Thabiti Anyabwile: Called To The Gospel Ministry But Not Gifted For Evangelism?

Only Once in About 30 Days – Pure Church by Thabiti Anyabwile.

One of the primary reasons that the church is failing in its calling to make disciples is the fact that many men filling the pulpits don’t know what it means to do the work of an evangelist. It is not rocket science. Not all are called to evangelism because not all are called to be evangelists. Some have natural talents, some spiritual gifts. Some are introverted, some are extroverted. Some are comfortable in sharing their faith, others are not. That is normal. Some can share and some can’t. That is normal. Some are intelligent and articulate, some intellects can’t put two words together without stumbling over their lips. Others are good speakers without sense. Some are wonderful teachers but not Gospel Ministers. All Elders are Gospel Ministers, or they’re not Elders.

The one thing common about the Gospel Ministry is that those called to it are gifted for it. One of the primary gifted activities, and I believe the purpose of all others, of a Gospel Minister is evangelism. Contrary to popular myth, there are ministers of the word and then there is the rest of the body of Christ. The Holy Spirit doesn’t leave the Gospel Minister without the necessary gifts to fulfill what the Holy Spirit has begun. The rest of the body of Christ is best fit not being the mouth. Sadly, too many take on the mantle of minister of God and are not. And being not, they are not fit with the gifts and authority that goes along with the work of the evangelist in rebuking, reproving, and commanding those who oppose sound doctrine to shut their mouths. Too many will not admit they are not fit for the office because they have been told that everyone is.

As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.

Sober-mindedness goes along with the noble task of the trust with the Gospel that has been given. And so there is a suffering in a way that is unique to it. Trustworthiness is an expected duty along with the suffering that it begets. The idea of suffering at first signals wariness and a drawing back, but on the other hand it is a word of comfort that those who speak the truth will suffer for it. Being like John the Baptist, a Gospel Minister is expected to be as one whose head  will be offered on a plate. Suffering also plays off of soberness, in knowing that God is, as he was with Christ on the cross, always with the minister of the word to the end of his life in all power and authority. What too many believe is that all authority and power has been given to all equally in contradiction to the clear teaching of Scripture. The great commission, the particular calling of the Gospel Minister, then, is captured in this triad: for it is expected that with the making of disciples and their being taught that suffering is the Way of Life.

This is mantle of the Gospel Ministry which Paul passes along to Timothy with a charged trust. One who is supposed to pass it along to other trustworthy men in like manner, cannot be worn by any who are not evangelists to the world outside the church. For it is the world which hates the ministers of the Gospel for the sake of the Gospel of Chris. To be hated for the work of the Ministry is expected of a minister of God.

 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.

For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.

For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.

The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.

Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? But earnestly desire the higher gifts.

I quote at length so that the reader can see that what I said above is correct. Paul’s first cause is what I believe is later said by Jesus through John in Revelation as the first love of the church. There is a most excellent way, the way of love and that love is best expressed in the building up of the body of Christ that the church may do its mission as each one does its part as assigned by the Holy Spirit. As Paul has said, it is for the mutual benefit of the whole that each is gifted individually and particularly so that each one befits the body of Christ till we all come to the unity of the faith, becoming a mature man. Not all are alike, not all have the gifts that others do. Not all are mouths, some are feet and hands. Not all are evangelists. Those who are not should lend to those who are what is necessary for completing the great commission. The symbiosis is completed in that those who are called to be preachers/evangelists and teachers, give from their treasury of God’s giftings to the body what is lacking in it.

There is a fitness to the gifting of each one for the role that he will play within the body of Christ. Now, I acknowledge that the supernatural sign gifts have long since disappeared, the church having been established. However, we read that there are teachers given, that eldership continues, that there is an expectation of the maturing of the body of Christ, made up of all members, that it may put on the whole armor of God to be able to stand in the Day. Each part of the body is still gifted according to God’s dispensation for their particular calling. The body is being led by those whose particularity is the preaching and teaching of the word of God, and the care of the flock, and the defense of the Gospel. It is still the Spirit who works all thing in all. That should pique our minds that there is a difference between those who are sheep, and those who gather them and tend them. Are all teachers? Are all pastors? Are all evangelists? The answer is still no.

