their own converts, teach and superintend them till they are in a condition to take care of themselves, is as unquestionable a part of the office of an Evangelist, as praying, preaching, or baptizing."
GENERALLY TO SUPERINTEND
For an Evangelist to be successful, he must have more than vision. He must clearly understand his responsibilities in performing this type of work. "The church is essentially a ministering body of believers. As such, it reaches out evangelistically, benevolently, instructionally, liturgically, etc., but its character and work is always driven by ministry, cf. Matt 20:25-28; John 12:26." (Appoint Elders In Every City by Bennie Cryer). The Evangelist's vision is of an established congregation, fully developed having Elders and Deacons. When this is realized, his vision becomes reality. He, then, has virtually completed his scriptural responsibility.
REGARDING ESTABLISHED CONGREGATIONS
An established congregation is one which may exist without Elders and Deacons. In other words, they are a scripturally disorganized group. These type congregations and those who are fully developed, for the most part, that become involved in mission work at home or abroad, understand and follow the scriptural guidelines governing evangelistic work. They understand that he must be qualified. And, that his work is to generally superintend or oversee the work as it may exist. (In some instances, he may need to evangelize and then organize a congregation and to train and develop from that point.)
However, a major problem exists where an established group supports an Evangelist to work with them. (As is the common practice among congregations today). In this situation, does the Evangelist have different responsibilities? Only in so far as his approach is concerned. Basically, his work is to train and develop members into a ministering church. So the process is always the same: recruit, train and develop. The leadership of a group may perceive the Evangelist performing a different function, such as his being hired to do their work of teaching, visiting, etc. When this is allowed to happen, he becomes a modern day "pastor." His work is misguided and the church is digressive in their understanding of evangelism.
In these situations where a congregation has called a preacher in to work with them, if he is considered nothing more than a "hired hand," a terrible dilemma for the preacher can occur. For example, an Evangelist who is highly qualified and knows his business begins working with a group who wants him to do their personal work, teaching, visiting, etc. However, he believes included in his work is training them to do that work. Moreover, suppose the leadership that called him to work with them needs correcting in order for the church to grow. If he attempts to correct the problem, the work could end suddenly. Or, because of the pressure of the criticism that would follow if he attempted to do anything, he ignores it and hopes for the best. This has occurred because the Evangelist perceived his work as being divinely mandated. However, the congregational leadership having a misguided understanding considers him as an employee who can be dismissed at their leisure.
The solution to this problem will be difficult to overcome. However, it can be overcome just like any other unscriptural practice can be. An Evangelist must make it absolutely clear, before he accepts a work with a congregation that calls him, the scriptural guidelines which will regulate his work. And, in turn, he should establish the relationship they will have to him in this process. Furthermore, every new convert and any new person becoming a member of that group, should also be clearly instructed as to the Evangelist's responsibilities that he has towards them and they toward him. In other words, he needs to be sure to have a clear understanding up front.
TRAINING AND ORDINATION
A qualified Evangelist is a preacher who has been officially ordained. This work should only be attempted by those who by training and proper development under the guidance of a qualified instructor, or mature congregation, have proven to be capable of this type of work. Timothy was taught, trained, and developed under the skillful guidance of the apostle Paul. He was ordained by Paul (2 Tim 1:16), and, also, had the approval of a congregation with elders (2 Tim 4:14). Furthermore, all Evangelists are preachers. However, all preachers are not Evangelists. Just as: all roosters are chickens; but, not all chickens are roosters. Preachers preach. Evangelists preach, organize churches, ordain Elders and Deacons, train and develop ministering congregations. Therefore, only those who are properly trained and possess the proper skills should be involved.
SUPPORT AND DISCIPLINE
Since the work of an Evangelist is an official position in the church, the disciplinary guidelines for him are the same as for an Elder or a Deacon (1 Tim 5:19-20). The principle involved in disciplining anyone in an official position is: "Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands" (1 Tim 5:22).
The financial support of an Evangelist or a preacher is mandatory. "The Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel" (Study 1 Cor 9:12-15 and 1 Tim 5:18). The right of refusal belongs to the preacher.
The Christian system is perfect. Once implemented properly, it will produce the peaceful fruits of righteousness.
Jack Cutter 1991 OPA Main Page HOME