One brother was described in the Bible as “Philip the evangelist” (Acts 21:8). Timothy also was recognized as an evangelist (2 Timothy 4:5). Evangelists in the first century played a role in the church’s edification and evangelism activities (Ephesians 4:11,12). We still need evangelists today since, until the Christ returns, the church will continue to carry out the works of evangelism and edification.
Our word “evangelist” comes from a Greek word (“εὐαγγελιστής/euangelistes”) which means “a messenger of good . . . denotes a ‘preacher of the gospel’” [Vine, www.studylight.org/dictionaries/ ved]. Thayer defines the word as “a bringer of good tidings” [word no. 2099 via e-Sword].
As we endeavor to get the gospel to all people everywhere (Mark 16:15), we appreciate the work done by faithful gospel preachers. Indeed, “How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!” (Romans 10:15). Let us, however, keep things in perspective. Evangelists are not the Savior, but His servants. They are not the King of kings, but point others to the King. They are not God’s gift to the world, but rather tell others of His gift of eternal life.
Paul by the Spirit charged Timothy to “do the work of an evangelist” (2 Timothy 4:5). What is that? Go back a few verses and you will find the answer: “Preach the word” (2 Timothy 4:2). Part of that preaching is done in a public manner. See the apostles preaching in the temple (Acts 5). See Stephen preaching to the Sanhedrin (Acts 7). See Philip preaching in Samaria (Acts 8). See Paul preaching in the synagogues (Acts 17). See Paul preaching in a first-day-of-the-week assembly of saints (Acts 20).
We err, though, if we conclude that an evangelist’s work is limited to the public preaching of God’s word. I personally have no interest in being identified as “the pulpit preacher” of a congregation. Such a label may cause some to conclude that public preaching is the fellow’s sole responsibility. It is not.
Every child of God is given the duty to contend earnestly for the faith (Jude 3). Paul said that he was set for the defense of the gospel (Philippians 1:7,17). Observe the gospel preachers in the early church and you will see them as defenders of the faith. Evangelists of every generation need to prepare themselves to defend God’s truth against those who seek to destroy, distort, or dilute it.
Another aspect of an evangelist’s work is to train others. Timothy was charged, “And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2 Timothy 2:2). Timothy
had acquired both knowledge and “know-how” (via his work and teaching experiences). He was supposed to take what he had learned and commit it to other faithful saints, sharing with them matters which would benefit them and train them to be able to teach others. We need gospel preachers to make this a priority today!
Let us not lose sight of the need for gospel preachers to be personal evangelists as well. By that, I mean they need to do more than present God’s word inside a church building by teaching Bible classes and preaching sermons. They need to be men who relish, seek for, and take advantage of opportunities to teach the gospel in private one-on- one settings. See Philip teaching the eunuch from Africa (Acts 8). See Paul and Silas teaching a jailer and his family (Acts 16). A congregation which has a preacher who is not evangelistic-minded will struggle to have an evangelistic fervor, period. We need our evangelists, along with our elders, leading the way in personal evangelism. It will have a positive “trickle-down” effect on the rest of a local church.
Brethren, when it comes to gospel preachers connecting with people and teaching them one-on- one, we are not getting the job done. What is wrong with the following pictures?
(a.) A gospel preacher is so saddled with “other stuff” (meaning activities which mimic what is expected of a denominational pastor) that he feels like his time is all gone, plus he is so drained mentally and physically that he seldom, if ever, engages in private Bible studies with lost people. This is not right.
(b.) An evangelist is so occupied with “other duties” that he gives no thought to what he can do to help others be effective teachers of God’s word. He basically makes no effort to carry out the instructions of 2 Timothy 2:2. This is not as it should be.
(c.) Schools established to train brothers to be preachers and teachers have courses on how to prepare and present public sermons (“Homiletics”). Good. We need those. But, while emphasis is given to pulpit preaching, in some cases personal evangelism is treated as if it were a secondary or even optional matter; or, it may be that a training school does not have a single course on personal evangelism. That is a pitiful scenario, and we are reaping the consequences.
The church needs evangelists who diligently preach the gospel publicly, defend the faith, train others, and labor to teach the lost in a private, personal way. May the Lord of harvests raise up laborers for His bountiful harvest (Matthew 9:37,38).
— Roger D. Campbell