The point is this, if God has given pastors and teachers, even if the particular office of evangelist has passed away, the work of the evangelist has not as is demonstrated in Timothy. As Paul teaches, Timothy received gifting of a minister from God for the purpose of The Ministry. The fulfillment of that ministry is the work of the evangelist. That calling is not universal. It belongs to the Gospel Ministry, to particular men for a particular purpose. The Gospel Minister is to teach, preach, reprove, correct, defend and utterly silence those who oppose him. And, he is to go out and compel the sheep who are lost to come into the fold. In other words, he is not one who is ashamed to share, (Romans 1:16), he is one who is known within and without for his unabashed boldness to proclaim the truth. The power and authority are in all who are called to the ministry to be able.

Check out the qualifications of the Elder. Why the constancy, the calling to hospitality? That to outsiders he must hold himself out as a faithful martyr? That is what is meant by having a good reputation, (martureo, 1 Timothy 3:7). That is, he must be known as one holding to the testimony of the faith. And how would that be explicitly known except he boldly proclaims the truth to outsiders? Which means that by good reputation, he is probably hated for that testimony by those outside. It is not within the congregation, but outside it where the preaching associated with evangelism must take place, then.

Of coarse, every action of the Elders is in some way required of all. It is obvious, as it testified to the fact that these attributes of an Elder are foundational requirements prior to his ascending to the office. Once in office, in the Elder, the they are required exemplars as befits their office, being necessary for the work of the ministry-  the preaching, the teaching and all other duties- being fulfilled by the work of the evangelist. To fulfill the ministry is to do the work of the evangelist, Paul says. All other duties of the Elder, indeed, of the entire church, is this one thing-  to equip the Elder(s) to find the lost and bring them into the fold where they are tended to by the rest of the commission mandate as seen in Jesus’ instructions to Peter.

Only when we confuse The Ministry as something which is generic and generally applicable to the whole local church, do we begin to fail to see the purpose of the individual giftings and how they determine foot from mouth. All congregations of God enjoy the benefits of having fathers in the faith, men who lead as opposed to follow, those who speak as opposed to those who listen, those who are strong as opposed to those who are not, those who are bold and those who are timid. Each part of the body does what is according to its kind. And each in that way lends to the building up of the whole so that the ministers of the word can do what they were particularly set aside to do.

And the twelve summoned the full number of the disciples and said, “It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables. Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty. But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” And what they said pleased the whole gathering, and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a proselyte of Antioch.

There is the distinction. Some were called to one work, others were called to another. And the reason was so that other things would not interfere with the primary work of the ministry of the word of God. The first work of the ministry is the preaching and teaching of the word. So that one does not get the idea that preaching is primarily within the confines of the church from behind the pulpit, those claiming the primacy of the preaching and teaching of the word of God in Act 6, did the preaching work of evangelism out in the world.

Now, lest any think I think it inappropriate to expect everyone to lay down their life and speak the words of truth according to their ability, Stephen’s testimony makes it clear that God does and will equip when the occasion calls and when the Spirit wills. We should not forget that when we cookie-cutter Christian duty it is still the Spirit who works both the willing and the doing of his good pleasure. No guilt trips, no evangelism classes, can prepare an individual for circumstances beyond their control or vision. What God alone makes them to be is what they will be when and where God so determines. Some are made mute, and that by God. Yet, we have the testimony of Scripture that some are set aside by God for particular tasking and that is evident by what they are already doing, so that they are not silent.

