5 But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. 6 For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith;
One thing I love about the Apostle Paul is that he set the example. The term “do as I say, not as I do” was never coming from his mouth, but rather “do as I have done”. I used to think of that as quite a presumptuous thing, as though Paul was bold enough to think that what he has done is worthy of copying. However, today I see it from a different perspective. You really can’t encourage anyone to do anything (honestly and encouragingly) that you haven’t done. Paul was very big on making sure it was known that all that he has accomplished for God was by God and through God; it was not of his own strength, knowledge, or courage.
So I read these verses today fully understanding what Paul is saying and then I get to the part where he tells Timothy to do the work of an evangelist. Now, we are reading these letters to Timothy through the lens as an example of how you should be as a leader in the church. Why does it make me pause? It’s becoming a bad word in society, that’s why. We think of evangelism as standing on the corner telling people they are going to hell if they don’t believe. We think of the TV craze that led to scandals, hoaxes, and a bad taste in our mouths for what is now called TV evangelism.
Originally I assumed Paul was saying that being an evangelist was Timothy’s ministry that Paul encourages him to fulfill. But, if both Paul and Timothy knew that Timothy’s ministry was just evangelism, then he wouldn’t have had to say it, would he? Secondly, we know that Timothy’s ministry was to help the churches grow in leadership and faith. He was kind of the “clean up crew” of Paul; once Paul started the churches, Timothy helped them get off the ground. I know he spent much time in Ephesus, but since he was a travelling companion of Paul for so long, I can’t imagine he didn’t create friendships at the other churches as well and helped them out.
In missions school, we learned about spiritual gifts and evangelism was one of them. We even had an evangelism class where we discussed that some people are naturally good at speaking with others and starting a conversation with them about God. But, as we look at the root of this word, we discover something a bit deeper. The word for evangelist comes from the Greek Euaggelistes. Any person with a slight interest in etymology can see where we get the word evangelism. The definition is “a bringer of good tidings”. Also, it mentions “the name given to the NT heralds of salvation through Christ who are not apostles.” The interesting thing, however, is that the root of this word is Euaggelion, which is the very word used to represent what we today call the gospel or the good news of Christ. This term at the time referred to an announcement coming from a king to his kingdom. He would send out evangelists to tell the good news to everyone. In some renaissance movies we see this as the funny crazy guy running through a town on a horse yelling out something the king decreed. This is who we now are, those of us who have received this good news and have accepted it as truth.
Too often we look at evangelism as something 1) for someone who has a gifting in it and 2) as talking to someone. My friends, evangelism is much much more than this! It is simply sharing the good news of grace and love to others. We all have our giftings, referred to by Paul as our ministry, but we also have the opportunity to evangelize: to tell others of what we have learned. This can be done not just through words, but with action. James, the brother of Jesus, tells us that faith without action is dead. Why? Because we are called to share it with others. They can choose to accept or ignore it, but our job is to share it with as many people as we can in as many ways as we can.
How are you fulfilling the work of an evangelist?