Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
May 26, 1955

The Work Of An Evangelist

Guthrie Dean, Malvern, Arkansas

Paul said to Timothy: "But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry." (2 Tim. 4:5.) What was the 'Work of Timothy as an evangelist at Ephesus? He was not to rule the church; that was the elders' job. (1 Tim. 5:17.) As an evangelist, Timothy was not to be the "feeder of the flock" for that also was the elders' job. (Acts 20:1731.) Timothy was not to take over the teaching of the congregation, for they already had teachers. (1 Tim. 1:3-4.)

If we can find what Timothy was supposed to do at Ephesus, we will know what the evangelist today can do. (1) He was charged to "preach the word," and to reprove and rebuke all who sin. (2 Tim. 4:2.) (2) A further duty of Timothy as an evangelist was to help in selecting elders. This fact is evident by the carefully stated qualifications of elders given in 1 Timothy 3, and by other instructions given him regarding elders. (1 Tim. 5:17-20.) Since Timothy was to require that elders be apt to teach, he evidently did not appoint some to that work in Ephesus or anywhere else and then take over the teaching himself. It is not enough for the elders to see that the teaching is done, they are obligated before God to "feed the flock" themselves.

Elders can no more shift their teaching to the evangelist than the evangelist can shift his preaching responsibility off on the sisters of the congregation. If elders are going to shift their work of teaching, and feeding the flock off on the evangelist, then why should they be surprised if the evangelist tries to take the oversight away from them and form a one-man pastor system? The elders of the church are responsible for letting the evangelists take the upper hand of the congregations by putting their rightful work off on the evangelists. Elders are to watch after the souls of the congregation (Heb. 13:17); they are to feed the flock of God (Acts 20:28); they are to guard the flock against false teachers (Acts 20:28-31); they are to rule the church (Rom. 12:8; 1 Tim. 5:17) — but not as lords (1 Peter 5:3); they are to exercise the oversight (1 Peter 5:2). And if elders will do these things, then the evangelist will be free to "do the work of an evangelist." He will be free to "preach the word." If all the pains and cares of the congregation are rightfully shouldered by the leaders of the church, the evangelist could do a hundred times more good out preaching to and teaching the lost sinners of the community. Am I opposed to located preachers? No. Timothy was a located preacher at Ephesus for several years, and the church had elders, too. But as the "located preacher" Timothy did not try to take the work away from the elders and teachers of the church; and neither did the church try to shift its rightful work off on Timothy.

What about the work of an evangelist where there are no elders? He is to strengthen, build up, and train the members. And shortly he will have material from which he can set the church in order with elders and deacons. And after elders are appointed, the evangelist must step down as "the leader" and submit to the oversight of the elders. If the elders wish to support him in the community or in the pulpit as a preacher of the gospel, they certainly have every scriptural right to do so the elders at Ephesus selected Timothy to do the work of an evangelist right there in Ephesus. And all indications are that Timothy preached for the church regularly. It's quite true that very few preachers are overworked, but that still doesn't justify the church in placing the work of the elders and teachers on the shoulders of the preacher or evangelist. There is a danger of a fully developed pastor system taking roots in the Lord's church. Any congregation with elders that has turned the teaching, feeding, and ruling over to the preacher, has already submitted to the one-man pastor system. God help us to wake up and repent before it is too late.