Being a minister of the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ is a very great privilege! It is beyond our comprehension that God would save worthless creatures from their utter wretchedness and would appoint them to be his ambassadors of the good news. He makes nobodies to be his spokespersons. He does this to confound the wise and to make his power and grace shine forth through jars of clay. Simply put, to be a pastor is to have the greatest job in the world!
Having said that, I must also point out that with privilege comes responsibility. A pastor’s primary responsibility is to cater to the spiritual needs of the congregation. He needs to teach, preach, shepherd and disciple the congregants. With a plethora of spiritual activities that he needs to perform on a day to day basis, there is a tendency to neglect evangelism, which is one of the direct commandments of our Saviour to his disciples (Matt. 28:19).
In this article, I primarily want to encourage my fellow pastors and elders to do evangelism. How can we cultivate a lifestyle that helps us to share the gospel with others freely, naturally and frequently? I want us to reflect on what it means to be a pastor who has a heart for evangelism.
1. The Biblical Mandate
Many of us were probably passionate in sharing the gospel with others in the early days of our conversion. Maybe, some of us even wanted to evangelise the whole world! And many of us, before the Lord called us to the pastoral ministry, were probably very zealous evangelists. But as things get busier, the temptation to neglect or to avoid evangelism is real for some of us. Usually, when there is a greater focus on the bigger picture, there is a tendency to miss out on smaller details. However, we cannot ignore the biblical mandate of evangelism even though our primary calling is to do pastoral work.
In the first letter to Timothy, with the rise of false teachers in the church of Ephesus, the Apostle Paul was deeply concerned about the church of Jesus Christ which is the pillar and the foundation of the truth (1 Tim. 3:15). He, then, uses his God-given authority (1 Tim. 1:1, 2 Tim. 2:1) to protect the church from false teachers who were vehemently advocating their false teachings to the destruction of their hearers (1 Tim. 1:3, 1 Tim. 4:2). In the end, the false teachings resulted in disorderliness within the church to the detriment of the Ephesians salvation (1 Tim. 2:8-10; 4:1).
When the Apostle Paul wrote the second letter to Timothy, he was already imprisoned. And, his death was imminent. With the false teachers continuing to oppose Paul’s leadership, things looked rather discouraging from within and from outside the church (2 Tim. 4: 14,15). In addition to that, it looked like Timothy was timid (2 Tim. 1:7,8) and weak (1 Tim. 5:23).
In this context, along with other imperatives, Paul told Timothy with a lot of weight and force to do the work of an evangelist! The Apostle Paul, at the beginning of 2 Tim. 4:1 says “I charge you therefore ……to do the work of an evangelist.” He says it with his apostolic authority (2 Tim. 1:1). Paul uses the word “I charge” once in 1 Timothy (1 Tim. 5:21) and twice in 2 Timothy (2 Tim. 2:14, 4:1). The commentator Robert W. Yarborough writes“Paul’s declaration is as weighty as analogous expressions used in the Septuagint and coming from Moses, Ezekiel, Jeremiah, Nehemiah, and even God himself (Ps. 49:7; 80:9)…The gravity of Paul’s urging is clear also in his calling as witnesses both God and Christ Jesus.” (1)
Therefore, it is very important for us to realise that doing evangelism is a commandment from the Lord. If Paul told Timothy to do this very important task in the midst of a very difficult situation in Ephesus, do we have any excuse to neglect this divine commandment?
2. Being an Evangelist in the Local Church
When we think of an evangelist, we primarily think of someone who is an itinerant that goes to different places to proclaim the gospel. It is envisioned primarily in terms of a work that is outside of the church. God calls many to do this very important work (Eph. 4:11). I have a friend in Scotland, whose denomination appoints evangelists to bring people to church. When there was a sharp decline in church attendance, his denomination realized the need for an itinerant evangelist. This evangelist would go out to the highways and the byways to urge people to repent of their sins and trust in the Lord Jesus; eventually, leading them to church.
When Paul told Timothy, “But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfil your ministry” (2 Tim. 4:5), he meant for Timothy to preach the gospel to his congregants. He said these words in the context of a people who would eventually buy the lies of the false teachers. The false teachers would only preach to their itching ears. Eventually, resulting in the congregation’s hatred towards sound doctrine. Now, how would Paul tell Timothy to combat this problem? What could have been the solution to this systemic problem? Please note that he does not tell Timothy to unpack all heresies and false teachings to convince them of the truth. Rather, Paul urges him to proclaim the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. The solution to all systemic problems of unbelief that arise in the church lies in the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is the gospel that prevents one from destruction. It is the gospel that restrains people from turning away from the truth. Therefore, Paul commands Timothy to do the work of an evangelist in his local church apart from doing all the important spiritual duties to fulfil his ministry.
To apply this truth, there must be a deeper consideration towards the lost within the church. To assume that all our members are saved could be a very fatal and a fundamental error. For some, that assumption has proven to be very costly. If it happened in the church of Ephesus, it can happen in our churches too. In the Parable of the Sower, Jesus spoke about four different types of people (Mk. 4:13-20), he pointed out that three of the four types had heard the word. They all seemed to make progress, yet many fell away (except the ones who persevered to the end). The apostle John writes, “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us.” (1 Jn. 2:19) Again, these people appeared to be genuine Christians for a period of time. Reformed Baptist minister Jim Savastio writes, “Don’t allow men to perish under the shadow of your pulpit because you assumed they were spiritually okay as the result of a confession of faith, baptism, and church membership.”(2)
In the next article we will turn to practical ways in which pastors can grow in the discipline of evangelism, even while we shepherd the flock over which God has placed us.
To read Part 2 of this series of articles (The Pastor And Evangelism – Part 2), click here.
1. Robert W. Yarbrough, THE LETTERS TO TIMOTHY AND TITUS, Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2018, Page No:434.