FORGET NONE OF HIS BENEFITS
volume 19, number 29, July 9, 2020
“And He gave some as evangelists.” -Ephesians 4:11
I have written elsewhere on the Biblical rationale for the office of evangelist and my friend Dr. Dewey Roberts has written an excellent Biblical and exegetical statement for it as well. Therefore I will not plow that field again. I urge you to read our explanations at the sites listed in the end notes to this blog.
I wholeheartedly, and without hesitation or equivocation, believe that the office of evangelist exists today and must be unleashed in the modern church. How will the office of evangelist practically work itself out in Vanguard Presbytery? There are at least two ways in which I see this happening.
Let’s look first at the local, established church. The three offices of Elder, Deacon, and Evangelist coincide with three major gifts necessary to work in tandem if the church of Christ is to flourish–evangelism, teaching or exhorting, and mercy ministry. While every believer is to exhort or encourage one another daily (Hebrews 3:13, 12:15), to evangelize daily (Mt.28:18-20, Acts 8:4), and to do acts of love and mercy daily (Eph.4:32, Phil.2:3,4, 1 Pet.5:5) we will be more motivated to do one of three commands, largely based on the gift we have received from the Lord Himself (1 Cor.12:4-7). Some, therefore, are more drawn to show mercy to the needy or hurting. Others are drawn to evangelize the lost. And still others are more motivated to study the word of God, to teach it in small group discipleship contexts, to counsel believers, to teach adults or children, to preach from the pulpit, to write, or to teach in seminaries.
The local church needs all three of these offices and gifts working together for the expansion and growth of the church in the community and world. My observation has been for some time that most Reformed churches are heavy on teaching but light on evangelism and mercy ministry (although we are improving in mercy ministry). If the pastor, therefore, is a gifted teacher then he will focus his ministry more in the teaching area. Teaching, which of course is vital, will tend to drive the entire ministry, meaning the overall ministry of the church is not balanced. I know of a church, for example, which once had an evangelist as their pastor and while he was a good expository preacher the emphasis on that church ministry was evangelism. At one point, many years ago, the church saw hundreds of conversions each year with well over one hundred people each week going out through Evangelism Explosion to share the gospel with people in their community. A new pastor came in, who by the way believed in evangelism and regularly shared the gospel with people, but who, nonetheless, was an outstanding teacher of the word. Over a period of years the church became more and more focused on teaching (great teachers abounded in Sunday school and mid week offerings) and the emphasis on evangelism eroded significantly.
Churches which major on teaching, while neglecting evangelism and mercy ministry, become sterile churches. They rarely reproduce new believers and rarely do they receive “unwashed” people from the world into their churches. Balance is the key. A church, likewise, with a heavy emphasis on evangelism, while downplaying teaching or mercy ministry, will be a shallow church. People are getting saved but they soon leave because they realize they need more substantial, spiritual food. And churches which are heavy on mercy ministry but which do not emphasize evangelism or solid Biblical teaching sooner or later become social gospel churches. The point is, of course, that we need all three offices working together in the local church.
So in this context a local church desperately needs at least one man serving in the office of evangelist. And what does he do? He regularly goes out into the community and shares the gospel with whomever will listen to him. Furthermore he is to train people in the local congregation in how to evangelize their neighbors. His goal is to bring new converts into the church. He is, as it were, an obstetrician. Once the obstetrician has delivered the baby, then he moves on to the next patient. The work of overseeing the spiritual development of the new convert is likened to the pediatrician. His task is longer and more difficult. There are a myriad of ways in which he can do this and there is not room here today to delve into those methodologies.
The second way the office of Evangelist is to be used is in church planting. Already there is great interest in planting Vanguard Presbytery churches around the country. How shall we attempt to plant these churches? What is the methodology? I will have far more to say about this in a few weeks but simply put, the evangelist is the spearpoint for church planting. Consider what we see the Apostle Paul doing in the book of Acts. More specifically observe his modus operandi in Acts 16. He answered the Macedonian call and went over from Troas into Philippi where he very quickly met Lydia from the Asia Minor city of Thyatira. Paul was leading with evangelism. God opened her heart to believe the things spoken by Paul and she was converted, she and her household. The same happened a little later in Acts 16 with the Philippian jailer. Paul, however, did not stay long in Philippi. He was driven to Thessalonica, then to Berea, Athens, and finally to Corinth in the Roman province of Achaia. Paul was leading with evangelism and when he departed for the next city he always left a teacher or pastor to shepherd the flock of new believers.
So practically speaking, we are actively recruiting evangelists to join me in various cities around the U.S. After much prayer where we are asking the Holy Spirit to lead us to people who are receptive to the gospel, we will then preach the gospel on the streets, at universities, door to door, one-on-one, wherever people gather. We will go to the people with Holy Spirit expectancy. Our intent is to do what Paul did, namely to evangelize and seek conversions. Immediately these “hopeful converts” will be discipled in the basics of the Christian life and when we have a core group of thirty or forty then we will begin regular worship services, train, ordain, and install elders, deacons, and evangelists and particularize the group as a church in Vanguard Presbytery.
I hope I am stating the obvious. This is a bold, audacious, and totally impossible task if the Holy Spirit does not attend our labors with His presence and power. No gimmicks. No psychotherapy. No sociologically driven church growth methodologies. Just straight up gospel preaching, discipling, teaching, and mercy ministry.
I have no idea what God will do with all of this but I am excited and expectant.
1 Under Obligation: Recapturing a Reformed Evangelistic Zeal, pages 189-192 and <fnohb.home.blog> September 20, 2018.