One of the great pleasures of being a human is the ability to change your mind. That’s a tremendous blessing, especially when a wrong needs to be righted.
I have striven to be a man of the Word. I want to live my life and do church as closely to the revelation that God has given us in the Bible. However, the Holy Spirit recently began to convict me that I was ignoring one important aspect of Scripture—the role of the evangelist.
The Holy Spirit through Paul clearly says that God has given some men to be evangelists for the good of the church. It’s right there in Ephesians 4:11-12, And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ. There’s the evangelist right along with apostles, prophets, and pastors/teachers. While the role of apostle and prophet has ceased with the closing of the canon of Scripture, the role of evangelist is as ever relevant as the role of pastor/teacher. Yet, I have largely ignored it.
Please don’t misunderstand what I’m saying. I’m not saying that I’ve ignored evangelism. I share the gospel far and wide. However, I have ignored the role of what we might call the vocational evangelist, that man who has been set aside by God and gifted by the Spirit for the express purpose of preaching the gospel. In fact, in my five years at West Main Baptist Church, I have used an actual evangelist for only one preaching service out of probably fifty services dedicated explicitly to revival/evangelism.
The Lord began to prick my heart toward this shortcoming over year ago, and the moment that really drove it all home for me was when I listened to a 9 Marks leadership interview last fall. Mark Dever, who is the pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C. and the founder/president of 9 Marks, was interviewing Iain Murray, who was Martin Lloyd Jones’ assistant and co-founder of Banner of Truth Trust publishing house. Dever, in his usual interviewing style, was asking a wide range of questions on various topics, and due to Murray’s background having served in Britain and Australia and interacting with churches all over the world, he began to wonder if Murray would have anything specific to say to American churches. The interaction went as follows:
Dever: “Any word you would give to American Evangelicals in particular?”
Murray: “I have the privilege and great encouragement of seeing bright spots in the States and to me they are bright, encouraging. The lack of evangelists comes home to me more and more. Palmer Robertson, he said to me that evangelistic preaching has almost died out in the States. I didn’t quiz him on that, but it’s true in Britain. Suppose you are pastoring a church. Now God has helped blessing the preaching, and there are people who are concerned and awakened. It would be a good time to call in a friend for a week’s preaching for the gospel. Who would you call? How many men could you call for that role? Not many in Britain. Do you want a teacher and an expositor? Yes, we can provide them. Now what’s the reason for that? Lloyd Jones believed and more and more I think he’s right that evangelistic preaching is the hardest preaching, in part because it drains you emotionally more. We had a very good address at this conference this weekend. It was the point that you have got to find the emotion of the text and that emotion needs to be in the preacher. Now when it comes to evangelistic preaching then, it has to be real compassion and sensitivity and sympathy with lost men and women. You can’t just prepare a message and expound it. It’s something more than that and that’s really draining. So when you think about the evangelists of the past in the States and going back, we are lacking in such men.”
As I heard that, something just clicked in my spirit. I need to utilize the role of the evangelist in my local context. God has given them as a good gift to the church, and to ignore them is to handicap the spread of the Kingdom.
So, I declare today that I’m repenting of my ignoring the evangelist. In fact, I actually repented back in the fall and have one booked already for this spring!
In a follow-up post, I’ll explore why evangelists aren’t being used as much today and will try to put forth a way of going forward so that we can be closer to the scriptural norm and utilizing all the resources given by God to advance the Kingdom.
Now it’s your turn to respond. Do you use evangelists for ministry in your church? Am I correct that the role of evangelist is a relevant and important role for the church today? How is the church hindered when we ignore the role of the evangelist?
[…] Tuesday I posted on reevaluating the role of the evangelist. In that post I basically argued through my personal testimony that to ignore the role of the evangelist is to […]
Good article. I especially appreciate your humilty and your public repentance.
However, I might disagree with one statement, though with further explanation from you we may not be that far apart. You said, “While the role of apostle and prophet has ceased with the closing of the canon of Scripture, the role of evangelist is as ever relevant as the role of pastor/teacher.” What is your basis of determining that the role of the “apostle and prophet” has ceased.
In my view, this threatens the longevity of the role of the other gifts Paul mentions. So you know where I’m coming from, my view is that the role of the apostle and prophet are certainly different than in the first-century church, but I would not say that they have ceased in the absolute sense. I would argue that the frontier missionary functions in a very similar way to the apostles, though without being an orginal witness to Christ’s direct instructions and resurrections and without being enabled to pen authoritative new revelation. I would also argue that the prophetic ministry is still valid, especially in frontier missions. Again, I would not allow for new revelation or a predictive ministry in the OT sense. But I would allow, at the least, a forthtelling ministry that might even have some Holy Spirit allowances for foretelling.
I would love to hear your thoughts.
Thanks for dropping by and leaving a substantial comment!
I see the role of apostles and prophets as people who deliver authoritative revelation to the people of God. In this role, they are completely inspired by God and deliver inerrant information from God to the people of God. Given that the canon of Scripture is closed, these roles are not continued today. Nevertheless, we still have the apostles and the prophets with us equipping us through their writing in Scripture.
I agree with you that there are people today who are apostle-like or apostolic and prophet-like or prophetic, but we should never call them an apostle or a prophet. Would you be comfortable doing that?
I’m not sure exactly what you are referring to when you say, “What is your basis of determining that the role of the ‘apostle and prophet’ has ceased? In my view, this threatens the longevity of the role of the other gifts Paul mentions.” Are you talking about the other gifts there in Ephesians 4, namely evangelists and pastors, or are you talking about the miraculous gifts in 1 Corinthians 12, namely tongues, healing, and prophecy?
I would not be comfortable calling them apostles or prophets due to the danger of misunderstanding and due to my own interpretive uncertainty. I definitely agree with using the apostolic/prophetic terms (I should have been more clear on that earlier, but I was only on one cup of coffee this morning : ) But I am still struggling with saying that the “role” of apostle and prophet has seized. Perhaps I would agree that the authoritative “office” has ceased, but I don’t think I would say that the “role” has ceased. For example, frontier missionaries assuredly “deliver authoritative revelation to the people of God,” it’s just not new revelation.
Regarding your question, I was talking about he other roles/gifts in Ephesians. While I probably should have used “role” rather than “gift,” nonetheless no one should be in these roles that have not be gifted by the Holy Spirit per 1 Cor.12.
By the way, my questions and comments here are not so much a questioning of your interpretation as an ongoing wrestling that I’ve had for several years. I’m using your blog to “think out loud.”