This is a rambling sort of a piece. There’s no cure for me. But maybe there’s enough in it that some will feel whatever truth there is in it and maybe that’s all I should expect from what’s here.
They’re older now. They’re tired now! It isn’t just their age! They’ve raised children, they’ve worked hard so many years, they’ve been bereaved, they care for their grandchildren to allow the parents to make their way in life and they turned up to worship God with a faithfulness and consistency in that matter that can only be admired.
Many of them hear constant calls from preachers to better moral response, for more effort to engage in “the work of the Lord” and particularly in relation to the unconverted. After all evangelism is the responsibility of the entire congregation and not just the “evangelist”—who characteristically is more of a “pastor” than an evangelist.
For various reasons we find the word “pastor” unacceptable for one who is an “evangelist”. But many (is “most” too sweeping a statement?) who call themselves or are called “evangelists” are more like “pastors”. We might object to the term but we engage in the practice and (it would appear) without thought or apology. It might also be the case that quite some time ago we substituted the word “minister” for “evangelist” because it gives more room for maneuvering. I mean, if you call someone (or he calls himself) an “evangelist” we still sense that his business is outreach toward “the lost” (is that not true?); it (at least) strongly suggests that he mainly engages in “outreach,” in preaching to “the unforgiven” and “outsiders”. It seems such a focused “title”—“evangelist,” I mean. Call him a “minister” and it sort of suggests, if it doesn’t now plainly mean he “serves” the congregation. That’s what the word “minister” means—is it not? When you put it that way, he’s not exactly an “evangelist”. Unless the word “evangelist” is only another word for “minister” or “teacher” or “pastor”. But, then again, I thought that all kinds of people were “ministers” (that is, servants, people who engaged, one way or another, in “service”. You know, like, say, “a deacon” or a “deaconess”—is that Romans 16:1, where we have the feminine form of “servant/deacon”?) I do see that there was a distinct group named “deacons” (Philippians 1:1; 1 Timothy 3:8-13) which in very early days were often viewed as men being mentored toward becoming shepherds/pastors.
Ah, then, that might ease things. The preacher is just another one of the “ministers”. Is that how we use the word “minister” when we speak of “the local preacher”? Is that what we mean to do when we put his name up on our billboard outside? Is that what we mean when we introduce him to some friend with, “This is our minister”? Do we mean he’s just another one of us that “ministers”?
So, is it wrong to use the term “minister” of the one who preaches to the assembly of believers week after month after year? I think not! After all he serves (ministers to) the assembly in teaching and exhorting. But I do object to our confusing that with the work of an “evangelist”. I don’t doubt that on occasions these salaried ministers speak to the unforgiven, don’t you know, but then I know numerous people who speak the gospel to the as-yet unforgiven and they’re not salaried “ministers” or “evangelists,” “teachers” or “pastors”.
I do understand that areas of service often overlap. Thank God! One who teaches is “ministering”. One who evangelizes is ministering and one who pastors is ministering. ( I know one preacher who repeatedly insisted that Ephesians 4:11 should be rendered ”shepherds” rather than “pastors,” obviously ignorant (even after he was informed) of the fact that the word “pastor” means “shepherd”. His problem wasn’t lexical—it was/is sectarian.)
Romans 12:3-8 makes for enlightening reading—note the distinctions drawn between areas of service, though none of them is in conflict since, putting the best face on it, they are all expressions of the one body expressing the grace of God. Is it significant that he doesn’t mention evangelizing? Probably not. But then again, he might have thought that “evangelists” while they’re certainly God’s gift to the Church and to humanity was more focused to “outsiders” while his intention was to speak to “the family”. Moving from that.
Ephesians 4:7-10 speaks of Christ’s exaltation and His giving gifts to “men” and some of his gifts to “men” are listed in 4:11. I wonder if “men” in 4:8 speaks only of “Church members” or of humans in general. If Christ gave these specialized gifts mentioned to “Church members” for the benefit not only of the Church but for humanity perhaps “men” has that in mind.
No matter on that point also. Still, we’re not to forget that the Church is Christ for the world! What He gifts the Church with is for service to humanity. The gifts Paul mentioned are differentiated as: apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. (Assuming for the moment that the ‘Granville Sharp rule’ doesn’t hold here the shepherds and teachers are two groups and not one.)
We’re told that Christ gave “some” to be this, some to be that and others to be something else. We must permit the text to say what it says. Once more, there is no conflict here—all the gifts blend and sometimes overlap to bless the specific congregations and the entire Body of Christ with growth and maturity which, in this section, stresses its being grounded in God’s truth/doctrine that it might be filled with the fullness of God (maybe Ephesians 1:22-23 works well here). If “evangelist” is a particular form of ministry–what is an “evangelist“?
While it’s clear to me that the very existence of the Church of God is a proclamation of and by the exalted Lord who indwells the Church through and as the Holy Spirit, who is Christ’s Spirit, the Church is called to speak its truth (as the Lord Jesus did when He was engaged in His earthly phase of ministering). Again, that’s clear to me! Nevertheless, God gave “some” to evangelize. (You might Google Eusebius on the word “evangelist” and/or consult the wider literature on it and see what you think.) An “evangelist” doesn’t call himself. God gifts him and he is urged to be faithful to his calling (2 Timothy1:6; 4:5 and 1 Timothy 4:14). It’s probably important to say that the Timothy literature is more than the job description of an “evangelist” since Timothy functions as a special envoy of Paul at Ephesus (1 Timothy 1:3; 4:13 and perhaps Titus 1:5 is pertinent here).
