Monday, December 15, 2008

The Work of the Evangelist is the Fulfillment of Ministry - II Timothy 4:5 - A Biblical Approach to Gospel Preaching

For some length of time now I have observed “preacher wanted” and “preacher available” ads running on brotherhood web sites. These various sites paint almost endless “job description” pictures. Let me recall a few variable highlights. Regular office hours; yes, no or in-between? Time and energy focus on lesson preparation; priority or not? Proactive or reactive duties? Do the congregations in question have eldership or “business meeting” leadership models? Do these congregational leaderships have macro, micro or delegatory management styles? Are there internal or external ministry focuses? Is schooling or experience seen to be more beneficial? Should the preacher and his wife have children? If so, what age should the children be? Should the preacher be young, old or middle aged? Are there doctrinal expectations or not? Does the congregation focus on local or foreign mission opportunities? We could go on here…but you get the idea. There are endless differences in all of these ads. However, there appears to be one commonality.

Diverse as these ads are, there does seem to be one universal concern stated in most every ad. Nearly every “preacher wanted” and “preacher available” ad asks, or answers, this question: “What is the preachers philosophy towards his ministry and how should he spend his time during a typical day?”

As an elder, soon to be gospel preacher (Lord willing), I would like to answer this question - from the Bible.

As alluded to in the title of this article, the apostle Paul instructs Timothy, his much beloved “son in the gospel,” having much to say regarding his much needed ministry. He summarizes these urgent matters in II Timothy 4:15 (NKJV): “But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.” Just what is the fulfilling work of an evangelist? The fulfilling work of an evangelist is the full time pursuit of the Great Commission of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. The Great Commission is, at the same time, the most profound and yet simply put job description in the history of the world!

Then Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” - Matthew 28:18-20 (NKJV) [Emphasis added – RM]

In this passage we can answer the question asked above, “What is the preacher’s philosophy towards his ministry and how should he spend his time during a typical day?” By identifying the key words in the passage we know the answer:

Go – Disciple – Baptize – Teaching to Observe All Things Taught (Repeat)

As has been often noted, it’s not the difficult to understand passages with which we wrestle, it’s the easy ones! Matthew 28:18-20 is easy to understand, yet hard to follow. It is the contention of this writer that the Great Commission cannot be misunderstood - except - on purpose. Some see an “explanation” to excuse themselves. These would contend that since the Lord was addressing the apostles directly, that this passage applies only to the apostles. However, even the briefest of looks at the passage in context confirms that the phrase; “…teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you…” includes going, discipling, baptizing, teaching and observing for ALL subsequent believers. Jesus Christ Himself reaches out through the Great Commission to each and every convert until the last trumpet sounds. The only difference between the vast majority of Christians and the gospel preacher is that the gospel preacher is blessed with the opportunity of “full time pursuit” of the Great Commission. In a nutshell, this “full time pursuit of the Great Commission” is the “fulfilling work of an evangelist!” Let’s now examine the individual components of the Great Commission in order to flesh out the “…man of God…complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work,” as Paul describes him in II Timothy 3:17.

GO – As did our Lord, we are enjoined to first of all to go to the people, to the souls that are lost. That was the mission of Christ (I Timothy 1:15) and it is the mission of all of us as well as we emulate Him. To accomplish this mission, God “scatters” us into the world through various and sundry ways (Acts 8:4). The gospel preacher is “scattered” today by immersing himself in the life of his community. He supports his community. He participates with his community in its civic, social and school functions. He takes part in community activities. He meets and greets everyone he can. He patronizes local businesses. He makes himself available to speak at public and private events of various kinds. He makes himself available to the media to be interviewed whenever a matter of religion or morality is in the news. Most importantly, he always invites all those whom he meets to some kind of church function – always. The gospel preacher knows that he can never proclaim the “good news” to someone he has yet to meet, as Paul passionately told the Roman church (Romans 10:14). Going and meeting people is only the beginning of the preachers fulfillment of his task. Going makes discipleship possible.

