Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
March 22, 1956
NUMBER 45, PAGE 2-3b

Evangelization: A Work Assigned To All Churches

Cecil B. Douthitt, Brownwood, Texas

Chapter V

1. Meaning Of The Word "Evangelize."

To evangelize is to preach the gospel. Evangelizing and preaching the gospel are synonymous.

When the Jerusalem church was scattered, "they therefore that were scattered abroad went about preaching the word." (Acts 8:4.) They evangelized; they all were evangelists.

Evangelists preach to citizens in the kingdom of God as well as to aliens. "If thou put the brethren in mind of these things," said Paul to the evangelist Timothy, "Preach the word." (2 Tim. 4:2.)

In Paul's letters to Timothy and Titus, he devotes more space to how and what these evangelists were to preach to the churches, than to how and what they were to preach to aliens. Whether preaching to the church or to aliens, they were doing the work of evangelists.

2. The Work Assigned.

Every church must be active in the work of evangelization. It is God's will for the church to make known His manifold wisdom. (Eph. 3:10.) The church is "the pillar and ground of the truth." ('1 Tim. 3:15.)

This is not a work that a church may assume at its own pleasure or discretion after its establishment. It is a work that the Lord has assigned to every church from its beginning — from the very "first day" of its existence. When it ceases this work, it loses its New Testament identity.

No church is either too young or too small to engage in the work of evangelizing the world. The church at Philippi had "fellowship in furtherance of the gospel from the first day" of its existence, until the day that Paul sat in a Roman prison and wrote a letter to it; and he said he was confident that it would continue that work "until the day of Jesus Christ" (Phil. 1:3-6), and that church never turned over one dime of its money to the control of a sponsoring church.

No poverty can become deep enough and no persecution can become injurious enough to exempt any church from the responsibility of preaching the gospel to the world. The church at Jerusalem was so poor that it had to have money from other churches for the relief of its members; but it never received one cent from another church for the work of evangelization, and yet in the lowest depths of its poverty it continued to preach the gospel without stint. The cruel persecution that was poured out upon it was unbearable, and the members had to flee from their city and their homes; but the work of evangelization went on. "They therefore that were scattered abroad went about preaching the word." (Acts 8:4.)

The theory that poor little churches cannot do their evangelistic work, unless they send their money to a sponsoring church, is totally false and contradicts everything the New Testament teaches on the subject. The centralization of church resources under the oversight of a sponsoring church is no help at all to any church or to any good work. It is a hindrance to the work and a curse to the cause of Christ in exactly the same way that the missionary society became a hindrance and a curse one hundred years ago.

The way that the Highland church in Abilene is gathering money from other church treasuries for the Herald of Truth evangelistic project is a hindrance and a curse to the work of evangelization. It is a perversion of the divine pattern, and every perversion thwarts the purpose of God and vitiates the gospel of Christ.

If churches today could be persuaded to imitate the New Testament churches in the use of their own resources and opportunities, the knowledge of God soon would cover the earth as the waters cover the sea. Oh, that mortals could be persuaded to believe that "as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are" God's ways higher than man's ways!

3. The Field Assigned.

In the work of evangelization, the Lord has assigned the whole world as the field of every church and every Christian. (Matt. 13:38.) No church has a monopoly on any geographical area, regardless of size. Exactly the same area has been assigned to every church, and there is no righteous way to change God's assignments; therefore, all churches sustain equal relationship to this field and to this work.

In the Gospel Advocate of December 15, 1955, Brother Thomas B. Warren "assumes" that the elders of congregation "A" may stake out an area and "assume" the oversight of the work of evangelizing in that area or diocese; he "assumes" that "this work then becomes peculiarly and exclusively the work of congregation 'A'." The fallacy of Brother Warren's diocesan concept of evangelistic work will be pointed out in other chapters of this study.

4. Mission Accomplished.

Within one generation the people of God preached the gospel to every nation as the Lord had commanded. In Colossians 1:6, Paul said that the truth of the gospel "is come unto you; even as it is also in all the world bearing fruit and increasing." In verse 23 he said, "If so be that ye continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye heard, which was preached in all creation under heaven." It could be "preached in all creation under heaven in this generation, if the Lord's people would imitate the faith, method and zeal of the first century Christians. How did they accomplish their mission?

Christians "went about preaching the word. And Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and proclaimed unto them the Christ." (Acts 8:4, 5.) Wherever they went, they proclaimed the Christ. They were taught to support financially the preachers of the word: "But let him that is taught in the word communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things." (Gal. 6:6.) From the beginning of the church, they continued steadfastly in the "fellowship." (Acts 2:42.)

Churches as such "sounded forth the word of the Lord" in every place. (1 Thess. 1:8.) Paul taught the churches to support gospel preachers, and that the Lord had ordained "that they that proclaim the gospel should live of the gospel." (1 Cor. 9:6-14.)

By its own chosen carriers the church at Philippi "sent once and again" unto Paul's need. (Phil. 4:14-18.) Paul received wages from "other churches" as he ministered in Corinth. (2 Cor. 11:8.)

It stands as a historical, Biblical, undeniable fact that New Testament churches sent directly to gospel preachers engaged in evangelistic work, and never to any kind of intermediate controlling agency.