My intention in this piece is to be accurate in presenting the biblical witness (write me if it needs corrected or balanced) but mainly I mean to be practical and speak to what I think is a common injustice about which little (that I know of) is being said.
I hear salaried preachers (many of them call themselves “evangelists”) repeatedly calling on the members of the congregations (“parts of Christ”—1 Corinthians 6:15) to engage in evangelism. That is, they are to carry the gospel to the non-Christians, the not-yet forgiven, the “outsiders” or the “unchurched”. My suspicion is that if the salaried “evangelists” spent their time evangelizing that more evangelism would be being done than currently is being done. At this point I’m isolating “evangelism” in the way that these ministers that I’m complaining about are doing. They want not only the young school and “professional” working people to engage in “outreach for the lost,” they want the older people to do the same (as if they weren’t already doing it). By “reaching out for the lost” (or some such phrase) they mean overt speaking the gospel to the unforgiven, or more likely, inviting them to the building so the unforgiven can hear the local minister (evangelist?) preach.
So what should we do? Should we say to the congregation, “You can’t expect the minister to do your evangelizing for you.” Or, “You mustn’t sit like a bump on a log just listening.”
These “bumps on a log” are paying the speaker’s salary, they’re feeding him and his family, they’re paying for his education and the education of his children, they paying for the comfortable home for his wife and children, they’re paying for his health insurance and theirs, they’re characteristically setting his retirement fund aside. They do all this to allow this “evangelist” to do what?
Do they pray for him and his family? Do they pray for the church at large and speak to God about the sad, bad world that needs Him so? Did they raise children to God’s glory who are now in the Lord Jesus and thrilled about it? Do they work on their grandchildren in the same way? Do they care for grandchildren so that their own children have a chance to make their honorable way in the world? Do they live honorably and kindly, compassionately and generously with their neighbors and in their brief contact with strangers and so adorn the name of Christ? Do they let His light shine so that people see their good works and glorify God in heaven? In living that way do they make the preacher’s sermons have the ring of truth (presuming he gospels when he speaks)? Do they gospel “away from the building” and assuming that they bring guests does the minister gospel? Did they and do they by their constant trust in God and keeping a congregation alive give that young man who now stands as a local minister (evangelist?) in his place in the Lord’s Body? These “bumps on a log”—did they and do they do all that and more?
Is any part of that evangelism?
I wonder how many salaried ministers (evangelists?) speak regularly to the unconverted “about their souls”? I wonder how many “unchurched” persons they speak with in, say, six months. Do they go looking for them? Or do they just “work to make friends” with one for six months with nothing more than, “Come to see us at church sometime”? I’m not opposing “salaried” teachers or evangelists. I’m opposed to their being well salaried and forgetting who they’re talking to! God forgive them!
Let’s imagine that the average man or woman works and commutes 10 hours a day five days a week (leaving aside for now family relationships and work at home) and let’s suppose we were fools enough to say that has nothing to do with serving God. Let’s suppose we did that with the salaried minister (evangelist?)—his first 10 hours a day don’t register on the God’s service list so now he has only come up level with the members who are paying his salary. Imagine him then speaking to his congregation and telling them they need to become more involved in the work of the Lord. Especially in the matter of outreach so that the assembly can grow. What if we told these evangelists (?) your first 10 hours a day don’t count, nor do the other hours spent with family? Your doing the “work of the Lord” only counts after the first 10 hours a day. What if we said to the local preacher, “Let’s see you work 10 hours a day and then get involved in outreach after that.”? How would that go over?
So, should we encourage these non-preacher members to shrug off the truth about who we Christians are? Should we discourage their gospeling to the as-yet unforgiven? Heaven forbid! But are they not already engaged in it? Have they not been engaged in it over the years?
Maybe if our salaried teachers (evangelists?) would evangelize or if they’re salaried “teachers” and not evangelists teach us of the wonder of God and who we are in Him, maybe if we were constantly fed with sound doctrine about GOD, His nature, character, purpose and promises even older and tired people, maybe even younger people who spend a minimum of 40 hours a week + traveling to and fro to provide for their families as God has called them to do (1 Timothy 5:8), perhaps working mothers with children that require lots of attention might be able to shrug off or at least resist their weariness and have the energy and boldness to speak about their Blessed Lord & Savior to the as-yet unforgiven the way the salaried ministers (evangelists?) should be doing. Religious lecturing isn’t gospeling.
I think I understand that there’s more to my faithful service to God than paying a preacher a salary. Yes, I think I’ve got straight. But I confess I’m weary of hearing what I hear from so many pulpits. I’m weary too for our people and wonder how they stay alive on what’s dished out to them. The newest theological fashion, the endless explaining of what that verse means and why we must get it right and how others are getting it wrong and the steady—maybe incessant call, “We must do better, we must all work to make this congregation grow.” The Church of God can only continue to live because the Spirit of the Father & the Son dwell within it. Exactly how that works I don’t know but it’s got to be more than what I’m hearing.
Maybe our teachers/exhorters should look at these faith-filled and faithful people, thank God, thank them, speak comfort, peace and vibrant hope to the older ones as they approach the end of their race and then get on with making full proof of their own “outreach” ministry that without the constant support and prayers of the people they address would never have begun much less continue.
(Oh God! Sigh. We thank You for this assuring indisputable truth: that You are the foundation on which Your Church is built and that we don’t carry You but rather that You carry us. In the Lord Jesus and by His Spirit this prayer.)