DISCIPLE – As did our Lord, once He met and called people to Himself, He began the process of building eternal relationships with them. He did this, not by merely introducing Himself, He did it by sharing His very life with them – as should the gospel preacher. Over time the disciples of Christ became His friends (John 15:12-17). Jesus accomplished this by not only calling the disciples by name, he called them to a greater purpose in life (Matthew 4:19). The gospel preacher shares his life with his many friends in the community, calling them as well to a greater purpose in their lives. He shares his home. He shares his milestones. He shares his events. He shares his activities. He shares his table. He shares his time. He shares his interests. He shares his resources – and - as with all people, the gospel preacher will be judged according to his attention to the needs of others, especially the “least among us” (see Matthew 25:31-46). All of this sharing, however, is not done alone! This sharing is meshed with that of other Christians, a servant-hood concurrently rendered to the congregation’s community friends. As a result, many Christians begin to share their various lives with the community. Most importantly, many Christians begin to invite all these community friends to study the Scriptures. Invitations to study God’s Word are given often and by multiple Christians – always – as the congregation, along with the gospel preacher, share their lives with their ever closer community friends. Going, meeting and discipling takes the gospel preacher only part way in the fulfillment of his task. Discipleship make baptisms possible.

BAPTIZE – Through the “foolishness of preaching,” (I Corinthians 1:21) disciples become Christians as God adds “such as are being saved” to the church of Christ upon their baptism (Acts 2:47). Baptism is the “hinge” of life. It marks the most radical transformation one can experience this side of eternity. Before baptism we are “dead in our sins.” After baptism we become the “temple of the Holy Spirit.” Though by no means is baptism an end in itself – in fact, going, discipling, teaching and observing are all for naught without it. Noting all of these facts, the gospel preacher must make the baptism of new disciples a key priority, along with the rest of the congregation. Once people have been met, befriended and discipled the gospel of Christ must be presented in completeness and clarity in a number of diverse study settings. These study settings must be consistent with the direction of the eldership, appropriate to the needs of the students and complimentary of the gospel preachers training and abilities. Jesus said that He “came to seek and save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10). We too, by extension, must focus on “seeking and saving” the lost – salvation that is impossible without baptism into Christ! In order for this focus to manifest itself, the gospel preacher must be ready, willing and able to preach and teach salvation to the various and sundry groups of people he comes into contact with. Baptism closes the sale, as it were. Baptism is the hinge on which the open door of heaven swings. Baptism is the place, time and setting where the “work of God” is accomplished (Colossians 2:12). His work is accomplished nowhere else! Baptism ushers in salvation and provides teaching opportunities for the saved who then - in turn - begin to go, disciple, baptize and “teach all things commanded” themselves!

TEACHING TO OBSERVE ALL THINGS TAUGHT (REPEAT) – By inspiration, Paul puts heavy, solemn and substantial emphasis on the continual and on-going preaching of God’s Word to the congregation. He presses the point to the young evangelist, Timothy:

I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. – II Timothy 4:2 (NASB)

In addition to keeping the congregation doctrinally pure (See vs. 3 and 4), Timothy is subsequently enjoined by Paul to be “sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist and fulfill his ministry” (See vs.5). And why is this? In addition to preaching the gospel to the lost and fighting off error, the gospel preacher is to prepare the entire congregation to teach others. Earlier, Paul told Timothy; “And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” – (II Timothy 2:2 (NKJV). This somber task was previously emphasized to Timothy by Paul in I Timothy 4:13; “Till I come, give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine.” (NKJV)

As did our Lord with His disciples, the greatest amount of time and effort is centered on the preparation and presentation of the Word of God to the congregation. Because individual time and opportunity are fleeting, the gospel preacher must “commit” the knowledge and training of the continual presentation [the Great Commission] of the Gospel of Christ (I Corinthians 15:1-8) to the “faithful” in order for them to “teach others also.”


The philosophy and structure of gospel preaching is revealed, evident and spelled out in the Great Commission. The gospel preacher is to spend whatever daily time given him by God to go, disciple, baptize and teach all things commanded by our Lord in order that the legacy of the gospel will be sustained beyond our time here on earth. “We are saved to save others.”