NT Tuesday: Doing the Work of an Evangelist [2]

Glorious SunriseLast week we considered the topic of evangelism and, specifically, in relation to evangelism in a New Testament assembly. In my post, I suggested strongly that Jesus Christ’s command to “make disciples of all nations” was made primarily to individuals rather than to the Body. I’d like to substantiate that assertion, as well as, discuss the roll that the corporate Body plays in evangelism.

First, the Bible verses that charge us to share the Word of God are directed to the individual Christian. I don’t recall (but if you do, please share some verses) where the assembly corporately was instructed to “reach the lost.” (I think we need to hit the “refresh” button and double check ourselves on a number of verses. In many cases, I think the individual believer is being addressed and given various responsibilities and obligations, but we have abdicated the individual’s responsibilities to the corporate Body. There are various and sundry ways in which that has manifested itself. Lord willing, I will be addressing some of those areas in future posts.)

One of the Bible verses that I didn’t mention last week, but which proves my point here is found in 2 Timothy 4:5. Paul exhorts Timothy to “do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.” Timothy’s gift wasn’t that of an evangelist, but he is being exhorted to do the work of one. Why, you might ask? Because Paul recognized that each and every believer had the responsibility to share the gospel with the lost.

The second reason for my suggestion is that the spiritual gifts were given to individual believers to be used within the Body to train/equip other believers to do the work of ministry. Individual believers are being equipped to do the work – not the church, not the “pastor”, not the elders, but each and every believer is being equipped to do the work of ministry. And certainly, part of that work, is sharing the Good News with those who are lost and headed toward an eternity in Hell.

Here’s where the assembly comes into play. Every member of the Body has a spiritual gift that is meant to be used for equipping all the other members of the Body so that they can do the work that Jesus Christ gifted them to do. In other words, all the believers gathered together unto the name of Jesus Christ in your local fellowship has a responsibility to work together to equip one another to do the work of an evangelist (and other needed ministries).

Additionally, the believers within the assembly can encourage one another (daily) to do the work of an evangelist, to collectively meet the obligation to share the Gospel, even to provide funds to support those that are more active in the work. However, the responsibility remains with the individual. No individual can accurately complain that the “assembly” does not have a heart for the lost, or the assembly doesn’t reach out enough. We are individually responsible and we can’t abdicate that individual responsibility to the corporate body. If we call ourselves New Testament Christians, we must accept the responsibilities placed upon us individually. We so readily accept the corporate responsibilities, but we must also accept the individual ones.

Let’s encourage one another to be more vigilant as the days are short, we must redeem the time and fulfill our ministry.

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Photo credit: Chris Buggins, used with permission.

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6 comments

  1. I’m going to pick one nit. You said 2 Timothy 4:5 “proves [your] point.” You probably should have said it “supports your point”. It’s hardly conclusive and definitive proof: for example, it’s conceivable that Timothy was exhorted to evangelism in addition to corporate evangelism. It’s not a big deal, but if you’re going to take a [potentially] contentious position, you should be careful with language.

    For what my opinion’s worth (and it’s probably worth exactly what you’re paying for it), I agree with your thesis that evangelism is individual. Or at least I think I do. I’m very careful not to condemn corporate evangelism per se, at the very least that seems to be against the spirit of Philippians 1:15–19. I don’t see you crossing that line here, but I ought to mention it.

    An interesting question is, how does 1 Corinthians 11:26 fit into that view? It’s the corporate assembly that “shows forth the Lord’s death,” right? We might also question Peter’s sermon in Acts 2. Does that set a precedent for corporate evangelism? These are serious questions, not merely rhetorical devices.

    • Excellent points. Certainly Peter’s sermon in Acts 2 wasn’t corporate in that the chruch wasn’t formed until the end of Acts 2. I am more than happy to acknowledge that in the event a lost person wanders in to the corporate meeting where we show forth the death of the Lord Jesus that they might hear the gospel, they might be save (praise God), but clearly, that’s not the point of the meeting – any discerning individual would gather that – the primary purpose is to remember the Lord Jesus. Are there secondary repercussions – praise God, perhaps.