That said, a man who desires the office of Elder is acknowledging and is being acknowledged as being gifted. Or, the qualifications for such a calling are meaningless. Until the church returns to its first love, (Revelation 2:5), the reason for her existence as led by those who were gifted by God to lead her and be her mouth, her lamp is all but taken away. I ask, what was it that Jesus came to do but to seek and save the lost? He commissioned his apostles with that work and they in turn were to pass it along to others who would do the same.

Here is another example. Is Your Church Making Disciples?

Mark says:

The prevailing attitude that it is the paid ministers job to do all of the discipling also seems to be a prevalent attitude.

I don’t think this is the prevailing attitude. In fact, I have not ever seen it in practice. In every church I have attended, the discipling is cooperative. But, that is in the broadest sense of discipling. It is, Biblically, not the job of the layman to disciple, it is the job of the Gospel Minister. That others aid in this doesn’t annul the commission to disciple given to the Gospel Minister. Nor does it erect another office of disciplers within the church

It is also easier to give money and applaud the international mission work that money is supporting than it is to share the gospel with a neighbor.

Of course it is! It is a mistake, however, to say that since one can give to missions, they are also able to be a missionary. Not all are able, even, to give money to missions, anyway. Each is to give as they are enabled. And, at that, it is God who supplies… if he does. So if the fiscal means of support are not always given to each to give, then is it any less reasonable to expect that spiritual means are not given to all?

There is a second error. What’s international? All the churches of Christ are international. Your local church is a mission to the utter-most parts of the earth established by some leader(s), at some point. I am sitting nearly half way around the world from Jerusalem, the uttermost part of the world. And that is the point. Missionaries, i.e., Elder(s), are those who make disciples, do evangelism, and guide as leaders the building up of the saints as each does its part to further the mission. It is neither the job of the layman to make or teach disciples. That belongs to the missionaries, of which all Elders are. It is the job of the layman to assist, supply, and support in whatever way enabled so that the mission of the missionary is fulfilled.

Discipleship starts at home in our home churches and may be part of the reason why American Christians are losing, so to speak, the culture war.

No, absolutely not! Discipleship starts at church and is assisted in the home. Parents assist in teaching their youngest, but that is because the missionary cannot. Again, the great commission is not one given to all. It is for all however to do all that has been commanded as they are enabled and to fit in where they are needed. And in part, that is the “each one doing his part.” That doesn’t mean the roles are universalized. It means that in a family, such as is the church, particularity of calling is not lost. Some are parents, some are not, there are older men and older women, each in their own way teaching the younger. American Christians are losing for the same reason that Christian churches lose everywhere. When they abandon the first work of the church, making disciples (evangelism), teaching those disciples what they need to know and what they need to do, they have abandoned the great commission. This is the first love, the one that Jesus came to do, and the one he gave to his apostles to do. It was not given to all. Disciples don’t make disciples, the fathers in the faith do. Everyone else in the family provides for that work where and when necessary, by whatever means enabled, so that the whole family is prospered. The office of apostle has passed away, but as noted in the instructions to Timothy, the charge has passed on to the Elders. And not all are elders.

Mark reiterates the question asked in the publications he is referencing:

Assess your church experience in light of Jesus’s command to make disciples. Would you say that your church is characterized by disciple making? Why or why not?

First let me answer by way of generalization to the church at large. No. Most churches have adopted the non-biblical approach of friendship, relationship, personal, neighbor, et cetera, evangelism rather than the biblical approach of the Elder evangelism with support from the deacons and the rest of the membership of the local church. In nearly every church the Elders are professionals, not doing the work of evangelism and typically looking to their domestic entanglements rather than the good service of a soldier on duty. Second, yes. In my church, we do a good job of teaching within and are growing in the inter-congregational love that is by nature evangelistic when viewed by outsiders. It is becoming more and more individually fruitful. But, no. Our church doesn’t engage in evangelism by Elders. Consequently, we are not viewed frequently enough by outsiders so as to compel them to become disciples.


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