The Role Of An Evangelist

In a generic sense, every faithful child of God must evangelize in one way or another (cf. Lk. 24.47; Phil. 1.27-30; Acts 8.1-4; cf. Gal. 6.9-10; Heb. 5.12; 2 Cor. 4.13).

However, the term, evangelist, is also used in a technical or restricted sense, denoting one who labors professionally as a messenger of the good news of Christ (cf. Acts 21.8; Eph. 4.11; 2 Tim. 4.5).

When an evangelist is asked to work with a local congregation, what should he, as an evangelist, be expected to do? A pithy list follows:

Study

It is the duty of every Christian to meditate on the Sacred Oracles consistently (Col. 3.16; Heb. 5.12-14; 2 Pet. 3.1-2). However, since evangelists are those who address the congregation on a frequent basis, being largely responsible for setting the standard of Bible knowledge in that congregation, an evangelist retains an even graver need for diligent and sober reflection on the pages of Holy Writ (cf. Jms. 3.1).

Paul's admonition to Timothy, a relatively younger evangelist, is especially apropos: “Til I come, give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine” (1 Tim. 4.13). He was further told: “Meditate on these things; give yourself entirely to them, that your progress may be evident to all” (1 Tim. 4.15).

The example of the apostle himself is likewise germane. When winter's frigid grip began to tighten (2 Tim. 4.21), Paul urged Timothy to come “quickly” (2 Tim. 4.9), bringing with him a “chest” (Vincent, p. 326) ”and the books, especially the parchments” (2 Tim. 4.13).

The need for useful study material and other resources was urgent to the apostle, and ought to be equally cherished by those who labor as harbingers of the gospel today. After all, how else can one “rightly divide the word of truth” except by exercising “diligence” in the study of God's Word (2 Tim. 2.15)?

Be Ready

Be ready in season and out of season” (2 Tim. 4.2b). An evangelist is to be “on call,” “standing by,” and “at hand,” when it comes to spreading the gospel message. No hesitation in that endeavor is permitted (see also 1 Pet. 3.15-16).

The phrase, “in season,” is indicative of opportunity, “the right moment, the propitious juncture, the favorable occasion” (Spicq, 118ff), whereas, “out of season,” is indicative of a lack of opportunity (cf. Phil. 4.10).

Paul further instructs: “But you be watchful in all things” (2 Tim. 4.5a). Hence, the “readiness” of an evangelist to “preach the word” is a thing to be present at all times; whether it is convenient or not; whether circumstances and people are favorable to it or not.

Be Faithful

Before an evangelist is qualified to proselytize others, he must first prepare himself (cf. 1 Cor. 9.24-27).

Timothy was told to “guard what was committed to your trust, avoiding the profane and idle babblings and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge — by professing it some have strayed concerning the faith” (1 Tim. 6.20-21). He was told to “pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness,” keeping the commandments of God “without spot, blameless until our Lord Jesus Christ's appearing” (1 Tim. 6.11-16; see also 1 Tim. 1.18-20; 4.16; and 2 Tim. 3.10-17).

It is often necessary for an evangelist to “endure afflictions” (2 Tim. 4.5) because of the nature of his message, requiring a resolute and fixed faith.

Be An Example

The homily and the discourse are indeed distinguishing examples of the work of an evangelist. However, an evangelist must harness alternate forms of evangelizing as well, if he is to be successful in his work. One of these alternate evangelistic methods is exemplifying the doctrine.

Paul said, “Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity” (1 Tim. 4.12). Though Timothy may have been between 38 and 40 years old at this time (see Vincent, 250), he was still relatively “young.”

The Greek word translated, “despise,” denotes “to think down upon” or “to disesteem.” There are many who look condescendingly on “youth,” not counting them worthy of respect or consideration, simply by virtue of their age. Some might be inclined to ignore or challenge Timothy's commands and exhortations, owing to his youth.

A Christ-like “example,” who was also considered “young” when he began his ministry (see Irenaeus), is the only remedy to such illegitimate criticisms.

Preach

The most obvious function of an evangelist is to “preach the word” ( 2 Tim. 4.2). The term itself denotes a “well-messenger” — a bringer of good news. Indeed, the overall work of an evangelist, consummating in the salvation of mankind, is one brimming with positive connotations.

But this is not to suggest that the evangelist's messages will avoid a “negative” brunt. In fact, part and parcel of the command to “preach the word” are the following “negative” injunctions:

(1) “Convince” (2 Tim. 4.2).


This word suggests an exposing of error — a demonstration of wrongdoing. As a jury illumines the guilt of a man on civil trial for the crimes he committed, the preacher must expose, through the preaching of the Word, the lawless deeds of sinful men.

W.E. Vine further adds that, more than the mere conviction of error, this word usually is accompanied "with the suggestion of putting the convicted person to shame" (128). Indeed, presentation of gospel fact is useless if the convicted sinner is not compelled to feel shame for his sins (cf. Ps. 83.16-18; 2 Cor. 7.10f).

