In Paul’s second letter to Timothy, he told him that Jesus brought life and immortality to light “through the gospel, to which I was appointed a preacher, an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles” (2 Timothy 1:10,11). Paul was a preacher. A preacher of what? The gospel – he was a gospel preacher. Other passages identify one who labors as a proclaimer of the gospel as an “evangelist” (Acts 21:8). That is not a title; it is a role/work description.
What should the church expect from gospel preachers? I am not asking about what denominations require of their pastors. The thinking and practices of man-made religious groups has no bearing whatsoever on what the church of the Lord should be doing. We are concerned with a “thus says the Lord,” so we ask, “What does the Lord expect from those brothers who preach the gospel?”
Unlike the biblical message about pastors-elders, when it comes to gospel preachers, we do not find an extensive New Testament “list” of qualifications or expectations of those who labor in the word. For our purposes, we want to look at a few statements which set forth some things that were expected of Timothy as he served as an evangelist (2 Timothy 4:5). For convenience’ sake, we have divided these matters into three areas. By no means are we claiming to mention in this article everything which the Bible says about gospel preachers. Unless stated otherwise, all verse references are from 1 Timothy, with our main focus being on 1 Timothy 4 and 5.
(1) Preacher, be a man of the Book. Note some of Paul’s instructions to Timothy which showed the need for God’s preacher to center his life and activities around the presentation of God’s word:
– “Instruct the brethren in these things” (4:6).
– “These things command and teach” (4:11).
– “. . . give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine” (4:13).
– “Meditate on these things; give yourself entirely to them . . .” (4:15).
– “Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them . . .” (4:16).
– “Teach and exhort these things” (6:2).
By all means, brother preacher, the church needs you to spend extensive amounts of time in God’s word. Why? As the above passages indicate, when it comes to the Lord’s inspired message, gospel preachers need to give attention to it, meditate on it, take heed to it, teach/instruct it, use it to exhort the saints, command the saints, and continue in it. In order to fulfill his responsibilities with the word, a preacher of the gospel must possess knowledge of that word. That requires study and meditation.
Blessed is the congregation whose preacher(s) understand their role, and blessed is the gospel preacher that works with congregations who know and appreciate the role of a gospel preacher and what is required on his part for him to be “ready to go” in presenting God’s work in public and private. In addition to the acquisition of knowledge, a gospel preacher must have the ability to communicate the word of God effectively and have within him the courage to present all of the Lord’s truth (Acts 20:27). Ah, it all sounds so easy, does it not? Obtain knowledge, communicate what you know, and have the internal strength to preach the truth. Evangelists need our encouragement! But, there is more.
(2) Preacher, be a godly example for others to imitate. “Let no man despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity” (4:12). In general terms, in what aspects was Timothy to be an example worthy of emulation? In his attitude, in his speech, and in his behavior. Even if a man preaches the truth, no one wants to listen to him if he does not live that message in his own life. The need to live in harmony with the gospel is not a type of pressure or burden for an evangelist. It just comes with the territory – God expects such of him, and so do we.
Timothy’s exact age is not stated, but he was still counted as a “youth” when Paul wrote this letter to him. The principle of being a role model/good example would apply to every gospel preacher, from the eldest to the youngest. The Holy Spirit through Paul charged Titus, “In all things showing yourself to be a pattern of good works . . .” (Titus 2:7). The church is blessed to have men of the Book who live the truth which they preach; on the other hand, it suffers great harm when its evangelists fail to do so.
(3) Preacher, treat other people properly. As one exits 1 Timothy 4 and heads into the next chapter, what instruction does he find? “Do not rebuke an older man, but exhort him as a father, young men as brothers, older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, with all purity” (5:1,2). Every person needs to be treated with respect; in particular, when a gospel preacher deals with those older than him, he needs to treat them with dignity. A gospel preacher needs to treat women in the way that he would want other men to treat his (preacher’s) mother or sister. Treating them with all purity includes staying far away from any form of sexually provocative action or language. Later in the same chapter, we learn that evangelists are to treat others “without prejudice, doing nothing with partiality” (5:21). Preachers, are we listening?
Thank God for gospel preachers who are men of the Book, set a good example, and treat others properly. And, thank God for saints and local churches who appreciate evangelists’ role and whose expectations for them are biblical rather than man-made.
— Roger D. Campbell