Some of us recall the song “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” The singing trio of Peter, Paul, and Mary made it into a huge hit in the 1960’s. One could probably write some new lyrics to that same tune and come up with a thought-provoking song, just changing the title to, “Where Have All the Gospel Preachers Gone?
When I ask, “Where have all the gospel preachers gone?”, I do not mean to imply that we have no faithful proclaimers of God’s word left. Indeed, there are a great number of loyal evangelists still laboring in the Kingdom. Nor do I suggest that every brother in the Lord needs to serve as a full-time gospel preacher. However, with the world’s population rapidly approaching 7 billion people, surely none would doubt that we need a much larger work force of gospel preachers!
The Bible teaches that those who call on the name of the Lord shall be saved. But only those who hear the gospel and believe are able to call on Him for salvation. “And how shall they hear without a preacher?” (Romans 10:14). People must obey the gospel in order to be saved (10:16), and the role of gospel preachers in that process is a vital one. I want to pose three questions about gospel preachers.
(1) Why do we still need evangelists/gospel preachers? In Ephesians 4:11 we read that in the first-century church there were apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. The work of an evangelist is to preach the word of God (2 Timothy 4:2,5). In the church today, why do we still need brothers working in that capacity? First, we still need evangelists because one phase of a preacher’s work is to preach the gospel to those who are lost. Again, only those who hear, believe, and obey the gospel can be saved from sin (Mark 16:15,16). Since there are still lost people (the world is full of them!), there is still a work for evangelists to do.
Second, we still need gospel preachers because another aspect of their work is to exhort and encourage those that are already in the Christ. The church remains in need of sound preaching to edify it (Acts 20:32). When Barnabas went to Antioch to assist the saints in the Lord’s work, he “. . . encouraged them all that with purpose of heart they should continue with the Lord” (Acts 11:23).
A third element of an evangelist’s work is to train the faithful to teach others the word of God (2 Timothy 2:2). Since the harvest is still plenteous, and since the seed-sowing workers are still few (Matthew 9:37), then it is surely the case that we still stand in need of brothers to be evangelists.
Fourth, God expects His preachers to charge men and women not to teach any doctrine other than His (1 Timothy 1:3), and when people stray from the truth in conduct or teaching, preachers of the gospel must exhort and rebuke with all authority (Titus 2:15). Therefore, since there is still a place for warning and exposing error, evangelists are greatly needed in our day.
(2) What kind of evangelists do we need? We need men that are mighty in the Scriptures like Apollos was (Acts 18:24). We need preachers who are reliable and dependable like Timothy showed himself to be (Philippians 2:19-23). We need men to preach with the courage of Peter and John (Acts 4:13). We need evangelists who have the big-picture mentality that Paul did, being ready to become all things to all men in order to save the lost (1 Corinthians 9:22).
We need men of the Book who have a servant’s heart like Barnabas had. That brother was unselfish with his possessions (Acts 4:36,37), unselfish in how he used his special ability to exhort the saints (Acts 11:22,23), and unselfish with his time (stay with him as he traveled from place to place to spread the good news and you will feel tired, Acts 13-15). We need gospel preachers who will not retreat or retire when afflictions come (2 Timothy 4:5). And, of course, we need evangelists who have the compassion of the Christ (Matthew 9:35).
(3) From where will our next preachers come? Which of our brothers in the Christ will step up, step out, and say, “Here am I, send me?” (Isaiah 6:8). No concerned soldier of the Christ will oppose the concept of “someone” serving as an evangelist. It may be, though, that some members of the church desire that preachers of the gospel come from other families and not their own. “If you want preachers, do not come looking for my son or my grandson. I want him to be a technician, lawyer, doctor, business man, or computer guru.” Such is the mentality of many folks in the church today. In the overall scheme of things, because little emphasis is given to the work of an evangelist and the need to train faithful brothers to serve in that role, the church suffers as a result. Our power to reach out to the lost and edify the saved is limited by a lack of evangelists. How sad. Will we have to skip a generation before there is a renewed zeal in preparing and training men to preach the unsearchable riches of the Christ? Surely not!
Brethren, would you join me in praying for open doors to spread the gospel? (Colossians 4:3). Will you join me in praying for the Lord to send forth more laborers into His harvest (Matthew 9:37,38)? And, will you join me in praying to our great God to raise up more faithful gospel preachers right here, right now, in this part of the world? “Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2). Where have all the preachers gone?
— Roger D. Campbell
TRUTH is published monthly by the Klang church of Christ in order to help educate, edify, encourage, and equip the saints of God.