Paul’s farewell exhortations to Timothy were written with great urgency. The time of the apostle’s departure by cruel martyrdom was now at hand and ere long his testimony would be sealed with his life’s blood. It was with this in view that, rather than thinking of himself or now simply “leaving everything with the Lord,” he still kept planning for the future, still occupied with the ministry which the glorified Lord had committed to him many years previous. There was still so much to be done, so many souls to be won, and Timothy must now carry on the work with renewed vigor. Thus it is that we read in II Timothy 4:5:
“But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.”
There is much confusion about evangelism these days.
First, there are some who have concluded from Ephesians 4:11 that the evangelist necessarily belongs to a different category from “pastors and teachers,” or “teaching pastors.” It is true that, according to this verse, some of God’s servants are specially gifted and specially productive as evangelists, but have we read too much into this passage?
Some have read into it that the evangelist need not be a teacher of the Word. He need not be well-grounded in the Scriptures if only he can tell people that Christ died for their sins. This reminds us of the converted performer who, contrary to I Timothy 5:22, was immediately pushed forward by Christian leaders as an evangelist. It cost heavily to secure his services, but it was worth it: he could get crowds! He was barely grounded in the Scriptures, but what matter? He has such a way with him: he could tell such interesting stories and had written several popular gospel songs. He was able to induce many hearers to make “decisions” for Christ just because he had come to the pulpit straight from show business. To quote his own words, “I leave doctrine to the theologians. I preach Christ.”
But the question immediately arises: “Christ who?” “What Christ?” It makes a great difference whether one preaches the Christ of Palestine or the glorified Christ proclaimed by Paul. And it makes a greater difference whether he preaches that Christ of Liberalism or the Christ of the Bible.
A similar notion prevails that foreign missionaries (also actually evangelists) need not be thoroughly grounded in the Word to do justice to their ministries. But all this is unscriptural and wrong, and the churches established by such missionaries cannot be spiritually strong.
St. Paul was doubtless the greatest evangelist that ever lived and he won the lost to Christ by teaching the great doctrines of alienation, reconciliation, justification, etc. And today the evangelist, no less than any minister of God, must be well-grounded in the Word, for souls are saved only as the Spirit uses the Word (I Pet. 1:12-25).
Thus the proclamation of the gospel is not to be separated from the Word. Those who are saved — and many are not truly saved — through hearing no more than a verse or two from the Scripture, presented along with an emotional and psychological appeal, are often easily swayed and must at best be spiritually weak. But when the great doctrines of salvation are taught from the Scripture, those who hear and believe begin already to be established in the faith. Nor will they be easily shaken, for nothing so grips the heart of man like the Word, understood and believed. This writer will never cease to thank God that he was saved through the teaching of the Word. One blessed result of this is that, never once since that day forty-four years ago, has he ever doubted His eternal security in Christ.
To look at this subject from the other side, there are some who suppose that the pastor or Bible teacher need not be an evangelist. He can always have gospel literature ready to hand to interested persons and can from time to time call in evangelists for special service. As one pastor said to this writer, “Some of us simply are not evangelists and we should not try to be.” But the pastor was wrong, dead wrong, for as we have seen, Paul wrote to Timothy, the pastor and Bible teacher at Ephesus: “Do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.”
Does not this clearly imply that the pastor, the Bible teacher, who does not do the work of an evangelist, is inefficient in his ministry? For one thing, such a pastor shows a shameful lack of concern for the lost, for he fails to press home to the hearts of his unsaved hearers the urgency of many of the very Scripture truths which he discusses in his sermons. For another thing, he disobeys God, who says, “Do the work of an evangelist”; indeed, who has committed to us all “the ministry of reconciliation” to be fulfilled as “the love of Christ constraineth us” (II Cor 5:14-21).
If pastors and Bible teachers were more faithful in doing “the work of an evangelist,” the general public would not be so readily taken in by the unscriptural and God-dishonoring methods of evangelism so popular in our day, methods which create much interest and make statistics but also do much to confuse both the lost and the saved and to make void the Word of God.
Finally, does not Paul’s Spirit-inspired injunction apply indirectly to every believer in Christ? Are not our pastors simply our leaders in the work of the Lord? Shall the congregation sit idly by as the pastor alone does “the work of an evangelist?” God forbid! The pastor is rather to be an example to his flock to go and do likewise. How well this writer recalls the days of the so-called Darby-Scofield movement, when multitudes all over the country thronged to hear Bible teachers like Gaebelein, Gray, Gregg, Ottman, Chafer, and Newell. These able men of God expounded the Word as the “blessed hope” of the Lord’s return was being recovered. But these Bible teachers were evangelists too, in the truest sense of the word, and their evangelism was contagious.
In those days almost all premillenarians, including the young people, carried New Testaments in their pockets wherever they went. Why? They hoped and prayed for opportunities to testify to others about God’s plan of salvation through Christ and they wanted to show them the way from Scripture. In those days if a Christian failed to have a New Testament with him, he was apt to be reproved with the words: “What, a soldier without a sword!” By contrast, few believers carry New Testaments about with them today, and they certainly don’t carry Bibles! Here at Berean Bible Society, we still sell many Bibles for use at home and church, but rarely does a New Testament go out the door.
Some are telling us today that this brand of fundamentalism is out of date and ineffective in these fast-changing times. We reply that all of us ought to get back to this brand of fundamentalism, this earnest effort to personally win souls to Christ by showing them God’s plan of salvation from the Scriptures.
God help His people in general and our spiritual leaders in particular, to “do the work of an evangelist.”