In his final letter, Paul charges Timothy, his son in the faith, to “do the work of an evangelist” (2 Tim. 4:5). By these words, the aged Apostle establishes the timeless standard for pastoral ministry, not only for young Timothy but for all pastors in every generation and in every place.
With Apostolic authority, this imperative command comes with binding force. All pastors must do the work of an evangelist. They must earnestly proclaim the gospel message, urging people to trust in Jesus Christ alone for salvation. So, where should this pastoral evangelism begin?
First, every pastor must preach the gospel to himself. Before any pastor can call others to repent, he must believe in Jesus Christ. The Apostle Paul exhorts Timothy, saying, “Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things, for as you do this you will ensure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you” (1 Tim. 4:16). That is, every preacher must examine his own soul first. The success of one’s evangelism is, first and foremost, dependent upon his right standing in grace.
In The Reformed Pastor, Puritan Richard Baxter addressed the ministers of his day, many of whom were unconverted: “See that the work of saving grace be thoroughly wrought in your own souls. Take heed to yourselves, lest you be void of that saving grace of God which you offer to others.” Simply put, pastors must embrace the very message they preach.
Charles Spurgeon writes:
A graceless pastor is a blind man elected to a professorship of optics, philosophizing upon light and vision, discoursing upon . . . the nice shades and delicate blendings of the prismatic colours, while he himself is absolutely in the dark! He is a dumb man elevated to the chair of music; a deaf man fluent upon symphonies and harmonies! He is a mole professing to educate eaglets.
Sadly, unconverted pastors do exist. Martin Luther was a doctor of theology and professor of Bible before he was born again. John Wesley was an overseas missionary prior to his conversion. Every pastor must be certain of his own salvation before he can powerfully preach the gospel to others.
Second, every pastor must preach the gospel to his family. Evangelism in the home begins with shepherding one’s own wife in her relationship with Christ. I will never forget an elder’s meeting in which one of our pastors shared that his wife had been converted the previous night. She was one of the nicest people in the church, yet, unknown to us, she was unconverted. How often is this the reality? To this end, every pastor must give attention to the spiritual state of his wife.
Similarly, he must give the same attention to his children. This evangelism should begin early and involve disciplines such as Bible readings, catechizing, and family devotions. I came to faith in Christ as a result of my father reading the Bible to me in the evenings. Moreover, home evangelism should include informal conversations, probing questions, and a consistently godly life modeled before the children.
Third, every pastor must preach the gospel to his flock. There must be a sober realization that not every church member is regenerate. Every pastor’s evangelistic work must center in his pulpit ministry as he regularly presents the gospel with clear, decisive appeals. He must implore his congregation to respond to the gospel and be saved. There should be a distinct urgency in his voice as he exhorts, even pleads, for his flock to be converted.
Certainly, this evangelistic thrust is not to be confused with abuses and manipulative methods. I am not contending that people raise a hand, walk an aisle, parrot a prayer, and be declared saved—all within five minutes. But I am insisting that our gospel preaching must be compelling. It must come with bold proclamations of the cross, warm appeals to come to Christ, and passionate persuasions that urge people to respond by faith alone. Pastors must give gospel messages that call for repentance and issue severe warnings of eternal consequences for unbelief.
Fourth, every pastor should evangelize the community. The strategies will differ from one man to the next, depending upon his gifts and opportunities. As a fisher of men, he must go where the fish are. He must leave dry land, sail out into deep waters, and cast his net. Pastors must venture out into the community, share the gospel, and urge people to believe upon Christ. Community outreach involves building bridges to unbelievers. This may include hosting a Bible study in an office, a restaurant, or a home. It can involve a local radio program, a newspaper editorial, or an Internet blog. It means showing acts of mercy with a gospel presentation. Whatever the strategy, making such inroads requires going where unconverted people are and unashamedly sharing Christ.
It has been rightly said that the greatest joy is knowing Christ and the second greatest is making Him known. May every pastor enter joyfully into this privileged task of doing the work of an evangelist.
Originally posted on TableTalk Magazine website in June 2012. Republished by permission.
Dr. Steven J. Lawson is president and founder of OnePassion Ministries, a Ligonier Ministries teaching fellow, and author of numerous books, including Foundations of Grace and The Passionate Preaching of Martyn Lloyd-Jones.