(2) “Rebuke” (2 Tim. 4.2).


More than merely exposing error and evoking shame, this word alludes to the "charge" or warning that must be given, subsequent to the verdict of guilt, as to the impending penalty that awaits the sinner, should he fail to repent.

Moulton and Milligan provide a number of ancient sources which employ the word in the sense of "censure," "fine," or to "lay under a penalty" (248). As the judge issues a sentence for the convicted criminal, the preacher must convey to the sinner the heinousness of the potential punishment which he will receive as a consequence of his impenitent deed(s).

Furthermore, unlike the word, convince, a rebuke (or punitive charge), in biblical parlance, may either be warranted or unwarranted (cf. Mt. 16.22), persuasive or ineffectual (cf. Lk. 23.40; Mk. 9.25).

Trench observes that one difference between convince and rebuke "lies in the possibility of 'rebuking' for sin without 'convincing' of sin" (29). He further suggests that a rebuke may be unconvincing either because "there is no fault...or although there is fault, the rebuke does not cause the offender to admit it" (ibid).

In either case, when a preacher of the gospel issues a punitive warning to a sinner, it must at least be based on truth (cf. 1 Thess. 5.21; 1 Tim. 5.21-22), with view towards convincing the sinner to alter his nefarious course (cf. 2 Tim. 2.24-26; 2 Cor. 5.11).

Thus, contrary to modern religious sentiments, appealing to the terror of our Lord's ever-approaching judgment and the harrowing nature of an eternal hell is a necessary portion of Bible-based teaching (cf. 1 Thess. 5.1-6).

(3) “Exhort” (2 Tim. 4.2). This word evinces a “calling to one's side;” an invitation; a strong appeal.

The preaching done in this context involves an escalating climax — first, the conviction of error; second, the warning of punishment, should error be prolonged; and third, an appeal to refrain from error.

On this basis, gospel preachers often offer an invitation to conclude their lessons. These negative messages must be done “with all longsuffering and teaching” (2 Tim. 4.2).

Furthermore, the message of the evangelist must be “sound” (Titus 2.1) — i.e., in keeping with the Master's Will. If an evangelist sticks to this mandate, he will “be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished in the words of faith and of the good doctrine which [he has] carefully followed” (1 Tim. 4.6).

The phrase, “carefully followed,” reminds us that while the use of extra-biblical anecdotes and parables may indeed be constructive on occasion, the evangelist's lessons should be permeated with the accurate, calculated use of Scripture (cf. 2 Pet. 3.2; 1 Cor. 4.6; 2 Tim. 3.16-17). The biblical text must be “carefully followed” and properly expounded, so that the preacher's audience will, “by reason of use,” learn the value of Bible study, and become well accustomed to the exposition of the Scriptures (Heb. 5.12-14; 2 Pet. 3.14-18; 2 Tim. 2.2).

When a man's mind becomes infatuated with Holy Writ, so that every thought and deed brings to mind some biblical text, he will truly be a consecrated individual, “fit for the Master's use” (2 Tim. 2.21).

Too, the language and vocabulary of the preacher should be both 1) genuine — representative of the individual's background; and 2) above the mundane. Profane and ordinary jargon tends to diminish the gravity of the gospel message. The language of the Bible is lofty and inspirational. It transforms the reader into a higher cerebral plane (cf. Rom. 12.1-2).

All preachers, then, like all Christians, must engage in a devoted pursuit of spiritual, moral, and intellectual excellence (cf. Ecc. 9.10; 1 Cor. 15.58). Wayne Jackson sagely summarizes the various elements of preaching:

“Thorough preparation involves several crucial elements: research (a gathering of the appropriate data); meditation (carefully considering the needs of one’s self to the lessons, and then to his audience); organization (arrangement into a logically developed, intelligently argued format); and, presentation (a delivery that neither distracts from the basic message nor unduly attracts attention to himself)” (“Preparing To Preach...”; emphasis in original — AP).

Too few evangelists respect the lofty function of the pulpit; and too few congregations recognize the true characteristics of a faithful evangelist. A “careful,” persistent examination of the Scriptures will remedy this dearth.

Irenaeus. Against Heresies.  Book II, 22.5.  
 
Jackson, Wayne. “Preparing To Preach,” Christian Courier.com.  [Online], March 6, 2013.
 
Moulton, J.H. and Milligan, G. Vocabulary of the Greek Testament.  Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2004.  
 
Spicq, Ceslas. Theological Lexicon of the New Testament, Volume 2. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, Inc., 1996.
 
Trench, R.C. Trench's Synonyms of the New Testament. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, Inc., 2000.
 
Vincent, Marvin R. Word Studies in the New Testament, Volume IV. Grand Rapids, MI: WM. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1973.
 
Vine, W.E. Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words.  Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc., 1985.
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