By Jim Savastio
It is the desire of every true hearted shepherd to one day hear the Chief Shepherd say to them,
“Well done, good and faithful servant.”
A faithful servant is one who has been found doing their Master’s will. To that end, every pastor, called by Christ, will search the scriptures to find their duty and, in dependence upon the Holy Spirit strive to fulfill that duty.
In recent years there has been a resurgence of pastor’s striving to faithfully expound and apply the scriptures. There are a multitude of books on how to preach sound and helpful sermons and how to faithfully govern the flock of whom one will give an account on the last day. Among the many commands given to pastors, there is one that is beginning to receive renewed attention. That command is found in 2 Timothy 4:5 wherein the apostle Paul is giving a series of exhortations to Timothy which culminates in the command, “Fulfill your ministry.” In order to fulfill that ministry the man of God must “Do the work of an evangelist.” What is this work and how is it to be manifested in the life of every pastor if he is to be found faithful to his calling?
At least two matters must be considered.
The first is the meaning of the term. The second is how it applies to the conscience bound duties of pastors.
The Meaning of the Term
The word “Evangelist” occurs only three times in the New Testament. It is used in Ephesians 4:11 to describe the gifts that the Risen Christ had given to the church for its prosperity and growth (along with apostles, prophets, and the pastor-teacher). It is used in Acts 21:8 to describe Phillip who was one of the seven deacons appointed in Acts 6. There we simply read that Paul and his companions entered the house of Phillip “The evangelist.”
The third usage is in our primary text of 2 Timothy 4:5. In that text and throughout the epistle and its sister volumes (1 Timothy and Titus) the labor of the pastoral ministry is set forth. Pastors are to labor in the word and in doctrine, give themselves to prayer, order and establish the life of the church, watch over the souls of the flock entrusted to them and to take heed to their own selves as examples to the flock. It is in this calling and context that the words come, “Do the work of an evangelist.” The word in the original is a derivative of the word for gospel or good news. It is transliterated rather than translated. If one were to translate it, the word would mean bringer of good tidings.
Do the work of bringing good tidings, or the term I prefer, do the work of a “Gospelizer.”
What do you think of when you think of an evangelist as opposed to a pastor? An evangelist is generally considered one who labors to bring unconverted people to a point of decision by means of preaching or presenting the law and the gospel to them. A pastor, however, takes those who have now been converted and brings them to maturity in Christ by preaching to them the whole counsel of God. In that way they labor in tandem. It is, as it were, taking the role of both a fisher of men and a shepherd of sheep.
The Application of the Work
Now, in what way does the Pastor do this work as a part of his normal labors for which he will given an account? Paul seems to have in mind here something more than the general duties of the pastor as a Christian. Pastors are to be examples to the flock. It is the duty of believers to care about the souls of others and to live in such a way as to shine their light and to take advantage of opportunities afforded to them to speak the gospel (why a sinner needs to be saved, what God has done to provide salvation for sinners, and how this salvation is to be received makes up the core of a gospel presentation). Surely a pastor is to do what every believer is called to do.
But there is more here than that.
In the context Paul is describing the hardship that will come to Timothy and to others committed to sound doctrine and application. Paul warns of people in the church turning away to false teachers who will tickle their ears. Timothy is exhorted to do the very thing that people are beginning to hate—preach the whole truth of God, focus on doctrine and don’t back away from the implications of that truth. It is in that context that he says,
“As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry” 2 Timothy 4:5.
We cannot and we must not lift these few words from their context. The context is pastoral labor. Labor to some who are falling away. Labor to some who are struggling with the truth and tempted to walk away. Preach the gospel to them. Focus on the saving work of Christ.
Do not 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.
Do the work that evangelists do. Probe their conscience with God’s law. Show them their sin and danger. Press home the realities of eternity and point them afresh to Jesus for their hope and righteousness. Charles Spurgeon believes that though he went to church hundreds of times as a child he never once heard explicitly how a sinner was to be saved. That ought not to be the testimony of an unbeliever sitting regularly under our ministry.
But there is more than that. To be a “Gospelizer” one must have the truths of salvation regularly presented to saints and sinners alike. There will be unconverted people under your ministry. Do not allow any confusion to them about God’s way of righteousness. There may be unconverted churchman under your ministry. Labor for their salvation. There will be needy saints under your ministry who need to be reminded that their hope is not in themselves. A faithful ministry will at times wound the conscience. It will show forth sin and failure in pointed ways.
What do the sheep need under a pointed and faithful sin-exposing, holiness-promoting ministry? The hope of what Christ has done in providing atonement as well as power for a liberated life.
What a pastor might chose to do in accordance with his gifts and conscience above and beyond these things is open for discussion among godly men. Must a pastor dedicate one day a week to give tracts, go door-to-door, engage in street preaching, protest at various noted places of sin, etc. While we may debate these matters, pastors who would fulfill their ministries must be men who know and love the gospel and who present it with clarity, love, joy and expectation.
Jim Savastio is Pastor of The Reformed Baptist Church of Louisville in Louisville, KY. He is also the President of the Board of Directors for Practical Shepherding and co-author of The Pastor’s Soul with Brian Croft. He is married to Becky and they have 4 children.