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The Work of An Evangelist

by Dr. David Lipscomb Watson, MD

There is a difference between the work of an evangelist, the work of an elder and the work of a “modern pastor.” The two former are scriptural; we therefore endorse them; the latter is unscriptural and is to be discouraged.

     The work of the evangelist is peculiarly adapted to the establishment or setting in order new congregations. Setting in order new congregations implies that an evangelist should remain in a place until he has thoroughly taught and drilled the membership of the congregation until they are fully capable of directing the teaching and taking the oversight of the church.

     The length of time an evangelist may remain with a congregation depends upon the ability of the evangelist and the aptitude of the members. The first duty of the evangelist, aside from preaching the gospel and converting sinners, is to begin at once to train men for the eldership. This should be done by teaching the entire congregation, not only in the church building on Sundays, but daily from house to house. It is bad practice for a preacher to hold a few days meeting and then proceed, as is often done, to set apart elders on such a short acquaintance, it is impossible for a preacher to judge of the qualifications of any one. The mere appointment or naming of a man an elder does not necessarily make him an elder in the sight of God. But. he must possess the qualifications.

     An evangelist, should always strive to make a congregation independent, of his services, not dependent upon him. His aim should be to develop the talent of every member of the church to such an extent., that, each member of the church can take some active part, in all the meetings of the church and that, each one will do some house to house work continually.

     It is not permissible for anyone to say that I cannot do any teaching, for any person who can read understandingly can with a liberal amount of energy become an acceptable teacher of the Word. A fellow laborer will frequently make a better teacher for his companion than the preacher. A Bible studying and teaching laborer is frequently of more value to a congregation than an eloquent preacher in the saving of the souls of his companions in labor. It becomes the duty of the evangelist to so train and instruct the flock that each one will become a valuable recruit.

     God’s plan, for which there is clear scriptural example and precedent is for every member of the body of Christ to become an active teacher and worker in the church. When an evangelist does all the teaching, all the singing and all the praying he is leading the members to become helpless and indifferent until sooner or later they will die, spiritually. A church that depends entirely on the preacher for its teaching and preaching will surely die. While, on the other hand, when every member of a church is an active participant, to the extent of his ability, in teaching the Word that church will surely grow.

     Paul’s instruction to Titus was to set in order things that were wanting and ordain elders. Things that were lacking were to be supplied first and then the elders ordained.

     If an evangelist has done his work well with one congregation he is ready to go into another field, sustained by this congregation, and begin another congregation. As a rule, the nearer an evangelist stays to a congregation which he has established the more successful will be his work. He can receive influence, assistance and counsel from the church, when, if he should go far away he would lose all this.

     An evangelist then should not only be a successful proclaimer of the Word, but he should have the ability to train the members to be successful teachers of the Word and workers in the church.


The Christian Word and Work, Sep 17, 1912—Dr. David Lipscomb Watson was the founder of Word & Work magazine in 1908



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I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.

John 16:33