      Thank you, Clumsy, for thinking on these things. Certainly we don’t need to all agree on every point. That’s not my goal, by any stretch. The goal is to think on these things and I have put my name out there as I share them because I am not ashamed of the positions I have taken and I am not ashamed to be challenged on them! Praise God for the Body working together!!!

      • That’s pretty much my take on 1 Corinthians 11 as well. I want to say JND wrote about that somewhere, but I can’t recall exactly where right now.

  2. John Bjorlie

    Are we not as congregations involved in the gospel? We pray corporately for the lost. We pray for the preachers who speak to the lost. We commend workers to go into the harverst fields. We support them practically, and sometimes we assist them by standing along side them physically as they preach. All these corporate activities might come under the heading of what Paul calls “the fellowship of the gospel.” Was reaching the lost only an individual responsibility or was it also a corporate responsibility for the Philippian assembly? Scripture would tell us it is both an individual and a corporate duty. Was Paul only speaking to individuals when he spoke of how the word sounded out to Achaia and Macedonia when writing to the assembly in Thessalonica? About the saints in Rome he writes. “Your obedience is come abroad to all men, I am glad therefore on your behalf.”

    • John Bjorlie

      Proclaiming the Gospel is the Church’s Mission
      The church is the pillar and ground of the truth. This would mean that the church is that institution on the earth that holds up the truth of the gospel in a stable, lasting way. She holds it up so that the world can see it. Therefore the Lord describes the seven churches in Asia as beacons of the truth. The churches are golden lampstands, standing tall as they hold high the gospel and shine for Christ in a dark world.

      Is the church the place for preaching the Gospel?
      Some have used Ephesians 4:11-12 to answer “no” to that question. But are we layering an application over the passage and calling it an interpretation? Yes those gifted people are in the body to train others, granted. But how do we train others? We do it by example as well as precept. Evangelists evangelize. And sometimes they are doing their evangelizing right among the saints. So what is so wrong with that?
      What is it that tends to build up and establish Christians so much as seeing new born believers among us, just as we are build up by seeing them coming into the church? “God gave to the church … evangelists”

      Perhaps this is an aside, but we should notice that the New Testament does not say that the preaching of the gospel is a special message just for the lost. This is a matter of present usage as compared to Bible usage. We hear Paul describing his teaching and preaching among the saints as the “preaching of the gospel.” Our Lord was a preacher of the gospel. Was everything He preached only for the lost? Consider the sermon on the mount in Matthew 5-7. Consider His parables.
      We call the first four books “the Gospels” and so they are. Are they only written for the lost?

      The preaching of the gospel to the saints is necessary first because in any congregation there will be professors who are not possessors. There are signs in the New Testament that that was the case then just as it is now. Secondly, all the epistles base their assertions squarely on the central truths of the gospel. So what does it mean to preach the gospel? Have we preached the gospel if our audience does not understand? Have we preached the gospel when our hearers only hear part of the message?
      Have we moved on from preaching the gospel when we expand on the consequences of the gospel? Not really. When you build a home you build up from the foundation, but you never build off the foundation.

      Examples of Paul’s preaching of the gospel to the saints
      Romans 1:15
      15:16
      1 Corinthians 15:1-4
      2 Corinthians 3-5
      Ephesians 3:6-7
      Colossians 1:23
      1 Timothy 2:3-7
      2 Timothy 1:10-11

  3. Thank you Clumsy, Mike, and John for your helpful comments. Personally, I would view evangelism as being the primary responsibility of individual believers. However, there is nothing wrong or inappropriate with the local assembly engaging in corporate, evangelistic efforts. Nor could I imagine anyone suggesting (as I know you did not Mike) that the gospel shouldn’t be preached in the assembly.

    Mike: your point is well taken that many individual believers have abdicated their personal responsibility to the assembly. This is a sorry state of affairs. Just because a local assembly is engaged in corporate evangelism (such as open air meetings at a local park or street corner) it does not relieve the individual Christians in the assembly from witnessing and sharing the gospel message.

    John: your point regarding Eph. 4:11-12 is an excellent point. Practically speaking how are individual believers equipped for evangelism? Well, one way would be to listen to gospel preaching. Growing up in an assembly I personally benefited from hearing the gospel preached regularly by different brethren. Later, when I was given the opportunity to preach the gospel in the open air and at a local rescue mission I could draw from my past experiences at the assembly.